The DataCite Meeting in Nancy, France

Last week I took a lovely train ride through the cow-dotted French countryside to attend the 2014 DataCite Annual Conference. The event was held at the Institut de l’information Scientifique et Technique (INIST) in Nancy, France, which is about 1.5 hours by train outside of Paris. INIST is the French DataCite member (more on DataCite later). I was invited to the meeting to represent the CDL, which has been an active participant in DataCite since its inception (see my slides). But before I can provide an overview of the DataCite meeting, we need to back up and make sure everyone understands the concept of identifiers, plus a few other bits of key background information.

Background

Identifiers

An identifier is a string of characters that uniquely identifies an object. The object might be a dataset, software, or other research product. Most researchers are familiar with a particular type of identifier, the digital object identifier (DOI). These have been used by the academic publishing industry for uniquely identifying digital versions of journal articles for the last 15 years or so, and their use recently has expanded to other types of digital objects (posters, datasets, code, etc.). Although the DOI is the most widely known type of identifier, there are many, many other identifier schemes. Researchers do not necessarily need to understand the nuances of identifiers, however, since the data repository often chooses the scheme. The most important thing for researchers to understand is that their data needs an identifier to be easy to find, and to facilitate getting credit for that data.

The DataCite Organization

For those unfamiliar with DataCite, it’s a nonprofit organization founded in 2009. According to their website, their aims are to:

  • establish easier access to research data on the Internet
  • increase acceptance of research data as legitimate, citable contributions to the scholarly record
  • support data archiving that will permit results to be verified and re-purposed for future study.

In this capacity, DataCite has working groups, participates in large initiatives, and partners with national and international groups. Arguably they are most known for their work in helping organizations issue DOIs. CDL was a founding member of DataCite, and has representation on the advisory board and in the working groups.

EZID: Identifiers made easy

The CDL has a service that provides DataCite DOIs to researchers and those that support them, called EZID. The EZID service allows its users to create and manage long term identifiers (they do more than just DOIs). Note that individuals currently cannot go to the EZID website and obtain an identifier, however. They must instead work with one of the EZID clients, of which there are many, including academic groups, private industry, government organizations, and publishers. Figshare, Dryad, many UC libraries, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are among those who obtain their DataCite DOIs from EZID.

Highlights from the meeting

#1: Enabling culture shifts

Andrew Treloar from the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) presented a great way to think about how we can enable the shift to a world where research data is valued, documented, and shared. The new paradigm first needs to be possible: this means supporting infrastructure at the institutional and national levels, giving institutions and researchers the tools to properly manage research data outputs, and providing ways to count data citations and help incentivize data stewardship. Second, the paradigm needs to be encouraged/required. We are making slow but steady headway on this front, with new initiatives for open data from government-funded research and requirements for data management plans. Third, the new paradigm needs to be adopted/embraced. That is, researchers should be asking for DOIs for their data, citing the data they use, and understanding the benefits of managing and sharing their data. This is perhaps the most difficult of the three. These three aspects of a new paradigm can help frame tool development, strategies for large initiatives, and arguments for institutional support.

#2: ZENODO’s approach to meeting research data needs

Lars Holm Nielsen from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) provided a great overview of the repository ZENODO. If you are familiar with figshare, this repository has similar aspects: anyone can deposit their information, regardless of country, institution, etc. This was a repository created to meet the needs of researchers interested in sharing research products. One of the interesting features about Zenodo is their openness to multiple types of licenses, including those that do not result in fully open data. Although I feel strongly about ensuring data are shared with open, machine-readable waivers/licenses, Nielsen made an interesting point: step one is actually getting the data into a repository. If this is accomplished, then opening the data up with an appropriate license can be discussed at a later date with the researcher. I’m not sure if I agree with this strategy (I envision repositories full of data no one can actually search or use), it’s an interesting take.

Full disclosure: I might have a small crush on CERN due to the recent release of Particle Fever, a documentary on the discovery of the Higgs boson particle).

#3: the re3data-databib merger

Maxi Kindling from Humboldt University Berlin (representing re3data) and Michael Witt from Purdue University Libraries (representing databib) co-presented on plans for merging their two services, both searchable databases of repositories. Both re3data and databib have extensive metadata on data repositories available for depositing research data, covering a wide range of data types and disciplines. This merger makes sense since the two services emerged within X months of one another and there is no need for running them separately, with separate support, personnel, and databases. Kindling and Witt described the five principles of agreement for the merge: openness, optimal quality assurance, innovative functionality development, shared leadership (i.e., the two are equal partners), and sustainability. Regarding this last principle, the service that will result from the merge has been “adopted” by DataCite, which will support it for the long term. The service that will be born of the merge will be called re3data, with an advisory board called databib.

Attendees of the DataCite meeting had interesting lunchtime conversations around future integrations and tools development in conjunction with the new re3data. What about a repository “match-making” service, which could help researchers select the perfect repository for their data? Or integration with tools like the DMPTool? The re3data-databib group is likely coming up with all kinds of great ideas as a result of their new partnership, which will surely benefit the community as a whole.

#4: Lots of other great stuff

There were many other interesting presentations at the meeting: Amye Kenall from BioMed Central (BMC) talking about their GigaScience data journal; Mustapha Mokrane from the ICSU-World Data System on data publishing efforts; and Nigel Robinson from Thomson-Reuters on the Data Citation Index, to name a few. DataCite plans on making all of the presentations available on the conference website, so be sure to check that out in the next few weeks.

My favorite non-data part? The light show at the central square of Nancy, Place Stanislas. 20 minutes well-spent.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kok5Flb-9s4]

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