OPERAS: the research infrastructure for Open Scholarly Communication in Social Science and Humanities
OPERAS (Open Scholarly Communication in the European Research Area for Social Science and Humanities) recently organized two workshops. One of them was the “OPERAS-P Project Final Meeting: Building up OPERAS as a community-driven infrastructure” that took place on June 29, 202. The workshop presented the results of the OPERAS-P project and reflected on the future steps to advance Open Science in the SSH.
The other workshop was a national activity for the French community whose purpose was to show how OPERAS contributes to open communication in SSH at the national and European levels (announced here). In other words, it intended to present how, through the national nodes, OPERAS helps to connect national services and infrastructures to the European level.
OPERAS in a nutshell
A significant specificity of the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) is fragmentation. The SSH domain is fragmented due to the multiplicity of not only disciplines but also languages. Differently from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) areas that generally publish in English, the SSH publish in a variety of languages. SSH research can also present more situated characteristics related to local contexts. The fragmentation is technical as well: different sources in varied types and formats, different kinds of treatments for the data and repositories. Such aspects make it difficult to index data at the international level. Nonetheless, the data produced is usually rich and complex, even if they are smaller (differing from big data).
OPERAS is a research infrastructure (RI) project that sees this diversity as an important asset that should be valued and preserved. Precisely due to this desire to conserve the diversity typically found in the field, OPERAS is not building a centralized infrastructure. It is the result of a joint effort to bring together in a community the different actors of scholarly communications in the SSH and upgrade their practices. Researchers play multiple roles and OPERAS tries to offer support to all of them (e.g., the role of author, peer reviewer, journal editor, university presses creator). OPERAS also supports and is supported by other actors, such as librarians, funding agencies, and society. OPERAS has just integrated the new European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) roadmap and is in line with the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). Its mission is therefore to coordinate and federate available resources and make them available to the community, which is crucial for the development of open science.
OPERAS has already developed two projects: HIRMEOS (a project to integrate research monographs to the European Open Science Cloud) and OPERAS-D (D as in design to verify the feasibility of the infrastructure). Right now a third project is coming to an end: OPERAS-P (P as in preparation to assist the development of the infrastructure). Furthermore, OPERAS participates in two parallel projects: TRIPLE (a discovery platform) and COESO (related to citizen science).
Regarding OPERAS governance structure, the RI is constituted of the general assembly, the executive assembly, and the assembly of commons. The latter one is the place where OPERAS members work together on specific topics, discuss projects and see new ideas emerge, allowing the infrastructure to move forward. In the assembly, the discussions are organized around Special Interest Groups. One of the SIGs is dedicated to common standards and FAIR Principles.
Taking the road to FAIR
Understanding the OPERAS framework is important to understand how this RI engages in the adoption of FAIR principles in the SSH context. OPERAS has been working on the issues related to FAIR data and FAIR publications. In more practical terms, some of the activities carried out for this purpose have been the definition of data in the context of the SSH, the making of SSH data more visible, interoperable, and reusable, and the development of a FAIRification toolkit for academic publishers.
OPERAS’ commitment to the implementation of FAIR principles in the SSH context can be translated into major axes of work: the SIG common standards and FAIR data, the development of the discovery platform TRIPLE, and the CO-OPERAS IN.
The SIG “Common Standards and FAIR Principles” has embraced the work of investigating new workflows, mediums, and technical standards that have recently surfaced. They are a result of the transformations brought about by the growth of Open Science. Common standards and FAIR principles are considered as the key elements to assure the quality and the interoperability of research outputs in the SSH open environment. Aiming at the identification of future actions regarding this subject, the SIG focuses on the operational and technical aspects that may be relevant for RI and service providers.
TRIPLE is an innovative service project to provide a multilingual discovery and reuse platform for SSH data, publications, and projects. TRIPLE tackles some challenges related to the specificities of the domain: the fragmentation of research data (various disciplines, multiple languages, etc.), a myriad of open scientific resources spread across many non-interoperable databases, low reuse and lack of standards, hence the interest in working with FAIR data, a lack of optimization of interdisciplinary collaborations, and limited societal impact due to lack of visibility. Some of the main objectives of TRIPLE is data FAIRisation: making them findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable through the organization of workshops for the community, the production of deliverables, and incentives to publishers and repositories to adopt good practices.
CO-OPERAS IN is a network for the FAIRisation of data and publications in SSH. It is a GO FAIR initiative funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR) and coordinated by OPERAS. CO-OPERAS activities carried out so far revolve around the axes information, analysis, and FAIR implementation. CO-OPERAS has organized a series of national workshops to connect with local SSH communities and understand their needs regarding the FAIRisation of data. As for analysis, CO-OPERAS has worked on the definition of data in the SSH context and has participated in the FAIR maturity full review of OpenEdition publishing service. The FAIR implementation actions (still undergoing) are the production of a FAIRification toolkit for publishing services and the participation in the development of the GOTRIPLE platform. CO-OPERAS is also engaged in the production of this very blog.
The various activities carried out in the framework of OPERAS have identified some constraints and gaps for the FAIR implementation in the SSH. First of all, FAIRiying data and publication is time-consuming. Therefore, this kind of work should be acknowledged. There is still a lack of awareness and skills regarding FAIR principles and the different aspects related to their implementation. Findability may be jeopardized due to a lack of metadata (or lack of skills on how to use them). Accessibility may be hindered by the lack of suitable repositories adapted to the SSH specificities. Ensuring interoperability is difficult because metadata is too tailored according to specific projects, the use of national languages, the lack of ontologies. Reusability may remain an issue due to difficulties in defining rights on cultural heritage data.
However, different perspectives are being developed. First of all, part of OPERAS work focuses on training and advocacy. The FAIR publishing toolkit will assist scholarly publishing services to better FAIRify their data and publications. Finally, TRIPLE, for being a single access point platform, will improve the findability, accessibility, interoperability, and reusability of SSH data.