Life science research produces data in a variety of formats. The diversity of formats means that scientists cannot easily find and combine data sets from different sources, so their ability to make new discoveries is hampered.
ELIXIR encourages the life science community to adopt standardised file formats, metadata, vocabularies and identifiers. This helps both humans and computer software to discover, integrate and analyse data.
ELIXIR’s work in this area is carried out by its Interoperability Platform, a group of experts drawn from across Europe. The Platform works both within Europe and globally. For example, through organisations such as Research Data Alliance (RDA), which promotes data sharing and exchange around the world. See the RDA's ELIXIR Bridging Force Interest Group page for details of this collaboration.
What the Interoperability Platform offers
The Interoperability Platform offers the following services to infrastructure and life science tool builders:
- Bring Your Own Data (BYOD) workshops, where you can get advice on describing your data.
- Technical services which ensure that data is interoperable, that it can be accessed programmatically, and that it contains persistent identifiers. The technical services also develop minimum information standards and vocabularies.
- FAIRsharing: the ELIXIR standards, databases and policies resource
Biosharing is a curated educational resource on inter-related data standards, databases, and data policies in life, environmental and biomedical sciences. It is maintained by ELIXIR UK in Oxford. Whether you are a researcher, funder, journal editor, librarian, curator or data manager, FAIRsharing helps you to make an informed decision. FAIRsharing will help you if you are:
- looking for a standard format or terminology to represent a dataset
- choosing the appropriate database to deposit your data
- developing a data management plan
- defining a data policy
If you are a standard/database developer, FAIRsharing helps you to make your work more visible, more discoverable, particularly to journals, funders, librarians, researchers, curators or data managers, who could recommend it to their community or use it themselves. It is part of an ecosystem of connected resources within ELIXIR, linking standards and databases to the TeSS portal and in future to the tools in BioTools. See the FAIRsharing website.
- Social services which disseminate and report on standards, give training in standards, and validate the formats, ontologies and minimum information of data sets.
Principles behind the Platform's work
The Interoperability Platform is guided by the FAIR data principles, which state that data must be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Re-usable.
- Findable: data must be easy to find by both humans and computer systems. For this to happen we need to describe the data with metadata that includes a unique, persistent identifier, and make the data available in a searchable resource.
- Accessible: data must be put in long-term storage in such a way that either the data itself or its metadata can be accessed easily. This access can either be open or with a well-defined license.
- Interoperable: datasets can be combined by humans as well as computer systems. Data formats use shared vocabularies and/or ontologies.
- Re-usable: data can be used for future research and to be processed further by computer programs. Metadata identifies the provenance of the data.
Find out more
- Contact Jerry Lanfear (jerry.lanfear[at]elixir-europe[dot]org).
- ELIXIR Interoperability Platform (EIP) roadmap
- Search for BYOD workshops in the Events section or ELIXIR's TeSS training portal.
- FAIRsharing website
- Learn more about the FAIR Principles:
- Dutch Techcentre for Life Sciences (DTL) - the ELIXIR Dutch node website.
- Wilkinson, M. D. et al. The FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship. Sci. Data 3:160018 doi: 10.1038/sdata.2016.18 (2016)