Figshare & the Generalist Repository Ecosystem Initiative: Progress towards enhanced NIH data sharing


Generalist repositories play a critical role in the data sharing landscape, but in order to truly realize the benefits of open data, this critical infrastructure needs consistent schemas, metadata and metrics across repositories. As such, we are delighted that the NIH Office of Data Science Strategy (ODSS) is funding work to achieve exactly this under the Generalist Repository Ecosystem Initiative (GREI), an ongoing program entering its third year. GREI brings together seven generalist repositories in a collaboration with the goal of enhancing support for NIH data sharing and discovery. The GREI awardees, which in addition to Figshare include Center for Open Science, Dataverse, Dryad, Mendeley Data, Vivli, and Zenodo, are working together to establish common standards for an interoperable generalist repository landscape and to develop resources for the research community. Each repository is also working on product enhancements to implement these common standards as well as to support NIH data sharing use cases.

Year 2 in Review 

As we did early in Year 2 of the GREI program, we’d like to take the opportunity to highlight some of the work that Figshare contributed to and completed as part of GREI in the past year and then we’ll offer a look ahead at plans for Year 3, which started in March 2024.

Figshare Product Enhancements

Building on work that began in the first year of GREI and the standards and best practices that were collaboratively developed by the GREI repositories in Year 2, Figshare has continued to implement product enhancements to reduce barriers to data sharing and make data more FAIR. Year 2 product enhancements include the following as well as other ongoing projects that will continue into Years 3 & 4 of GREI:

  • Improved search functionality with the launch of publication year, funder, and organization as default search filters as well as the launch of custom search filters for Figshare for Institutions portals
  • New ‘Related Materials’ metadata fields to allow for the capture of richer metadata on materials linked to Figshare items such as peer-reviewed publications, preprints, related datasets or software, or other webpages. This metadata field now captures an identifier and relationship type using the DataCite schema as recommended by GREI  
  • Launch of folder upload and browsing enabling depositors to upload unzipped folders and subfolders directly to the platform, and allowing users to easily preserve the hierarchical structure of complex datasets when sharing and for viewers to explore the folder structure natively without downloading the entire file set
View of published files stored in folders. Folder hierarchy shown on the left.

Collaborative Work

Through GREI, competing generalist repositories have the rare opportunity to work together towards the goal of reducing barriers to data sharing by engaging in joint initiatives, projects and discussions. In Year 2, Ana Van Gulick, Figshare’s Government and Funder Lead, co-chaired the GREI working group, providing strategic guidance, organizing meetings to foster collaboration and progress within the initiative, and facilitating the execution of the working group’s annual plan in collaboration with her co-chair John Chodacki (California Digital Library) and with support from Lisa Curtin, Figshare’s Coordinator for research data and funders. Outputs documenting the collaboration’s work in Year 2 include:

Representatives from all seven GREI repositories and the NIH ODSS program team, pictured at the 2nd annual meeting of the GREI Coopetition Working Group. As Year 2 co-chairs, Ana Van Gulick & John Chodacki organized and hosted the meeting at the California Digital Library in Oakland, CA, September 27-28, 2023.

Outreach & Resources

Training and community engagement are core GREI objectives, and Figshare took a leading role in many collaborative outreach efforts in Year 2, with a focus on supporting FAIR data sharing best practices. We also developed Figshare-specific resources and webinars with an emphasis, including several focused specifically on NIH data sharing. 

GREI Outreach Work

Ana Van Gulick presenting at the NIH Research Festival in Bethesda, MD on September 19, 2023.

Figshare Resources & Webinars

Looking ahead to Year 3

As we move into the third year of GREI, we look forward to continuing to work in collaboration with NIH and the other participating repositories to expand our support for FAIR NIH data sharing. 

Drawing on the product work we’ve completed already in Years 1 & 2, Figshare will be embarking on a significant assessment of our metadata structure with updates to follow that will allow Figshare’s metadata to further meet the GREI metadata recommendation as well as other common metadata standards. The metadata assessment and update project will also allow us  to further our implementation of ROR identifiers for author affiliations and refine our funding metadata user interface to encourage more complete funding information. In addition to product work, we will also continue to develop Figshare resources and webinars to support research data sharing. 

On the collaboration side, the GREI repositories will continue to work together in Year 3 to make research data more accessible, reusable, and trackable by developing best practices and standards for generalist repositories. Highlights of the work planned for GREI year three include: 

  • Updating and improving the generalist repository comparison chart (
  • Advancing consistent metadata through the ongoing implementation of and revisions to the GREI metadata recommendation (
  • Strengthening analytics and reporting capabilities by establishing consistent metrics for NIH-funded data across GREI repositories, and leveraging the DataCite usage tracker
  • Documenting additional generalist repository use cases including:
    • using generalist repository infrastructure as institutional repository infrastructure
    • sharing big data in generalist repositories
  • Community engagement efforts including developing new training resources and outreach materials for researchers and gathering feedback from researcher and librarian communities

The Figshare team’s collaboration and participation in the initiative will also continue, with Ana Van Gulick, Lisa Curtin, and Mark Hahnel, Figshare’s founder and Digital Science’s VP of Open Research, championing several collaborative tasks and leading collaborative community engagement efforts. 

Figshare is pleased to be part of the GREI program and to work collaboratively with the other participating generalist repositories in support of our common mission. As the program enters its third year, it is crucial that the repositories remain focused on serving the research community, continuing our efforts to facilitate FAIR data sharing and minimize barriers as much as possible.

May 7, 2024 15:00

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