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08 Jun 2023

Promoting RDA, EOSC - 36th European Immunogenetics and Histocompatibility Conference

Key takeaways: the acute need for information on RDA and EOSC among the European Federation for Immunogenetics (EFI) community, the awareness of Open Science of the young generation of scientists, and interest beyond Europe for EOSC.    

As I have practiced research in human immunogenetics many years, I participated in the 36th European Immunogenetics and Histocompatibility Conference (~1000 participants, both on-site and online), the annual Conference of the European Federation for Immunogenetics (EFI). After 15 years it was back in France, taking place in Nantes from 26 to 29 April 2023. The main theme was “Big data in immunogenetics; at the cross roads of Care, Tools and  Research”. It was chaired by Prof. Pierre Antoine Gourraud, who works a lot on health data management and uses, and has done so in various domains since I supervised his PhD work in the University of Toulouse years ago. The last time this European Conference was in France, it was actually in Toulouse  in 2008, and I co-chaired it with Mogens Thomsen, also member of RDA!

My participation in this Conference had many facets, in keeping with its role as both a scientific Conference and a Professional Society meeting dealing with immunology, genomics, population genetics, transplantation, genetics of immune diseases, cell therapy; all domains where data (often sensitive data) are paramount.

Although this community pioneered the international sharing of data, protocols, methodologies and tools (biological tools or software ones) as early as in the 60th with organisation of International Histocompatibility Workshops and Conferences regularly, it seems that the vast movement of Open Science has not fully penetrated the field.

I attended as the Domain Ambassador of RDA and EOSC Future for human immunogenetics and health ethics. I had proposed an Open Science Ambassador poster entitled: Open Science in human immunogenetics; challenges and pathways. In addition to information, this poster contained some suggestions/recommendations for various EFI Committees (scientific, accreditation, standards, education…) to promote Open Science. Some other actions will certainly be needed for them to be considered!  I was also co-author on another poster on:  Data sharing, research evaluation and Open Science that reported the recommendations of the RDA SHARC (Sharing Rewards and Credit) Interest group that were presented at RDA P20 and are under finalisation. And I was presenter of an oral communication on health ethics entitled: “New regulatory dimensions for transplantation, genetics and stem cell research in the French bioethics law. Consequences for European collaborations.

Posters were exhibited all along the Conference and could be visited especially in Coffee breaks between the sessions. I managed to get the 2 posters on aspects of Open Science besides each other, instead of them being in different sections of the exhibition, thanks to an empty space from a missing poster!  This positioning facilitated the common presentation of both posters. There was then a traditional feature of EFI poster sessions: wine and cheese were served while people were touring the posters for 2 hours… hence the glasses in hand when commenting the posters! Of interest may be that during these interactions I remarked that the youngest persons, PhD and post-docs were those who were most aware of Open Science for publications, data and software, while more senior people were less interested or considered it was more for others than for them to revise their habits… The audience went largely beyond Europe and I had exchanges with people from Brasil, India, Argentina, Tunisia, Mexico, Australia and the USA; this led to questions such as “Are the services of EOSC restricted to Europeans” or "Can others access or make deposits?".

Many -- even those who had had education on Open Science practices or policies -- did not know RDA was existing and the possibility to engage as individuals in groups working together was attractive for some of them.  A number of people took photos of the posters, some asked for the pdf, some took the A4 printed version.  So hopefully some messages went through!

All people considered that reformation of the research assessment was necessary… but that there was still a long way to go!  And it was interesting to see those who were optimistic about such a change of culture and those who were more pessimistic about it.

About the author: Anne Cambon-Thomsen is a medical doctor specialised in human immunogenetics and health ethics and Emeritus Research Director at CNRS (France). In addition to her long-term active involvement in the RDA (as detailed on her RDA homepage), she is the RDA/EOSC Future domain ambassador for Human immunogenetics and health ethics.

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