Figshare and the Generalist Repository Ecosystem Initiative (GREI): What we’ve achieved and where we’re heading


At the beginning of 2022, we announced that Figshare had been awarded to participate in the NIH Generalist Repository Ecosystem Initiative. The aim of the program is to provide funding for repositories to grow their functionality and better meet the data sharing needs of research communities and meet the NIH Desirable Characteristics for Data Repositories

GREI is sponsored by the NIH Office of Data Science Strategy (ODSS) and brings together seven generalist repositories in a collaboration with the goal of improving support for sharing and discovering NIH-funded research data The award and subsequent work has come at a time of critical importance, coinciding with the 2022 OSTP Memo on public access to research as well as the NIH Data Management and Sharing Policy going into effect on January 25, 2023. The other GREI awardees are the Center for Open Science, Dataverse, Dryad, Mendeley Data, Vivli, and Zenodo. Figshare is thrilled to be collaborating with these other organizations and working together to further serve our research communities. The repositories work together in what is referred to as a “coopetition” working group, collaborating and coordinating in a joint effort to reduce the barriers to FAIR data sharing. 

This article will highlight some of the work and projects that Figshare has contributed to and completed as part of GREI throughout Year 1 of the program and also take a look ahead to the plans for Year 2, which started in March 2023. 

What we’ve achieved so far

Product improvements 

One of the main goals of GREI is to improve the functionality of generalist repositories to further support the data sharing needs of research communities. 

With this in mind, there has been a coordinated effort among the GREI repositories to develop common, interoperable standards to be used across generalist repositories. Each repository is then implementing these individual product improvements and introducing new functionalities that work to reduce barriers to data sharing in a generalist repository whilst also making that data more discoverable. 

Figshare has done this both to meet coopetition goals for metadata, use cases, and discoverability as well as to enhance Figshare functionality for NIH use cases. The development work to make these important changes has been funded by GREI and has also been made open source.

Key product improvements from Year 1

  • Figshare rolled out a brand new edit item page which gives users an improved experience for creating and editing items on and encourages best practices for metadata.

The new page further improves Figshare’s accessibility requirements compliance and provides a brand new look to the “manage files area” and for the mandatory metadata fill in. 

The new page standardizes some aspects of metadata provision and our initial testing suggests that this new functionality encourages more complete metadata and implementation of best practices. 

This change also provides the foundation for other developments planned as part of GREI which will work to meet the coopetition goals for metadata. 

(Open source components of the code are published here)

  • Adding ROR (Research Organization Registry) persistent identifiers for research organizations.

Year 1 saw the completion of phase 1 of this work, with ROR PIDs added to Figshare for Institutions portals. ROR is an open, community-led initiative focused on establishing persistent identifiers for organizations. Implementing this standardization improves the discoverability and consistency of affiliations metadata across Figshare and supports interoperability with the other GREI repositories.

(Open source components of the code are published here

  • Improved search functionality: full text search and new default search facets 

As part of GREI we have been able to begin work on improving our search functionality across We have begun to roll out full text search on PDFs on Figshare portals and there are plans to add additional file types in the future. 

(Open source components of the code are published here

We have also added new default search facets, including Funder Name. This means that searching for open data by funder has become possible in a few clicks, whereas the previous use case involved an advanced search string and significant input from the user. 

These new search facets are part of a wider project to improve our search capabilities, with the primary aim of making data shared more discoverable and therefore encouraging its reuse while also more easily tracking its impact. 

The new search capabilities are now available in beta at  

(Open source components of the code are published here

Early on in the program, we also conducted a review of how Figshare meets the NIH ‘Desirable Characteristics for Data Repositories.’ We published an overview of our assessment on our help site, providing a public breakdown of how we meet the characteristics and to what extent. 

This assessment allowed us to consider what NIH data sharing use cases are most appropriate for Figshare and encouraged us to further consider what product features could be added to enhance adherence with these characteristics. 

Training and outreach 

As a group, GREI has been mindful that our work needs to be about more than improved functionality for researchers and that there was a clear need to provide resources and training for researchers sharing data as well as for those supporting data sharing at academic institutions, such as data libraries. This is especially important in light of the rising tide of funder policies and requirements, including those of the NIH. 

It has therefore been a priority for the group to proactively engage with the community, both to offer training as well as to gather feedback on specific community needs to inform our GREI work. We hope to create new resources to meet these needs and provide opportunities for both training and open dialogues. 

