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Estonian universities increased the access to research data and hope for further state support

Estonian universities increased the access to research data and hope for further state support
In 2014, the University of Tartu (UT) joined DataCite , becoming the only organisation in Estonia that has the right to assign the unique DOI numbers to research data. In the beginning of 2015, the University of Tartu, Tallinn Technical University, Estonian University of Life Sciences and Tallinn University formed the DataCite Eesti Consortium with the aim of improving the accessibility of Estonian research data and making it easier for international community to use them, ensuring extensive finding and using of quality research resources created by its member research institutions. The membership fees ensure that the researchers of the member universities have the opportunity to register their research data with the unique DOI numbers. By today, the consortium has assigned, via DataCite, more than 170 DOI identifiers to the University of Tartu researchers of chemistry, natural sciences and language technology.

[caption id="attachment_262" align="alignnone" width="300"] Foto: Andres Tennus / Tartu Ülikool

In April 2015, the Vice Rectors for Research of the founding member universities of the DataCite Eesti Consortium met at a round table to discuss the issues related to the management and accessibility of research data. They agreed upon the DataCite Eesti activity plan for 2015 and came to the understanding that an effective cooperation model and state support are needed for maintaining the sustainable service of indexing the research data.

During the year-long project, financed by the Estonian Research Council, the UT Library and the UT Natural History Museum led the development of the DataCite Eesti web-based platform, the Datadoi repository, and the automated solutions of the PlotoF and SARV databases, all of which allow the applying for and registering of DOI numbers. In 2015, the DataCite Eesti consortium will continue to maintain the system and the service using only its membership fee-based budget. The UT Vice Rector for Research Marco Kirm said that serious problems may arise if some important Estonian academic research institutions would not be able to join the consortium because of financial reasons.

All participants of the round table agreed that state support would greatly contribute to the growth of the DataCite Eesti cooperation network, helping to make Estonian research data more visible to the world. Marco Kirm said that among the interested parties, wishing to join is the Estonian Academy of Sciences whose moral support and participation in the DataCite Eesti activities would be of essential importance.

The board of the consortium discussed the problem of research data preservation. In Estonia, there are large amounts of research data that have never been digitised and their preservation and accessibility have never been actively worked upon. For example, in the field of environmental physics, a bulk of measurement data, acquired in the course of twenty years, needs to be organised, described, provided with metadata and stored.

Other fields of science and data-collecting institutions are facing the same problem. The acting director of the UT Library Liisi Lembinen said that the research libraries of today are able to give researchers every help in their data management starting with metadata, standards and licences up to drawing data management plans and offering all kinds of information and training. The UT Library has already for five years actively worked in introducing Open Access. At present, it is the only research library in Estonia that offers research data management-related services and implements training system for young researchers as well as for librarians from other Estonian university libraries.

Vallo Mulk, a staff member of the Department of International Research Cooperation of the Estonian Research Agency who has coordinated the creation of the DataCite platform, said that the problem of indexing and storing research data requires persistent work and sustainable financing. Accessibility of research data and the sharing of research results play an increasingly important role in research projects, widening the possibilities for international cooperation of research groups and finding new ways to involve stakeholders (the state, enterprises, citizens). In 2014, the European Commission started to offer possibilities for financing the making of research data accessible in the eligible projects of the Horizon 2020 framework programme. More and more of agents responsible for research financing in the EU member states have confirmed a similar approach to their project application rounds. A preliminary step in this process is the establishment of the state policy for research open data; an expert group was recently formed in Estonia to develop the principles of such policy and financing.

Information about applying for and registering DOIs and the DataCite Estonia Consortium can be found at datacite.ut.ee .

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