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CERN software to become central hub for EU research

Over the last ten years, CERN-born Zenodo has evolved to store ever more scientific data. Today, a new project is set to ensure Zenodo’s position as a prime repository for EU research data


White zenodo logo on a blue background
(Image: Zenodo)

What is the link between particle physics, the study of biodiversity and historical linguistics? The thirst for knowledge? Yes, but also the tool researchers are using to store all their findings and make them available to their peers: Zenodo. For more than ten years, this CERN-born data repository has been evolving to store scientific data for ever more research communities and to adapt to the needs of more scientific disciplines. Notably, it was a key player in the COVID-19 response, providing a platform for researchers to efficiently share results, data sets and software to help the international scientific community respond to the pandemic. Today, it is used by more than 8000 research organisations worldwide.

This success story is about to take an even more ambitious turn with a new project: HORIZON-ZEN. Since its inception in June 2023, it has become the latest in a series of projects funded by the European Union to make the data collected by European research more findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR). Since 2021, making research data as FAIR as possible has become a requirement for all projects funded by the European Commission.

What does it mean to make data FAIR in practice? Today, this is still difficult for researchers to navigate, because FAIR are generic principles rather than verifiable criteria. “With HORIZON-ZEN, we are striving to make being FAIR simpler and more streamlined for researchers, and we are working with scientific communities to tailor Zenodo for their specific domain,” explains Lars Holm Nielsen, Section Leader in Open Science Repositories in CERN’s IT department.

Screenshot of zenodo database
As part of the project, Zenodo will be updated with a bespoke “European Commission” user interface. (Image: CERN)

Zenodo was born out of the need for a simple, easy-to-use storage solution for all types of research output: papers, theses, presentations, protocols, images, videos, data sets, software, etc. Generally, Zenodo is the ideal tool for researchers without a dedicated research infrastructure, for communities with a large network of institutes or for small institutes that have the necessary knowledge but not the tools. “Zenodo is the brainchild of the EU's open science policy. The European Commission has high hopes for this service, which could eventually become one of the EU's main repositories for research data,” Nielsen continues.

To make this possible, Nielsen and his team are putting a special, community-driven effort into the user experience, making it is easy for communities to customise their space, curate their content and build their online domain. “We are taking advantage of the 10 000 communities and the 300 currently running European-funded projects using Zenodo to co-design our tools. We encourage scientific communities to get a tailor-made Zenodo experience by becoming early adopters.”

Zenodo owes its success to the scientific community’s confidence in CERN, to ten years of continuous support by the European Commission and to the remarkable services provided by the tool. Above all, it is the result of the hard work of a small team at CERN who are eager to maximise the impact of CERN technologies.

The HORIZON-ZEN project is funded by the European Union under Grant Agreement No. 101122956.