Skip to main content

Lightning talk

From web access to knowledge access: Overcoming digital divides in marine research

  • 26 September 2023 |
  • 16:00 |
  • Session 3 |
  • Sala Nouvel - Reina Sofia Museum

The rapid advancement of digital technology has created significant disparities in access to infrastructure and digital literacy, leading to numerous digital divides. To promote diversity and inclusiveness, there is a need to create concrete, persistent mechanisms that provide equitable access to capacity. The Flanders Marine Institute is dedicated to bridging the gap between marine research and society. Instead of merely making research results available, we believe in working to enhance their applicability. This involves activities that raise interest in research, involve citizens and communities in setting research priorities, engage them in the research process, translate outcomes for a non-scholarly audience, and encourage participation in public debate.

Computer science will be a key enabling factor in building, integrating, and maintaining the necessary systems. These system architectures should not just work “on the web” but become nodes and components fully integrated “in the web.” A needed transition that involves embracing the concepts of universality, federated searches, distribution through uniformization, linking instead of duplicating, and indexing instead of harvesting. Achieving this will require significant progress in Semantic Web Development, Linked Open Data, Altmetrics, Persistent Identifiers, licensing, and other areas. Artificial Intelligence will be valuable in detecting patterns in machine-readable semantics attached to publications, systems, datasets, and data points, especially when the links and connections span multiple research domains. It also offers possibilities for the automated discovery of semantics in historic texts and datasets, such as text analysis and term extraction.

While recent efforts to promote open and fair data management in research infrastructures have focused on making a higher volume of FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) data available, the sustainability of this movement towards open and fair science is not guaranteed. To achieve a sustainable steady state, we need to ensure prolonged relevance on the investment agenda, establish a self-supporting research-data ecosystem that addresses these topics from the bottom up, and adopt a continued self-reflective attitude that measures, reports, and fine-tunes effectiveness.

To achieve this, a bottom-up cultural change is needed, where researchers embrace research data management (RDM) in their hearts and minds, ensuring that any new funding focus naturally aligns with open and FAIR principles. Additionally, a wholesome view of sustainability in this field should not just consider the delivery side of how to provide and distribute open-and-fair data but also include considerations concerning the actual consumption and usage. Therefore, this talk will address how principles of inclusivity and diversity should be embedded in both our data governance structures and our system architectures. We need to further remove overlooked hurdles to delivering the end promises of truly open science.

Throughout the talk, we will draw from a wealth of "easy information access" achievements commonly delivered through the world wide web and contrast those with current failures in the way quality research data is not driving enough a more solid argumentation of opinions and policies based on "what we find on the web."


Katrina Exter

Holds a PhD in Astrophysics, and after a career studying the stars and working as an instrument scientist, decided to switch fields and is now a Data Manager in the Open Science team of the Flanders Marine Institute’s Data Centre. For the last five years she has been involved in a number of Open Science and FAIR data projects, working towards making marine data more accessible, more rapidly, and for a wider audience of users, and on helping the data creators make their data FAIR from the get-go. Within FAIR-EASE, she is involved in work packages concerned with FAIRifying and opening up the flow of data from the creators to the users, and is involved in the use-case on marine bioinformatics and biodiversity.