Share and share alike: how FAIR data principles can save the day – Cancer Research UK

The genuine worry at this point was that, with grants and contracts ending, we wouldn’t be able to fully support the ECRs leading this work to a successful conclusion.

However, in between the numerous conversations across the co-authorship about ways forward, Dr Chris Tape from UCL posted his article on BioRxiv which defined a series of incredible discoveries around stem cell lineage identities in colorectal cancer models, all of which appeared to be fully available and interoperable.

Our team had admired the work using organoids to look at colorectal cancer cell regulation from the Tape lab over the years, so we lined the pre-print up for journal club and quickly saw how this could be the missing piece we needed in our paper. Some emails to Chris followed but given how well the data and methods were curated by the Tape team, we could start working on it immediately from the pre-print.

Within a few weeks we had redeployed our PDS classifiers and phenotypic signatures of interest into this new data, using both our tools in their data, and their tools in our data. Bingo! We had validated all our findings and filled the specific gap suggested by the reviewer for the paper.

This all happened ahead of our first call with Chris, using the data, tools and visuals he had made openly available, highlighting the value of data reuse.

All about the ethos

The ethos of FAIR principles have been at the heart of a number of our recent projects, which include the development of user-friendly tools that allow non-programmers to perform bioinformatic analyses on molecular datasets that we produce and/or analyse in our group.

In keeping with this, as part of our paper, we have developed an application to ensure the cohorts and subtypes in our study are accessible and re-usable by any researcher, which we made available while the study was under initial review.

At the time of writing this, our paper is undergoing final editorial review and we have grants submitted based on this work that we hope will enable our ECRs to continue their work of disrupting the computational oncology field.

Although funders have invested significant resources in generating large-scale molecular datasets, the value and impact of these datasets are limited if only a small subset of researchers and clinicians have the necessary computational skills and expertise to analyse and interpret the data effectively. Overall, our team are delighted to see CRUK take the lead in supporting data-driven research (and researchers) and ensuring the FAIR principles are embedded into the ethos of research moving forward.

Philip holds a joint appointment as a Reader in Molecular Pathology within the Patrick G. Johnston Centre for Cancer Research, Queen’s University Belfast and a Group Leader at the CRUK Scotland Institute in Glasgow. His work focusses on investigating mechanisms underlying disease progression in colorectal cancer.


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