During Year 1, the Figshare Team has developed some new resources and integrated webinars around data sharing best practices, particularly for NIH funded researchers, into their existing program as well as giving several invited trainings about NIH data sharing for researchers at NIH institutes and academic institutions.

Figshare webinars: 

Figshare: The Open Research Repository Platform

Figshare API for End Users

Sharing Big Data on Figshare+ 

Tips for sharing NIH-funded research on

NIH Data Sharing with Figshare

New Figshare Resources: 

Guide to sharing NIH-funded research on

How include Figshare in your data sharing plans

Whilst creating our own resources at Figshare, we have also worked collaboratively with other members of the program on community engagement initiatives. There was a successful GREI Collaborative Webinar Series that saw representatives from all of the participating repositories come together to provide informative sessions and practical advice on best practices on data sharing and including generalist repositories in NIH Data Management and Sharing Plans. 

GREI also organized a full two-day workshop in January 2023 that included presentations and panel discussions as well as interactive training. The GREI Workshop was designed for NIH funded researchers, both intramural and extramural, and those supporting NIH-funded researchers and data sharing at academic institutions and libraries as well as other stakeholders at NIH and institutions. The workshop had 598 registrants in total. 

You can view the summary report here

Figshare was also pleased to participate in the Collaborative FASEB Dataworks! Salon webinar in an effort to reach biology and biomedical research communities.

Collaborative Work 

GREI brings together teams from all seven of the participating generalist repositories to participate in sub-committees that collaborate on initiatives, projects and discussions that support the overarching aim of GREI - to reduce the barriers to data sharing. 

During Year 1, members of the Figshare Team participating in GREI have been thrilled to take on leadership roles, with Ana Van Gulick, our Government and Funder Lead, chairing community engagement collaborative work and Mark Hahnel, Figshare’s founder and CEO, chairing the open metrics collaboration activities. 

Figshare has also contributed to the GREI Use Case Catalog, a joint effort to identify primary uses for generalist repositories including sharing data and searching for data. This group has compiled a catalog of these use cases that works to demonstrate suggested workflows. Figshare’s use cases are available here and you can explore the use cases shared by the other GREI repositories in the Zenodo GREI Community

The Figshare Team has also contributed to a collaborative effort to assess current metadata fields and ontologies employed across the GREI repositories and determine goals for increasing common metadata and search functionality. The goal of this effort has been to improve the interoperability and discoverability of datasets across repositories, notably by leveraging common DataCite metadata. 

There has also been a focus on metrics as part of GREI collaborative work and Figshare has worked with the other repositories to determine common standards to be implemented for metrics, leveraging initiatives like Make Data Count, the DataCite Usage Tracker, and Citation Corpus

Looking ahead to Year 2

As we move into our second year of GREI, the Figshare Team hopes to accomplish even more through further collaboration and coopetition with the other participating generalist repositories. 

We have some exciting product improvements that will build on enhancements that we’ve already made during year 1.  

  • We will be looking to update Figshare “References” metadata for related materials including peer-reviewed articles related to datasets. This will allow specification of material title, URL or PID, and relationship type. This information will then be included in DataCite metadata. 
  • Building on our introduction of ROR affiliations to Figshare Institutional Portals, we will next be adding ROR at the Author level across and Figshare+. 
  • As we move to further improve our search functionality and experience, with the goal of making shared data more discoverable, we’ll be adding publication year and ROR as faceted search fields. 
  • We’ll also introduce support for the upload of folders, which will provide the ability to organize file structure in datasets. 

Looking ahead to our planned community engagement initiatives, throughout Year 2 we will be doing more outreach to NIH-funded research communities and building on our existing library of resources. We hope to create practical guide materials for meeting the NIH Data Management and Sharing Policy with Figshare both individually and in collaboration with the other GREI repositories. 

Our collaboration and participation in the various sub-committees of the initiative will also continue, with Ana Van Gulick taking on the position of co-chair of the GREI Coopetition working group and Mark Hahnel continuing to chair the open metrics collaboration activities in Year 2.

Figshare has been proud to participate in GREI and to collaborate with the other generalist repositories as we all work together toward the common goal of the program. As we look ahead to Year 2, it is imperative that we continue to serve the research community, ensuring that we work to make FAIR data sharing as easy as possible and reduce as many barriers as we can. 

May 30, 2023 12:48

This is a reposted article from our blog, the original article can be found at:

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