FAIR workshop in Ireland: a report

In December 2017, a team from DTL and FAIRdICT delivered a FAIR Data workshop at the Irish Health Research Board (HRB) in Dublin. Co-hosted by the HRB and the SPHERE Programme, the event taught 70 researchers at different career stages what the FAIR Data Principles mean and how implementing them can ease the day-to-day work load in data-intensive research projects.

The Health Research Board is the lead agency in Ireland responsible for supporting and funding health research. The aim of the workshop was to improve HRB-funded researchers’ understanding of what the FAIR data principles mean. Ultimately, HRB wants to position health researchers to be ready to respond to the emerging requirements in modern science.

Attendees learned that good data stewardship involves well-informed decisions about how data will be created, where are they going to be stored, the validation and publication process, and medium- and long-term sustainability plans for the data. Of great importance for clinical researchers, by following the FAIR principles it becomes possible to share public research findings, while at the same time securing sensitive data elements (such as patient identities) that can never be shared.

It proved to be interactive with a very engaged audience and an open discussion among the presenters, HRB representatives, and the researchers about the FAIR initiative and data stewardship. Some of the key implications, issues and challenges in health research identified were:

  • the importance of data that are understood by machines and not just humans,
  • the distinction between openness of the data, data sharing and protection and control of access to sensitive data,
  • ethical concerns and privacy of the data and how the GDPR will affect it,
  • the key importance of metadata, which provide the basic information about the data including the type of access/license,
  • the new role for data stewards and how it is envisaged will greatly facilitate the work of researchers as data producers,
  • how institutions will promote those new roles,
  • how institutions will evaluate the openness and FAIRness of researchers in new employment and promotions,
  • the HRB implementation of data management/stewardship plan and the FAIR principles through a stepwise approach.

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