Key figures from Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Plazi and Pensoft were amongst the first to sign the Declaration at the closing session of the First International Conference on FAIR Digital Objects (FDO2022)
Several of the BiCIKL partners signed the Leiden Declaration on FAIR Digital Objects, thereby committing to “a new environment that works as a truly meaningful data space,” as framed by the organisers of the conference, whose first instalment turned out to be the perfect occasion for the formal publication of the pact.
The conference brought together key international technical, scientific, industry and science-policy stakeholders with the aim to boost the development and implementation of FAIR Digital Objects (FDOs) worldwide. It was organised by the FDO Forum, an initiative supported by major global initiatives and by a variety of regional and national initiatives with the shared goal to achieve a better coherence amongst the increasing number of initiatives working on FDO-based designs and implementations.
By joining the Declaration’s signees, the BiCIKL partners formally committed to:
Support the FAIR guiding principles to be applied (ultimately) to each digital object in a web of FAIR data and services;
Support open standards and protocols;
Support data and services to be as open as possible, and only as restricted as necessary;
Support distributed solutions where useful to achieve robustness and scalability, but recognise the need for centralised approaches where necessary;
Support the restriction of standards and protocols to the absolute minimum;
Support freedom to operate wherever possible;
Help to avoid monopolies and provider lock-in wherever possible.
During the event, Plazi and Pensoft held a presentation demonstrating how their Biodiversity Literature Repository turns taxonomic treatments ‘locked’ in legacy scientific literature into FAIR Digital Objects. As a result of the collaboration between Plazi and Pensoft – a partnership long-preceding their involvement in BiCIKL – this workflow has also been adapted to modern-day publishing, in order to FAIRify data as soon as it is published.
Ahead of FDO2022, all submitted conference abstracts – including the one associated with Plazi’s presentation – were made publicly available in a collection of their own in Pensoft’s open-science journal Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO). Thus, not only did the organisers make the conference outputs available to the participants early on, so that they can familiarise themselves with the upcoming talks and topics in advance, but they also ensure that the contributions are permanently preserved and FAIR in their own turn.
The conference collection, guest edited by Tina Loo (Naturalis Biodiversity Center), contains a total of 51 conference abstracts, where each is published in HTML, XML and PDF formats, and assigned with its own persistent identifier (DOI) just like the collection in its entirety (10.3897/rio.coll.190).
The Horizon 2020 – funded project BiCIKL has reached its halfway stage and the partners gathered in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) from the 22nd to the 25th of October for the Second General Assembly, organised by Pensoft.
The BiCIKL project will launch a new European community of key research infrastructures, researchers, citizen scientists and other stakeholders in the biodiversity and life sciences based on open science practices through access to data, tools and services.
BiCIKL’s goal is to create a centralised place to connect all key biodiversity data by interlinking 15 research infrastructures and their databases. The 3-year European Commission-supported initiative kicked off in 2021 and involves 14 key natural history institutions from 10 European countries.
BiCIKL is keeping pace as expected with 16 out of the 48 final deliverables already submitted, another 9 currently in progress/under review and due in a few days. Meanwhile, 21 out of the 48 milestones have been successfully achieved.
The hybrid format of the meeting enabled a wider range of participants, which resulted in robust discussions on the next steps of the project, such as the implementation of additional technical features of the FAIR Data Place (FAIR being an abbreviation for Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable).
This data includes biodiversity information, such as detailed images, DNA, physiology and past studies concerning a specific species and its ‘relatives’, to name a few. Currently, the issue is that all those types of biodiversity data have so far been scattered across various databases, which in turn have been missing meaningful and efficient interconnectedness.
Additionally, the FAIR Data Place, developed within the BiCIKL project, is to give researchers access to plenty of training modules to guide them through the different services.
Halfway through the duration of BiCIKL, the project is at a turning point, where crucial discussions between the partners are playing a central role in the refinement of the FAIR Data Place design. Most importantly, they are tasked with ensuring that their technologies work efficiently with each other, in order to seamlessly exchange, update and share the biodiversity data every one of them is collecting and taking care of.
By Year 3 of the BiCIKL project, the partners agree, when those infrastructures and databases become efficiently interconnected to each other, scientists studying the Earth’s biodiversity across the world will be in a much better position to build on existing research and improve the way and the pace at which nature is being explored and understood. At the end of the day, knowledge is the stepping stone for the preservation of biodiversity and humankind itself.
“Needless to say, it’s an honour and a pleasure to be the coordinator of such an amazing team spanning as many as 14 partnering natural history and biodiversity research institutions from across Europe, but also involving many global long-year collaborators and their infrastructures, such as Wikidata, GBIF, TDWG, Catalogue of Life to name a few,”
said BiCIKL’s project coordinator Prof. Lyubomir Penev, CEO and founder of Pensoft.
“The point is: do we want an integrated structure or do we prefer federated structures? What are the pros and cons of the two options? It’s essential to keep the community united and allied because we can’t afford any information loss and the stakeholders should feel at home with the Project and the Biodiversity Knowledge Hub.”
Joe Miller, Executive Secretary and Director at GBIF, commented:
“We are a brand new community, and we are in the middle of the growth process. We would like to already have answers, but it’s good to have this kind of robust discussion to build on a good basis. We must find the best solution to have linkages between infrastructures and be able to maintain them in the future because the Biodiversity Knowledge Hub is the location to gather the community around best practices, data and guidelines on how to use the BiCIKL services… In order to engage even more partners to fill the eventual gaps in our knowledge.”
“In an era of biodiversity change and loss, leveraging scientific data fully will allow the world to catalogue what we have now, to track and understand how things are changing and to build the tools that we will use to conserve or remediate. The challenge is that the data come from many streams – molecular biology, taxonomy, natural history collections, biodiversity observation – that need to be connected and intersected to allow scientists and others to ask real questions about the data. In its first year, BiCIKL has made some key advances to rise to this challenge,”
“As a partner, we, at the Biodiversity Information Standards – TDWG, are very enthusiastic that our standards are implemented in BiCIKL and serve to link biodiversity data. We know that joining forces and working together is crucial to building efficient infrastructures and sharing knowledge.”
The project will go on with the first Round Table of experts in December and the publications of the projects who participated in the Open Call and will be founded at the beginning of the next year.