DataPLANT: First General Assembly

September 21, 2020

On 21st September the DataPLANT participants gathered online to officially meet for the First General Assembly of the consortium. More then 40 people participated and discussed in the two hours session. At the beginning the DataPLANT mission got refined and explained and how it fits into the NFDI general objectives. The NFDI intends to build a national, sustainable data infrastructure for disciplinary sciences. All successful consortia will enjoy a funding for five years initially. After a successful interim evaluation it would be possible to extend the activities for another five years. DataPLANT intends to gain a significant coverage of researchers and groups in the field of fundamental plant research and to establish a sustainable funding scheme during this time. The NFDI consortia should help, advise and support “their disciplines” in standardization and research data management. To achieve that objective DataPLANT puts the so called Annotated Research Contexts (ARC) at it’s core. An ARC consists of an ordered combination of experimental data with annotation and descriptions of computational workflows. The ARCs will help to increase the level of annotation at the source and track provenance using community standards to maximize future data discoverability and reuse. With it will come new responsibilities for researchers. DataPLANT will homogenize formats, terminologies, guidelines, policies to simplify the RDM landscape which will lead to democratization of research data.

To support the handling of ARCs storage, compute and authentication services will get integrated to facilitate usability and access. The services will focus on plant specific processing and analysis tools which cover the complete research cycle. ARCs will become the generic interface for compute and storage as well as for publication and sharing. The community with especially profit through specialized tools and workflows, more available storage, a full ARCs compatibility, automated metadata generation and public repository compatibility. These developments drive the digital change in science with the goal to establish an ARC publication as a full equivalent to a classical (paper) publication.

ARCs are the base of the collaborative research platform and can be shared between researchers seamlessly (through a mixture of locally decentralized storage mixed with a collaborative centralized versioning). The ARCs become the easy to use single access point for the Swate tool which uses an annotation grammar of source names, characteristics, factors, parameters, sample name and data.

The DataPLANT consortium is the representative of fundamental plant research within the NFDI. To facilitate a tight interaction with the community three boards got created and a General Assembly will gather from time to time. In between GA the boards will guide and advice DataPLANT. For transparency all documents of meetings will be published (slides, notes, decisions, …) The office will support the future board procedures and will be the first point of contact for the data stewards, the community and researchers interested in the consortium. For task areas (TA) will work in different means to support the community: TA1 will hire five standards experts whick will work on quality, standardization and interoperability. TA2 plans to deploy six developers and technicians to work on software, services and infrastructure for the community. TA3 hosts seven data stewards which will directly interact with the data champions and the wider community on transfer, application and education in the field. These TAs will get complemented by four people in coordination, management, support and services in TA4. Those plannings are estimates as DataPLANT got a nominal budget cut of 13.5% which translates in real terms (as the salaries are fixed to 2019 DFG figures) to 20 - 25% reduction. Further on the agreement of the applicant institution (University of Freiburg) with the DFG is about getting to be signed, the consortial agreement is still in circulation.

To actually start in DataPLANT a first round of personnel is getting to be hired. The data champions will be contacted by the office in the coming weeks to refine the vision and prioritize requirements. They are the primary target for the “Call for ARCs” in the first round. This is meant to kick-off the data stewards service which is intended to communicate and realize the FAIR best practices, plan data management strategies for research projects and proposals and provide legal assistance for licensing and sharing of data.

The general assembly got concluded by a talk of Prof. York Sure-Vetter, director of the NFDI. He gave a short overview on the state of the creation of the registered association and it’s inauguration in October. He motived the common goal of the improvement of research data management, the advancement of science and the change of academic culture to embrace open data publications.