Administration of research data in France’s CNRS

By Ernesto Spinak

In the Open Science era, research data management (RDM) is a major challenge to be considered in national research policies, as the results tend to be complex, dynamic, and difficult to describe, but it is necessary to validate research results. These data are of various types and are complex because – to name a few – they can be genome sequences, socioeconomic data, audiovisual images, statistical databases, software applications, etc. The European Community’s new strategies for open science include (i) open access, (ii) cooperation in data exchange and (iii) data management under the principles of the FAIR initiative: “(…) all research objects should be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable, both for machines and for people1.

France is one of the leading member states of the European Union leading the effort, publishing tens of thousands of scientific articles each year and devoting a substantial percentage of the Gross National Product to research and innovation. The CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, National Research Center) is the largest public research organization in Europe that develops research in all areas of knowledge through 10 institutions with over 32,500 researchers in more than 1,000 laboratories. France, together with the Netherlands and Germany, is promoting the FAIR initiative in Europe.

In order to measure and evaluate the attitudes and behaviors of the scientific community in France on Open Access and RDM, a survey was carried out between July and September 2014 by sending a questionnaire with more than 90 questions to the directors of 1,250 CRNS laboratories representing all areas of basic science in France. The objective was to better understand the processes of production, administration and preservation of data, and in particular, the attitudes of sharing data with other scientists in terms of culture and FAIR principles. The results2 were published recently and are the reason for this note.

The answers obtained from the directors of the 432 laboratories that responded to the survey can be divided into three main themes:

  • What do scientists think about data exchange and openness? What can be said about their open data culture?
  • To what extent do their data behaviors and attitudes support RDM FAIR principles?
  • What are the RDM priorities and what kind of RDM services do scientists require?

Data Management

61% of the directors stated that their lab’s data production needs a specific RDM, but only a third of them have some sort of tool to monitor production, and less than that have already established a data management plan.

Trained human resources

Approximately one-third of the laboratories have specific staff dedicated to RDM. Most of them are permanent employees, but more than half of these units also hire temporary staff to do or help get the job done.

What work? Data processing and creation of secondary data, production of databases; to a lesser extent, data curation, including metadata production.

How well are you doing your job? Overall, 75% of senior managers rate RDM skills as basic or good, but only 8% as excellent.

In four RDM areas (referral, data security, ethics, and law), staff skills are considered superior as compared to data publication, where nearly 40% of managers consider staff skills to be insufficient.

Data sharing

40% of laboratory directors declare that their research data is published online, often with restricted access (on-demand access or limited to authorized users); only 17% report that their data is freely available in open access.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents confirmed that their laboratories collaborated with other scientists and research units through shared data tools (84%), workshops (47%), common guidelines (44%) and training sessions (41%).

Availability

More than half of the laboratory directors in earth science and astronomy, computing, social sciences, ecology and nuclear physics declare that their data is available online. But this is not the case, especially in three other disciplines: chemistry, physics, and mathematics.

On the exchange of data and publications

The survey revealed that most respondents (50-70%) generally support open access and declare the actual use of the French national HAL (Hyper Articles en Ligne) repository, including the deposit of metadata (records) and documents (full text), while only a small group seems not interested in the Green Route or Gold Route, and they are reluctant to self-archive the open access publication.

Considering the FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable), the report mentions that only 7% of laboratory directors confirm that their data management practice meets the four criteria: they publish data online, allow at least some of them to be freely available, apply interoperable data formats, and use specific community standards. Another 18% of the directors answered yes to three of the four questions; 42% indicated that they met one or two criteria, but 32% answered “no” to these four questions. The most common “weakness” seems to be the application of interoperable data formats, revealing other problems such as the lack of infrastructure for interoperability, skills and experience, incentives and, above all, the lack of policies for its implementation.

Preliminary conclusions

Changing the scientists’ cultures is a complex issue, as revealed by the CNRS inquiry, a challenge that has to face different values and practices, tools and skills of laboratories and institutes where many stakeholders intervene, for example, scientists, financiers, technicians, librarians, etc., with different and sometimes opposing interests.

It is important to establish at the level of each institution and, as a standard policy, best practice guidelines, such as the ones presented in the SciELO 20 Years Week3.

Notes

1. Turning FAIR into reality: Final report and action plan from the European Commission expert group on FAIR data [online]. Publications Office of the EU. 2018 [viewed 16 January 2019]. Available from: https://publications.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/7769a148-f1f6-11e8-9982-01aa75ed71a1/language-en/format-PDF/source-80611283

2. SCHÖPFEL, J., et al. Research data management in the French National Research Center (CNRS). Data Technologies and Applications [online]. 2018, vol. 52, no. 2, pp. 248-265 [viewed 16 January 2019]. Available from: https://hal.univ-lille3.fr/hal-01728541/

3. Documents [online]. WG1 – Yesterday, today and tomorrow of SciELO Network – SciELO Network Meeting. 2018 [viewed 16 January 2019]. Available from: https://www.scielo20.org/redescielo/en/working-groups/wg1/#1522092702903-74c0a379-eca1

References

Documents [online]. WG1 – Yesterday, today and tomorrow of SciELO Network – SciELO Network Meeting. 2018 [viewed 16 January 2019]. Available from: https://www.scielo20.org/redescielo/en/working-groups/wg1/#1522092702903-74c0a379-eca1

SCHÖPFEL, J., et al. Research data management in the French National Research Center (CNRS). Data Technologies and Applications [online]. 2018, vol. 52, no. 2, pp. 248-265 [viewed 16 January 2019]. Available from: https://hal.univ-lille3.fr/hal-01728541/

Turning FAIR into reality: Final report and action plan from the European Commission expert group on FAIR data [online]. Publications Office of the EU. 2018 [viewed 16 January 2019]. Available from: https://publications.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/7769a148-f1f6-11e8-9982-01aa75ed71a1/language-en/format-PDF/source-80611283

 

About Ernesto Spinak

Collaborator on the SciELO program, a Systems Engineer with a Bachelor’s degree in Library Science, and a Diploma of Advanced Studies from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Barcelona, Spain) and a Master’s in “Sociedad de la Información” (Information Society) from the same university. Currently has a consulting company that provides services in information projects to 14 government institutions and universities in Uruguay.

 

Translated from the original in Spanish by Lilian Nassi-Calò.

 

Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

SPINAK, E. Administration of research data in France’s CNRS [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2019 [viewed ]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2019/01/16/administration-of-research-data-in-frances-cnrs/

 

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