Skills development for FAIRification of PARC data

Given the importance of effective chemicals risk assessment and regulation for protection of humans and the environment, PARC has high ambitions in terms of making its data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR), aiming to have at least 70-80% of all PARC-generated data FAIR as defined in the PARC FAIR Data Policy. A key aspect of this is ensuring that all PARC data is accompanied by rich metadata describing the dataset so that other researchers or potential users of the data know what it is about and how and why it was generated.

The European Commission reported in 2018 that the estimated annual cost of not having FAIR data is at least €10.2bn per year. However, it is likely closer to €26bn per year due to unquantifiable elements such as the value of improved research quality and other indirect positive spill-over effects of FAIR research data, which is an estimation based on the European open data economy projections.

Currently, there are numerous barriers to making data FAIR:
•    technical barriers such that suitable repositories for specific types of data are not yet available or not sufficiently accessible, 
•    cultural barriers in that researchers have not fully understood the importance of data management as part of the process of data generation, 
•    lack of skills in data FAIRification.

Overcoming these barriers requires extensive training and upskilling of PARC researchers, with different approaches to this capacity building needed for the different aspects.

Technical upskilling and PARC FAIR implementers

Technical upskilling was the priority for the first 18 months of PARC, the focus mainly being on partners with a strong interest in data management and responsibility for building the FAIR Toolbox and the workflows for PARC datasets.. The non-profit organisation, GoFAIR Foundation, was appointed to provide two years of training in their world-leading 3-Point FAIRification Programme for up to 20 PARC FAIR facilitators and trainers. 

This extensive training focussed on development of FAIR implementation profiles for databases likely to be utilised within PARC and on building structured vocabularies, semantics and metadata schemas, working directly on PARC data and metadata, focussing initially on Human Biomonitoring and Environmental Monitoring and gradually moving towards the needs of Regulatory Toxicology. At the end of 2023, around 15 PARC trainees have completed the training, passed their exam and are qualified as GoFAIR Fellows meaning that they are certified as FAIR implementers who can help others to implement FAIR data and services.  

Overcoming cultural barriers via guidance on “how to FAIRify data”

More general upskilling in FAIR awareness for PARC researchers will also take place. A set of training materials has been developed and rolled out.  

Each PARC project has a dedicated Data Liaison within the partnership who is their point of contact for all things FAIR. The Data Liaisons are supporting the project teams in developing their project-level Data Management Plans, aligned with the overarching PARC Data Management Plan, and in developing templates and workflows for data and metadata capture and management.

Additionally, PARC will offer engagement of partners in domain-specific workshops aiming for: 
•    agreeing on the minimum and rich metadata needs for each of PARC’s research domains: human biomonitoring, environmental monitoring, exposure/ hazard/risk assessment, safe-and-sustainable by design, 
•    establishing the domain-level data and metadata schema,
•    determining optimal approaches for cross-domain integration.

Practical training in how-to implement various aspects of FAIR will be rolled out throughout 2024 for all partners, aiming to overcome both the social and lack of skills barriers to FAIR implementation.