November 10, 2017, by Sophie Berckhan

FAIR in Practice?

When we talk about research data management, we often talk about researchers depositing their own data and having to identify and re-use data produced by others. However, the process of identifying suitable data and making use of other people’s data is often challenging and sometimes impossible.

In a world where the volume of data is increasing exponentially, it would be helpful if software could do part of this job – however data would then have to be created with certain principles in mind. The FAIR data principles aim to help the research community to achieve this goal. FAIR stands for Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usable. The principles were developed with the stance that research data management is not an add-on once a research project is completed, but is key to all knowledge gain and should therefore be considered before research takes place.

Are these principles being put into practice?

JISC, a UK-based not-for profit organisation supporting Higher Education, held a focus group in September to find out what the FAIR principles mean to the research community, how these principles are put into practice and if there is a role for JISC to support researchers. JISC’s research showed that currently only 4 Universities in the Russel Group specifically refer to the FAIR principles on their Research Data Management websites, however most Universities refer to the activities covered by FAIR implicitly. My impression from the focus group was that there is a need for common principles if the community wants to derive real value from the immense amount of digital data generated, however it also showed that the work around FAIR is, in parts, still in a conceptual state with the principles sometimes being misunderstood, and that it is not yet widely implemented by the Universities represented.

Image by SangyaPundir

Image by Sangya Pundir

Want to know more about FAIR?

I will publish a further blog post shortly explaining what the acronym FAIR stands for in detail. If you are interested in the FAIR principles right now, then this publication lists a number of examples. Once JISC publish their findings about the FAIR data principles, I will add their publication to this post.

Sophie Berckhan, Digital Research Specialist for Science

Posted in Research Data Management