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26 Mar 2019

COST programme and the RDA – Dare to Share

Just like I did, I’m sure you’ve head of COST and the COST actions many times. COST stands for European Cooperation in Science and Technology and is a funding organisation supporting the creation of research networks called COST actions. When reading about COST a few things stand out: it offers open spaces for researchers to collaborate and has a bottom up approach, meaning that the researchers are the ones setting up the collaboration networks based on their interests and expertise by submitting a proposal to the COST Open Calls. In addition COST actions are highly interdisciplinary and open, multi-stakeholder, often involving the private sector, policymakers as well as civil society.

So many things in common with the vision and work of the Research Data Alliance, I thought. And little did I know before joining  the COST “Sharing is daring?” workshop held Brussels, the 13 to 14 March. It turns out that not only the vision and approach of the two is convergent, they cater to similar needs and communities and are constantly working on innovative ways of engaging early careers and senior researchers focusing on specific disciples or cross-disciplinary aspects. The event was entitled “COST Connect on data sharing – Sharing is daring?” and its goal was to bring together COST actions and other stakeholders such as the RDA or the BDVA to discuss data sharing challenges and approaches  across disciplines, activities, types of organisations and countries. As you can imagine there is also a multitude of data challenges that I’ve discovered the two organisations and communities have in common.

I’ve learned about very specific challenges about data for transportation, social sciences surveys, health or seismic data and have discussed about the different incentives for researchers make their data FAIR and what are the costs or barriers involved. It was encouraging to see that there is willingness to promote the FAIR principles and practices not only on the side of the researchers but also on that of the funders, who are themselves looking for the best ways to incentivise FAIR data, open data where possible,  and in general open sharing practices.

Photo credits Michel Dumontier

The event, designed as a working meeting, was structured around a set of overall guiding questions and setting-the-scene presentations with the intention of deepening the learning process of everyone. Very much in the lines of an unconference, 8 questions suggested by participants were selected to be the focus of 8 breakout groups. Participants joined the group closest to their area of interest and discussed the quest behind the question, what is missing and potentially causing or contributing to the identified problem and what would be the next steps in trying to solve the specific challenge

Each group later provided and overview of their discussion and findings. Despite looking at different challenges, similar or closely connected requirements and recommendations were presented by the group:

  • Bad practice / good practice guidelines are necessary for all disciplines and stages of the data life cycle

  • FAIR principles are user oriented, data producers need to be incentivised to create FAIR and whenever possible Open data

  • There is a growing need to train and educate the next generations of researchers

  • “FAIR by design” Making data FAIR needs to be embedded in the Data production process and data producers need the to have the right tools

  • Data sharing needs to be a clear process – defined in reference to IP protection and privacy requirements

  • Improve the credit and recognition systems for data producers

  • Funding schemes for FAIR / Open data production as well as business plans for sustainability

Many of these are issues that RDA is working on under one facet or another and supporting the knowledge exchange between the two communities is possible and should be more actively encouraged and facilitated. COST actions are open and can be joined at any time. To do that one needs to simply browse the list of actions to view the selection of relevant ones ( similar to how the working and interest groups function

It is all about building the bridges, social and technical, that allow data sharing and more widely  the sharing of research outputs “Dare to share!” join the programme and working groups and help build the right bridges.

I hope the links below can provide you with more information


Interactive and instructive - photo credits @COSTprogramme 

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