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Published September 28, 2018 | Submitted
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FAIRsharing, a cohesive community approach to the growth in standards, repositories and policies


In this modern, data-driven age, governments, funders and publishers expect greater transparency and reuse of research data, as well as greater access to and preservation of the data that supports research findings. Community-developed standards, such as those for the identification and reporting of data, underpin reproducible and reusable research, aid scholarly publishing, and drive both the discovery and evolution of scientific practice. The number of these standardization efforts, driven by large organizations or at the grass root level, has been on the rise since the early 2000s. Thousands of community-developed standards are available (across all disciplines), many of which have been created and/or implemented by several thousand data repositories. Nevertheless, their uptake by the research community, however, has been slow and uneven. This is mainly because investigators lack incentives to follow and adopt standards. The situation is exacerbated if standards are not promptly implemented by databases, repositories and other research tools, or endorsed by infrastructures. Furthermore, the fragmentation of community efforts results in the development of arbitrarily different, incompatible standards. In turn, this leads to standards becoming rapidly obsolete in fast-evolving research areas. As with any other digital object, standards, databases and repositories are dynamic in nature, with a life cycle that encompasses formulation, development and maintenance; their status in this cycle may vary depending on the level of activity of the developing group or community. There is an urgent need for a service that enhances the information available on the evolving constellation of heterogeneous standards, databases and repositories, guides users in the selection of these resources, and that works with developers and maintainers of these resources to foster collaboration and promote harmonization. Such an informative and educational service is vital to reduce the knowledge gap among those involved in producing, managing, serving, curating, preserving, publishing or regulating data. A diverse set of stakeholders-representing academia, industry, funding agencies, standards organizations, infrastructure providers and scholarly publishers, both national and domain-specific as well global and general organizations, have come together as a community, representing the core adopters, advisory board members, and/or key collaborators of the FAIRsharing resource. Here, we introduce its mission and community network. We present an evaluation of the standards landscape, focusing on those for reporting data and metadata - the most diverse and numerous of the standards - and their implementation by databases and repositories. We report on the ongoing challenge to recommend resources, and we discuss the importance of making standards invisible to the end users. We report on the ongoing challenge to recommend resources, and we discuss the importance of making standards invisible to the end users. We present guidelines that highlight the role each stakeholder group must play to maximize the visibility and adoption of standards, databases and repositories.

Additional Information

The copyright holder for this preprint is the author/funder, who has granted bioRxiv a license to display the preprint in perpetuity. It is made available under a CC-BY 4.0 International license. bioRxiv preprint first posted online Jan. 17, 2018. We thank all our users, producers and consumers of standards, databases, repositories and policies, as well as adopters, past advisory board members, collaborators and content contributors to the current resource and its precursors (BioSharing and the Minimum Information about a Biomedical or Biological Investigation, MIBBI portal). We specifically thank key past contributors to the resource, notably Eamonn Maguire, Annapaola Santarsiero, and Chris Taylor. We are also very grateful to teams at the British Library and the University of Oxford's Bodleian Libraries for their continued support with minting DOIs. Some of the discussion in this article and call for action was developed as part of the joint RDA and Force11 working group; therefore, we acknowledge the support provided by the RDA and the Force11 communities and structures. The main authors are funded by grants awarded to S.A.-S. that include elements of FAIRsharing; specifically grants from the UK BBSRC and Research Councils (BB/L024101/1, BB/L005069/1), EU (H2020-EU.3.1, 634107, H2020-EU., 654241, H2020-EU., 676559), IMI (116060), and NIH (U54 AI117925, 1U24AI117966-01, 1OT3OD025459-01, 1OT3OD025467-01, 1OT3OD025462-01) and the new FAIRsharing award from the Wellcome Trust (212930/Z/18/Z) as well as a related one (208381/A/17/Z). S.A.-S. is funded also by the Oxford e-Research Centre, Department of Engineering Science of the University of Oxford. Author Contributions: The core authors represent the initial operational team of the FAIRsharing resource. S-A.S. developed the concept and provided the strategic direction, and with P.R.-S. launched the initial portal in 2011, which was re-branded, curated, enriched and further developed by A.L., M.T., M.I. and A.G.-B. under the coordination of P.McQ. Under the FAIRsharing Community, we list the new members of the operational team, D.B. and R.G., key content curators, M.A. and D.D., as well as advisory board co-chairs, E.G. and V.K., special advisor, J.T., and Force11 and the RDA working group co-chairs, S.H. and R.L., followed by core adopters, advisory board members, and/or key collaborators and contributors to the collections and recommendations. P.McQ. assembled the statistics, and S-A.S. and P.McQ wrote the manuscript with contributions from the core authors and approval of the FAIRsharing Community. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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August 19, 2023
August 19, 2023