Research Data Goes Cloud

Every time you undertake research, you are creating new knowledge about our world and, thus, new data. The challenge is now: How to store and manage all of this data for later reuse?

NFDI is an initiative within Germany, put forward by the Joint Science Conference in late 2018 and backed financially by the federal and state governments, to establish a distributed cloud infrastructure to address this issue. The acronym NFDI hereby stands for the lovely German term “ Nationale ForschungsDatenInfrastruktur”, i.e. national research data infrastructure. The directorate of NFDI is based in Karlsruhe, while the data management is taken care of by both Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Leibniz Institute for Information Infrastructure (FIZ).

All of this data management is based on the so-called FAIR principles: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. It means that research and meta data need to be findable, both by humans and bots, accessible through a standardized way, integrate well with other data and reusable in accordance with the respective licenses. And this last point being ‘reusable’ is crucial, since this is the ultimate goal of FAIR: to make data more reusable and thus the science more efficient.

Research Data Management: Now and in Future

Currently, NFDI is in the process of forming consortia and reviewing proposals for funding, with a total amount of €85 million provisioned for the establishment of up to 30 consortia across all sciences. The long-term goal is to build an independent legal entity, dedicated to research data management in Germany in conjunction and cooperation with other initiatives such as the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC).

Since NFDI is a very recent initiative, probably not many researchers nor students have heard of it so far. Within the Youth German Physical Society, I am heading a team dedicated to spreading the word about NFDI and contributing the youth perspective on research data management. This means on the one hand envisioning, how such a research data infrastructure could work in the future, as we are the ones going to use it in five to ten years.

Just pretend you are reading a scientific publication. Currently, it’s like you are scrolling through a PDF and if you would like to reuse some data points, you would extract them from a crappy, low-resolution screenshot or plead to the authoring researchers and hope they are going to send over some data. Now imagine this article were web-first, linked with all the research data and featuring interactive graphics like in IPython. Where you put your cursor into the graphics and read off the data point, display the publishing license and, right click, export the data for reuse in your own simulation, in accordance with the publishing license. And you were introduced to this data management system within your studies.

On the other hand, our goal is to initiate a discussion on how NFDI can be integrated into teaching, in labs courses and during thesis writing, in order to make students become acquainted with using such a cloud-based research database. This includes for example providing sample data as open educational resources. An entire concept is presented by a position paper of the Federal Council of Physics Students in Germany.

Event: Satellite Workshop ‘NFDI @ Teaching’

On June 3, 2020 our team from the Youth German Physical Society together with the Federal Council of Physics Students in Germany is organizing a satellite workshop ‘NFDI @ Teaching’ to the Conference on a FAIR Data Infrastructure for Materials Genomics, which is going to take place from 9 am till 1 pm as a Zoom seminar. On this occasion, we would like to discuss with you about designing a research data infrastructure with respect to the needs of young, aspiring researchers and how NFDI could look like in practice at university.

Also, in November 2019, we have been doing a design thinking process within the Youth German Physical Society, design thinking about who is going to use NFDI (by creating personas) and how these people are going to use it (by writing user stories). The results of this process will be presented as a poster contribution to our satellite workshop.

Looking forward to to seeing you on June 3, 2020!

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