DataPLANT signs the "Leipzig-Berlin-Erklärung zu NFDI-Querschnittsthemen der Infrastrukturentwicklung"

DataPLANT is a co-signatory of the “Leipzig-Berlin Declaration on NFDI Cross-Sectional Issues in Infrastructure Development” and regards this joint document as the basis for the necessary mutual coordination based on sustainable processes and structures. For example, topics that are relevant to several expert consortia are to be worked on cooperatively and across individual consortia in the interests of sustainable interoperability. Further questions from the areas of infrastructure, integration of service providers and sustainable financing are to be discussed as well. In addition, legal issues relating to the preservation, sharing and re-use of digital objects are of relevance to all consortia. Therefore, key issues concerning licences, the handling of sensitive data, IT law, data protection and confidentiality of data should be addressed for the whole NFDI.

A central challenge for all consortia is the sustainable long-term access to research data. This includes topics such as data provenance and sovereignty of data, sustainability and security of data, tools and services, as well as persistent identifiers (e.g. DOIs or ePICs) and the certification of data repositories and archives. This includes in particular the securing of technical access and productive subsequent use options for the original research and creation context (re-use). Suitable measures for the management of research software must also be agreed. This includes the operation of development and archiving repositories, the management of metadata for referencing and citation, and the standardized description of software code.

Positive vote of the reviewer panel to the DataPLANT application

Yesterday, on 18 May, the announced decision of the NFDI Selection Committee’s panel of experts reached us. In this decision, which has yet to be confirmed by the GWK on June 26, DataPLANT was recommended for funding along with eight other consortia. We are pleased that we have been able to successfully follow our vision for RDM in fundamental plant research together with you and hope that we will master the last mile as well. Further feedback on the grant application is announced for August at the latest. As nine consortia are recommended to be funded in this round instead of the seven originally announced, it cannot yet be said whether this will have an impact on the planned budget. The planning will be accordingly cautious.

The NFDI expert panel’s advice is based in particular on the results of the evaluation and the applicant’s comments on the evaluation results. In order to be able to adequately evaluate the applications reviewed in seven expert colloquia, the NFDI expert panel also paid special attention to the framework conditions for setting up the NFDI in a scientifically guided procedure.

As a result of its selection process, the NFDI Expert Panel recommends the following nine consortia from the first round of calls for proposals to the Joint Science Conference (GWK) for funding: NFDI4Ing, NFDI4Health, NFDI4Biodiversity, NFDI4Culture, KonsortSWD, GHGA, NFDI4Cat, NFDI4Chem, and DataPLANT. A total of 22 consortia took part in the first round, with two further rounds to follow this year and next year. A total of up to 30 consortia are to be funded in the full development stage, with approximately 70 million euros available for direct project costs.

In the meantime, this provisional website has been set up to promote the information of the community about our consortium and ongoing activities. Additionally, we have set up a Twitter account “@nfdi4plants” to tweet about upcoming events and activities. For the time being we continue to use the mailing list we set up and subscribed all participants as a classic information channel. At the same time, we have entered into “cross-cutting activities” and are participating, for example, in the exchange on metadata in the NFDI at an event scheduled for the beginning of July.

Reply to the reviewer panel's protocol sent to the DFG

Today the DataPLANT consortium sent the three pages reply to the reviewers remark and used the chance to clarify a couple of open questions. We got a quite positive feedback on our concept of data stewards as a central support element to the fundamental plant research community. This core element makes the training and recruitment of suitable people a central task of the DataPLANT consortium. The successful training of the Data Stewards essentially requires basic skills in the standardized handling of data, their modeling and analysis, as well as a solid domain understanding of quantitative plant biology, especially the methods used in this research field. In addition, practical skills in handling different software packages, analysis and workflow tools as well as in teaching and training are required. To ensure the training of the Data Stewards from the start of DataPLANT, we propose a strategy with a mixture of direct and long-term measures. Corresponding training and further education opportunities are already included in the curricula of the applicant institutions. It is also planned to make existing courses of study (e.g. in the field of data science) more flexible so that the basic training of data stewards can be provided within the framework of these courses of study. A new development of tailor-made courses of study is also conceivable in the long term. With regard to both measures, the applicants were able to secure the support of the partner universities in preliminary discussions. For example, the course of study Quantitative Plant Biology at CEPLAS is a valuable addition to the recruitment of personnel.

The review panel rightfully suggests that the services to be developed in DataPLANT should be flexible enough to ensure sustainability. A central goal in the design of the DataPLANT Hub is to provide flexible, demand-oriented and sustainable support for research data management throughout the entire research cycle. An essential aspect of the hub is the abstraction of workflows using the Common Workflow Language (CWL), which is widely used in all scientific fields, in order to enable researchers to execute workflows on any platform and to avoid the mentioned dependencies. The intended annotation of workflows with metadata as well as the quality measures for workflows to be developed act as additional abstraction mechanisms. Currently, GALAXY is a mature and widely used workflow platform on which the DataPLANT Hub and other measures of the consortium can be based at an early stage. Nevertheless, a sole dependency on GALAXY is actively avoided by abstraction and open creation of the DataPLANT Hub.

DataPLANT aims to mirror the fundamental plant research community across all status groups in research and provider institutions. In order to ensure diversity, DataPLANT will implement the following multi-track strategy: 1) continuous recruitment of new participants and active recruitment of suitable individuals with a special focus on diversity from the growing plant community and beyond; 2) Exemplary role in the design of the initial governance: The governance will be broadly staffed with members from the group of participants with respect to diversity, especially regarding career level, reputation and gender balance. We are also able to involve scientifically very experienced and proven personalities whose experience with clusters of excellence DataPLANT will benefit from. 3) Development of promotion and qualification opportunities (especially in the context of the training of Data Stewards) that allow participants at early career stages to become involved in DataPLANT at an early stage and to take on responsibility. 4) Active use of the explicit diversity measures of the participating institutions.

Similar to the review panel, we consider the operating and financing model of DataPLANT to be a major challenge for long-term sustainability. While initially the services are offered free of charge for participants through project financing, for a permanent offer there is the necessity to put needs and arising costs for the refinancing of resources into relation. Supporting individual researchers and research associations in applying for FDM funding is a key aspect of DataPLANT. Our vision is that the mechanisms developed in DataPLANT will manifest themselves sustainably in the community. DataPLANT brings its ideas and efforts to the overarching NFDI structure (e.g., via the cross cutting topics) and is itself open to being integrated into the emerging frameworks of the NFDI and its approaches. We are in continuous exchange with other consortia on these topics. First approaches to solutions already result from the integration of the providers into collaborative national, national and international infrastructures.