The 'FAIR' principles for scientific data management

Article dated: 8 June 2016

The 'FAIR' Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship form the focus of an article in the Nature journal Scientific Data an open-access, peer-reviewed journal for descriptions of scientifically valuable datasets. The four principles — Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability and Reusability — provide a guideline for data producers and publishers to enhance the reusability of scientific data. The principles were developed by members of the FORCE11 community, who previously published the Joint Declaration of Data Citation Principles.

The article notes in its abstract the 'need to improve the infrastructure for supporting the reuse of scholarly data' and has bought together a 'diverse set of stakeholders—representing academia, industry, funding agencies, and scholarly publishers... to design and jointly endorse a concise and measureable set of principles', namely the FAIR Data Principles.  Intending to act as a guideline for reusing data holdings the FAIR Principles 'put specific emphasis on enhancing the ability of machines to automatically find and use the data, in addition to supporting its reuse by individuals.'
The FAIR Principles are complementary to the Data Seal of Approval (DSA), with a common aim for data to be re-usable to users other than the original data producers. Where the DSA focuses primarily on the responsibilities and conduct of data producers and repositories, FAIR focuses primarily on the data itself.

In the UK, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) research data policy makes reference to the FAIR principles amongst the responsibilities of grant holders (as data producers) to archive (publish) their research data in a responsible digital repository that adheres to the FAIR principles.

The UK Data Service, as ESRC data service providers, complies with the principles of this policy, coordinating with data owners to provide access to data for users, by ingesting data into our digital repository and archiving them to provide continued access, user support, training and strategic data related advice.

The FAIR Guiding Principles

To be Findable:

F1. (meta)data are assigned a globally unique and persistent identifier
F2. data are described with rich metadata (defined by R1 below)
F3. metadata clearly and explicitly include the identifier of the data it describes
F4. (meta)data are registered or indexed in a searchable resource

To be Accessible:

A1. (meta)data are retrievable by their identifier using a standardised communications protocol
A1.1 the protocol is open, free, and universally implementable
A1.2 the protocol allows for an authentication and authorisation procedure, where necessary
A2. metadata are accessible, even when the data are no longer available

To be Interoperable:

I1. (meta)data use a formal, accessible, shared, and broadly applicable language for knowledge representation
I2. (meta)data use vocabularies that follow FAIR principles
I3. (meta)data include qualified references to other (meta)data

To be Reusable:

R1. meta(data) are richly described with a plurality of accurate and relevant attributes
R1.1. (meta)data are released with a clear and accessible data usage license
R1.2. (meta)data are associated with detailed provenance
R1.3. (meta)data meet domain-relevant community standards


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