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Making data FAIR is not always easy. Automating the Findability, Accessibility, Interoperation and Reuse of scientific data and services requires detailed planning by a skilled and experienced data steward. But who are these data stewards, where do we find them and how do we get to work with them to ensure that our data are made FAIR? Although there are talented people working today who call themselves data stewards, the well-defined competencies and job descriptions composing a professional title do not yet exist.

Anticipating a growing demand for trained, and perhaps even certified FAIR data stewards, the Leiden GO FAIR International Support and Coordination Office was founded with training in FAIR skills as one of its principal mandates. Over the last two years, GO FAIR has on occasion supported training events ranging from half-day introductions to FAIR Principles to one-week courses that take deep dives into FAIRifciation methods and data stewardship. Although these events have been successful in helping hundreds of people to realise FAIR at their home institutions, it is only since February that formal training in FAIR data stewardship has been given at an accredited educational institution.

Introduction to FAIR Data Stewardship

Working together at the Hogeschool Leiden, instructor Mischa Barthel and Science Coordinator Erik Schultes at GFISCO co-taught the 10-week elective course, an ‘Introduction to FAIR Data Stewardship’. The students learned about the FAIR Principles, semantic modeling and making a FAIR data stewardship plan. Using real-world historical data from centuries of Leiden-based book sellers, the students put their new skills to work building conceptual models that allowed the book sellers data to be expressed in machine-actionable formats. Along the way, guest lectures were provided by Professor Barend Mons (GO FAIR), Kristina Hettne (Leiden University Library), Rajaram Kaliyaperumal (Leiden University Medical Center) and Robert Pergl and Jan Slifka (Czech Technical University in Prague). The course was open to the public.

Future of FAIR Data Stewardship

By the end of April, the first 9 students completed the course and one student is currently working in a data steward internship at the Leiden Centre for Applied Bioscience. More than just another introductory training, the Hogeschool course begins to set formal learning objectives and assessment criteria that begin to launch a more professional approach to FAIR skills training, quality data stewardship and better data science. The course will be offered again in September with ample opportunity for anyone to join by remote, via video link. Announcements for the new course will come later.

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