RDAP: Can you provide a short summary of who you are and why your organization decided to support and attend the 2017 summit?
Figshare: Figshare is a platform where researchers can upload, manage and share their research data. We provide a research data management platform that helps universities, publishers, and funders control the storage, preservation and release of digital objects created by their researchers. The platform is currently used by over 50 partners globally including Carnegie Mellon University, The University of Melbourne, Stockholm University, PLOS, Springer Nature, and the Wellcome Trust.
We decided to support RDAP because research data management, access, and preservation are central to our mission. We supported the conference last year and we found it to be extremely useful because the audience is engaged in the space that we work in on a daily basis. It’s good to come and share ideas with like-minded people.
RDAP: Which communities does your organization primarily serve and/or represent?
Figshare: We serve a wide range of communities but our core audience is any researcher or organisation with an interest in publishing research data. Figshare has three core offerings: a free tool that allows researchers to upload and share their research, a publisher offering that serves as infrastructure for non-traditional research outputs (data!), and an institutional offering that extends Figshare.com functionality to scale at the university level to meet far larger research and funder requirements.
RDAP: Can you tell us how your organization supports and advances best practices for research data?
Figshare: Figshare was born out of the frustration of our founder, Mark Hahnel. When he was a researcher, there was no easy way to share and get credit for most of the research he was doing. As a stem cell biologist, his data included videos and some spreadsheet data, but there was no way to include this in published articles at the time.
Our core mission from the start has been to support and advance best practices for research data. Every feature of the platform is built with that in mind. In the early days it was simple things like making sure it was easy for researchers to upload files. We put user experience first and tried to give researchers instant rewards like giving all research outputs a DOI, making it easy to cite public data, and marking up our content so it is easily discoverable across different search engines. More recently, we have provided metrics features like tracking Altmetric.com scores, citation counts, and providing reporting dashboards to give researchers feedback on how and where their data is being used and/or reused.
In 2017, we’ll be continuing to work with the community to develop more advanced features in line with FAIR data principles (see more at: http://www.datafairport.org/), expanding our metadata schemas, creating a white label edition of Figshare, giving our customers greater control over branding, and continued work on integrations with a wide range of platforms to allow for the free flow of data between systems without the need for manual intervention.
RDAP: What are some of the new challenges facing research data professionals in 2017?
Figshare: Last year we conducted a survey of over 2,000 researchers which culminated in our State of Open Data report, so we have some data on what the challenges will be in 2017.
Education is still one of the biggest issues – researchers don’t know how ‘open’ they have to make their data. 60% of respondents were unsure about the licensing conditions under which they shared their data. As you are probably aware, applying the wrong license to data can inhibit the reuse possibilities for other researchers and put them in conflict with their funder, institutional, or publisher public access policies. We still have a lot of work to do on providing researchers with a basic understanding of what is required of them to make their data open. 25% didn’t know their institution’s requirements and 31% do not know about publisher requirements.
Engagement is also another area of focus for us at Figshare. They say “build it and they will come” – this definitely doesn’t apply to researchers and data repositories. Once we go live at an institution we have a full program of activities aimed at engaging researchers of all career levels and disciplines. This dovetails with the education that is required to provide a wide range of onsite or remote training programs, whether it’s training the administrators or the researchers themselves. We also have a support site with training videos. We provide a wide range of literature, co-branded “getting started” brochures, case studies from a wide-range of disciplines, API documentation, and reports like the State of Open Data.
We are also seeing more research data systems coming into the space which is great, but makes FAIR data principles even more important. Ideally we want to get to a stage where we can collate and query all the openly available relevant datasets regardless of which platform they live on. This places a large amount of importance on platforms having decent APIs.
We’ve been working in this space for many years now and we have seen incredible change in attitude and policy in a short amount of time, but we are still along way off an open data utopia.
RDAP: The RDAP Summit is strives to provide a venue for reaching across disciplines and institutions to work on common solutions to issues surrounding research data management. Do you have insights on how RDAP differs or compares to other conferences you’ve attended?
Figshare: RDAP has two strong advantages over some of the other conferences we attend:
1 – It is platform agnostic, regardless of the system you are using at your institution whether it’s open source, a commercial solution or home built there is a place for you to speak. It’s more focused on tackling the issues that researchers, data librarians and data professionals face on a day to day basis and advancing the space; it’s not just a technology showcase.
2 – Practical advice to apply right now. There are a lot of talks that give advice and examples of things the attendees can take away and do today; a lot of the ideas around engagement don’t require big budget just some creativity. Many at RDAP are the sole research data representative at their institution, so this conference gives everyone a chance to get together and share cool ideas. It gives us all a chance to take a break from the day-to-day and think big picture with other data professionals. We attend other conferences which are future gazing and tackling tomorrow’s problems. While those conferences are also important, we feel RDAP focuses on the current issues.
RDAP: What is the one thing you want other summit attendees to walk away knowing about your organization?
Figshare: If you work with Figshare you don’t just get a modern research data management platform, you have a full team of people who will work with you to make sure your project is a success.
Figshare for Institutions allows schools to whitelabel the figshare infrastructure. If anyone would like to learn more we have a workshop afternoon on the Friday of RDAP. It’s free and you can get more practical examples of how Figshare works.