COPO: a metadata platform for brokering FAIR data in the life sciences

Published in F1000, 2020

Recommended citation: Shaw F, Etuk A, Minotto A et al. COPO: a metadata platform for brokering FAIR data in the life sciences [version 1; peer review: awaiting peer review]. F1000Research 2020, 9:495

For citation purposes, feel free to download the BibTex file.


Scientific innovation is increasingly reliant on data and computational resources. Much of today’s life science research involves generating, processing, and reusing heterogeneous datasets that are growing exponentially in size. Demand for technical experts (data scientists and bioinformaticians) to process these data is at an all-time high, but these are not typically trained in good data management practices. That said, we have come a long way in the last decade, with funders, publishers, and researchers themselves making the case for open, interoperable data as a key component of an open science philosophy. In response, recognition of the FAIR Principles (that data should be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) has become commonplace. However, both technical and cultural challenges for the implementation of these principles still exist when storing, managing, analysing and disseminating both legacy and new data.

COPO is a computational system that attempts to address some of these challenges by enabling scientists to describe their research objects (raw or processed data, publications, samples, images, etc.) using community-sanctioned metadata sets and vocabularies, and then use public or institutional repositories to share them with the wider scientific community. COPO encourages data generators to adhere to appropriate metadata standards when publishing research objects, using semantic terms to add meaning to them and specify relationships between them. This allows data consumers, be they people or machines, to find, aggregate, and analyse data which would otherwise be private or invisible, building upon existing standards to push the state of the art in scientific data dissemination whilst minimising the burden of data publication and sharing.