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Report meeting of potential GO FAIR Implementation Networks

On January 25, roughly 30 participants came together under the auspices of the GO FAIR International Support of Coordination Office (GFISCO). Their goal was to learn more about the status of GO FAIR as an international activity, about the GFISCO and its operations, and about the process of launching or joining GO FAIR Implementation Networks (INs).

The majority of participants gathered in person at the GFISCO, Leiden. The five remaining joined via teleconference. At least 25 stakeholder organizations were represented, two of which were private companies. Participants represented potential INs covering the entire range of GO FAIR activities: technology and services; data interoperability; data stewardship training; and systemic issues such as reexamining professional incentives and funding requirements.

The meeting began with a brief introduction by GFISCO Director, Barend Mons, about GO FAIR “State of Affairs”. Barend covered the organizational status of GFISCO (Dutch, German, and French funded), its governance and its structure (3 pillars: GO Change; GO Train; GO Build). Although GO FAIR has been originally conceived as a bottom-up implementation strategy for the European Open Science Cloud, the GFISCO mandate is more encompassing: to support and coordinate the implantation activities of international stakeholders that lead to a global Internet of FAIR Data and Services (IFDS).
It was also clarified that GO FAIR is not a funding organization in itself. However, as part of its mandate to support and coordinate INs, the GFISCO can consult, advise and collaborate on funding proposals written by INs that respond to calls having FAIR-related activities. An emergent theme throughout the day was that GO FAIR can help the assembled stakeholders to “speak with one voice”, thereby gaining more influence in public discourse.

The introduction was followed by a more operational discussion about GO FAIR INs, including what an IN is (an international partnership engaging in a concerted action to choose existing, or create novel, materials and tools as elements of the IFDS) and what an IN is not (INs are collaborative and so they are not composed of single entities; INs are finite ‘projects’ and so they are not permanent discussion forums; INs decide and build things, and so they are not on-going service providers, although service providers may emerge from INs). Examples of prospective INs were described (Rare Diseases, Personal Health Train (PHT), Other People’s Existing Data and Services (OPEDAS)).

With this as background, the floor was opened up to participant introductions  and a discussion. A key question was the balance that should be struck by GFISCO in active coordination (suggesting or prioritizing activities of INs) versus responding and supporting the activities coming from the INs themselves. Consensus emerged that the GFISCO, through its coordination role, should actively spot ‘gaps’ in essential data and services, and advise INs high priority activities.

Throughout the afternoon, participants discussed possible procedures by which self-organized partnerships would follow, in order to become GO FAIR sanctioned INs. It was proposed that partnerships seeking IN status, begin by composing a ‘Manifesto’ similar to that done by the aspiring PHT and OPEDAS INs.  This was seen as a useful, light weight, first step toward becoming an IN.  A template manifesto was created and served as the primary follow up from this meeting.