A Research Object (RO) provides a machine-readable mechanism to communicate the diverse set of digital and real-world resources that contribute to an item of research. The aim of an RO is to evolve from traditional academic publication as a static PDF, to rather provide a complete and structured archive of the items (such as people, organisations, funding, equipment, software etc) that contributed to the research outcome, including their identifiers, provenance, relations and annotations.
This is of particular importance as all domains of research and science are increasingly relying on computational analysis, yet we are facing a reproducibility crisis because key components are often not sufficiently tracked, archived or reported.
Here we propose Research Object Crate (or RO-Crate for short), an emerging lightweight approach to packaging research data with their structured metadata, rephrasing the Research Object model as schema.org annotations to formalize a JSON-LD format that can be used independently of infrastructure, e.g. in GitHub or Zenodo archives. RO-Crate can be extended for domain-specific descriptions, aiming at a wide variety of applications and repositories to encourage FAIR sharing of reproducible datasets and analytical methods.