EarthCube FAIR Initiative

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The FAIR Principles for Geoscience Data and Code


The EarthCube Office (ECO) is working to develop community capacity around the production of FAIR data and the implementation of FAIR principles for other research objects such as scientific software. The FAIR Principles are guidelines for improving the value of research data (and code) by making it more “Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable.” Building on the EC Leadership Council’s work to promote the FAIR Data and Resources for the Geoscience Community, we are developing tutorials and informational briefings to help the community improve the FAIRness of EarthCube-related data, tools, and services.


What is FAIR?


The FAIR Guiding Principles (Wilkinson et al, 2016) provide a frame for considering the state of human and machine readability of a dataset or resource, and the related metadata.


The FAIR Principles identify practices that reach across the data lifecycle, and include possible actions for researchers, data managers and stewards, as well as repositories of all types, to make data (or related) objects and resources *more* FAIR. That is, when assessing a data object or resource through this frame, the Principles should be considered on a continuum, that is a means toward full Findability – Accessibility – Interoperability – Reusability.


There are several key aspects that are core to FAIR operations:

  • Findability requires unique, persistent identifiers, and these are registered or indexed to support search.

    • Data are described with rich metadata (Note that specific standards are not defined in the Principles; selection choices are left up to designated communities or domains to meet its particular needs.)

  • Accessibility requires services that utilize Persistent Identifiers for retrieval, and that support authentication,  authorization, and controls for data usage license restrictions when needed. Service providers can also indicate the extent to which their underlying protocols are open and universally implementable.

    • The Principles specifically state that Metadata Records should persist, even if the data they describe are no longer available. (This provides continuity and persistence of the scientific record.)

  • Interoperability requires the application of formal and accessible knowledge representation tools; those tools (such as standard vocabularies or ontologies) should also follow the FAIR principles

  • Re-usability calls for the use of clear and accessible data usage licenses; and, that metadata include information on source and changes (provenance)


What FAIR is not: The FAIR Principles are silent on “open science” or “open data,” as well as on data quality. It should be noted that data that are compliant with the FAIR Principles and found to be FAIR can also be of poor quality, biased, or falsified. The FAIR community acknowledges that data may be “open as possible, as closed as necessary.” Data may be private, confidential, or proprietary, and under the FAIR Principles this is OK – especially when the aim is for metadata to be complete, fully available, and machine readable. Finally, successful application of the FAIR data principles is not, as yet, easily measured, though many tools are in development.

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FAIR for EarthCube


FAIR-related materials created for the community by the EarthCube Office will be added here first!

Image by Annie Spratt






  • There will be several FAIR-related sessions at the upcoming annual AGU Fall Meeting, including:


  • A recent event of interest to the EC community – “Mapping GO FAIR Pillars to the new USGS Roadmap for enabling FAIR Data:” On October 28th, 2021 GO FAIR US hosted a webinar on how USGS has utilized the GO FAIR Pillars in their roadmap for enabling FAIR Data. Viv Hutchinson, Branch Chief for Science Data Management in the Core Science Analytics, Synthesis and Libraries program in the US Geological Survey (USGS), presented on this work undertaken with Dr. Fran Lightsom. The video is available here:  GO FAIR US & USGS Webinar


Stay tuned for more on FAIR!


For questions or topic suggestions, please contact the EarthCube Office at: