Figshare  is a cloud-hosted repository where users can upload their various research outputs (e.g. figures, datasets, presentations, etc.) and make them publically available so they are discoverable, shareable and citable. Earlier this year they launched an institutional offering which aims to ease compliance with open data mandates, measure the impact of research outputs and act as a showcase for an institution’s entire spectrum of research. figshare fest 2015 was the first event to bring together institutional customers, advocates and friends of figshare to talk not only about the repository but about open data in general.
After ensuring you’ve caught the right train, the next challenge when attending any conference is making sure you arrive at the correct venue. The instructions provided seemed easy enough to follow, and having checked out the location on Google Maps, I thought I knew where to go. I was wrong. Luckily figshare staff had considered this situation and were on hand to direct lost lambs to the correct building where we could register, pick up our environmentally friendly goodie bags and grab a coffee before the event officially started.
The keynote presentation was delivered by Daniel Hook, Managing Director at Digital Science (supporter and development partner of figshare). Despite suffering from a bad cold, Daniel provided a great start to the day with his talk on the expanding universe of academic publication. He noted that universities were increasingly becoming global in their ambitions and that research was becoming a marketing tool to help promote their identities worldwide. Daniel also talked about the issues with small data, in particular putting the memory stick on trial for misleading researchers into thinking it was a safe, secure place to store all their work.
Following Daniel was Mark Hahnel, founder and CEO of figshare. Mark stated that from the beginning figshare has always been about the researcher, in particular himself as he sought to better promote his own research. However, rather than talking about the past Mark was more interested in the future of open data and what this meant for the development of figshare. During his talk I was pleasantly surprised when Mark put up a diagram showing a simplified view of how a research data management service could interact with other institutional systems, surprised because I had created the diagram  about a year earlier when trying to understand the situation myself.
Next on the agenda was lunch. Having had a fairly early start of the day this was a welcome opportunity to refuel ready for the afternoon session. However, I would be remiss in my report of the day if I didn’t thank Chris George (Product Manager at figshare) for presenting me with a lemon drizzle cake during lunch.
After lunch there were three customer presentations. The first of these was by yours truly and Gareth Cole, Research Data Manager at Loughborough University. I won’t comment on our presentation  other than to note that it’s available online via figshare.
David Clay and Hannah Baker from Salford University gave the next presentation having launched their new pilot research data service earlier in the week. Salford is a strong supporter of open access/open data, having recognised the benefits of sharing so their service is not just about funder compliance. They began gathering requirements and establishing policy in March 2013 before putting a business case to the University in January 2015. Key requirements identified were storage and better collaboration tools. There has been a positive response to the new service which they intend to scale up before rolling out across the University.
The final presentation of the day was from David Groenewegen, Research Director at Monash University. He began by giving an overview of Monash before explaining that unlike in the UK there was no mandate yet from Australian funders to make data openly available, instead the drive at Monash was to promote the researchers and the institution. Monash employs a variety of software solutions as part of its research data ecosystem so it was important when implementing figshare it was seen to be obviously better than what researchers were already doing. With researchers able to manage and make their research data discoverable, they hope to build upon their reputation so that globally people want to collaborate with, work at or study at Monash.
The final part of the day was taken up with three workshops looking at researcher engagement, the figshare roadmap and reporting requirements. This was a great opportunity for existing and potential customers to feed back to figshare staff about their experiences and the future development of the service.
Not content with hosting figshare fest 2015 and giving out t-shirts, Mark Hahnel then invited the remaining attendees for a drink or two and a bite to eat at a pub conveniently located at a nearby station. All I can say is the beer was very good and the excellent company made the wait for my train a pleasure.
This was an interesting, fun and more importantly useful event. As someone who has recently been involved in the implementation of figshare’s institutional offering it is always gratifying to hear about other customer’s experiences. In particular, David Groenewegen’s talk not only echoed but validated many of the decisions we’d made at Loughborough. As always with such events it was also an incredibly useful opportunity for customers to network with each other and build contacts for the future.
Roll on figshare fest 2016!