FAIR Data in Engineering – First Findings

The engineering sector is highly fragmented in its approach to Research Data Management (RDM). Access to and collection of data, the accompanying documentation and the software are all crucial components of sustainable engineering research. The first interviews undertaken as part of the CESAER Task Force for Open Science have shown that RDM within engineering communities is organized bottom-up, often in small, local working groups. This is in contrast to other disciplines where RDM is gains momentum from professional associations (e.g. DARIAH in the humanities and ELIXIR in life sciences).

Sharing data is rare. Within material science, for example, there are working groups within the same institute that undertake separate experiments on the material composition of an identical substance, rather than sharing their results. Reasons for this approach may range from distrust or pressure  of competition to specific non-disclosure agreements with different industrial partners.

Other significant findings were:

  • A major challenge is the heterogeneity of data generated by various research groups, even if they investigate the same phenomenon
  • researchers need an introduction to tools and principles for RDM, adaptable to the needs of the specific sectors (also in combination with educational resources, e.g. persons who speak the ‘language’ and can demonstrate & adapt existing RDM tools)
  • a harmonized software coding platform for engineers (to many engineering communities, source code is ‘the most important’ research data
  • data documentation guidelines (or even standards)
  • procedures for data management when undertaking contract and mission oriented research with industrial partners.
  • better, coordinated access to High Performance Computing (HPC) facilities
  • in the majority of cases, there was only moderate compliance with the FAIR principles across disciplines

 

(About the Interviews)

In order to capture the insights, opinions, and habits regarding FAIR data within CESAER member universities, a series of qualitative interviews with academic researchers was conducted.  The 60 minute interviews covered common practices regarding sharing and publishing data (ie making it Findable and Accessible), and structuring and standardising data (ie making it Re-usable and Interoperable), in addition to a swift introduction to the interviewees research.

A priority of these conversation was to pinpoint commonly used file-formats, platforms, tools and services in the specific discipline. In total thirteen interviews have been undertaken, drawing on engineering communities from three European countries. Four of the interviews are currently available as case studies. A further nine will follow later in 2018. Each case study summarises the adherence to FAIR data principles in the interview.

Within the CESAER context, several interviews with engineers were undertaken in the Netherlands, Ireland and Germany, representing major engineering communities such as computational engineering, mechanical engineering, construction and thermodynamics.