Listed below are the seventeen minimum viable metrics proposed by FAIRsFAIR for the systematic assessment of FAIR data objects1 and detailed in the report FAIRsFAIR Data Object Assessment Metrics (v0.4). These metrics are based on indicators proposed by the RDA FAIR Data Maturity Model Working Group, on the WDS/RDA Assessment of Data Fitness for Use checklist, and on prior work conducted by project partners such as FAIRdat and FAIREnough.
FAIRsFAIR used the RDA FAIR Data Maturity Model Specification and Guidelines Recommendation of the FAIR Data Maturity Model Working Group as a basis to develop this set of minimum metrics for assessing the FAIRness of research data objects and tools to address researchers and data repositories.
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To be inclusive of current data practices, we will refine and revise the metrics through several iterations and also through two ongoing use cases on FAIR data assessment. As you read and comment on these metrics please bear in mind the following:
A data object may be assigned with a globally unique identifier such that it can be referenced unambiguously by humans or machines. Globally unique means an identifier should be associated with only one resource at any time. Examples of unique identifiers of data are Internationalized Resource Identifier (IRI), Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) such as URL and URN, Digital Object Identifier (DOI), the Handle System, identifiers.org, w3id.org and Archival Resource Key (ARK). A data repository may assign a globally unique identifier to your data or metadata when you publish and make it available through its curation service.
In this specification, we make a distinction between the uniqueness and persistence of an identifier. An HTTP URL (the address of a given unique resource on the web) is globally unique, but may not be persistent as the URL of data may be not accessible (link rot problem) or the data available under the original URL may be changed (content drift problem). Identifiers based on, e.g., the Handle System, DOI, ARK are both globally unique and persistent. They are maintained and governed such that they remain stable and resolvable for the long term. The persistent identifier (PID) of a data object may be resolved (point) to a landing page with metadata containing further information on how to access the data content, in some cases a downloadable artefact, or none if the data or repository is no longer maintained. Therefore, ensuring persistence is a shared responsibility between a PID service provider (e.g., datacite) and its clients (e.g., data repositories). For example, the DOI system guarantees the persistence of its identifiers through its social (e.g., policy) and technical infrastructures, whereas a data provider ensures the availability of the resource (e.g., landing page, downloadable artefact) associated with the identifier.
Metadata is descriptive information about a data object. Since the metadata required differs depending on the users and their applications, this metric focuses on core metadata. The core metadata is the minimum descriptive information required to enable data finding, including citation which makes it easier to find data. We determine the required metadata based on common data citation guidelines (e.g., DataCite, ESIP, and IASSIST), and metadata recommendations for data discovery (e.g., EOSC Datasets Minimum Information (EDMI), DataCite Metadata Schema, W3C Recommendation Data on the Web Best Practices and Data Catalog Vocabulary).
This metric focuses on domain-agnostic core metadata. Domain or discipline-specific metadata specifications are covered under metric FsF-R1.3-01M. A repository should adopt a schema that includes properties of core metadata, whereas data authors should take the responsibility of providing core metadata.
The metadata should explicitly specify the identifier of the data such that users can discover and access the data through the metadata. If the identifier specified is persistent and points to a landing page, the data identifier and links to download the data content should be taken into account in the assessment.
This metric refers to ways through which the metadata of data is exposed or provided in a standard and machine-readable format. Assessing this metric will require an understanding of the capabilities offered by the data repository used to host the data. Metadata may be available through multiple endpoints. For example, if data is hosted by a repository, the repository may disseminate its metadata through a metadata harvesting protocol (e.g., via OAI-PMH) and/or a web service. Metadata may also be embedded as structured data on a data page for use by web search engines such as Google and Bing or be available as linked (open) data.
This metric determines if the metadata includes the level of access to the data such as public, embargoed, restricted, or metadata-only access and its access conditions. Both access level and conditions are necessary information to potentially gain access to the data. It is recommended that data should be as open as possible and as closed as necessary.
Given an identifier of a dataset, the metadata of the dataset should be retrievable using a standard communication protocol. Consider, for example, the application layer protocols such as HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, TFTP, SFTP and AtomPub. Avoid disseminating metadata using a proprietary protocol (e.g., Apple Filing Protocol).
Given an identifier of a dataset, the dataset should be retrievable using a standard communication protocol such as HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, TFTP, SFTP, FTAM and AtomPub. Avoid disseminating data using a proprietary protocol.
This metric determines if the metadata will be preserved even when the data they represent are no longer available, replaced or lost. Similar to metric FsF-F4-01M, answering this metric will require an understanding of the capabilities offered, data preservation plan and policies implemented by the data repository and data services (e.g., Datacite PID service). Continued access to metadata depends on a data repository’s preservation practice which is usually documented in the repository’s service policies or statements. A trustworthy data repository offering DOIs and implementing a PID Policy should guarantee that metadata will remain accessible even when data is no longer available for any reason (e.g., by providing a tombstone page).
Knowledge representation is vital for machine-processing of the knowledge of a domain. Expressing the metadata of a data object using a formal knowledge representation will enable machines to process it in a meaningful way and enable more data exchange possibilities. Examples of knowledge representation languages are RDF, RDFS, and OWL. These languages may be serialized (written) in different formats. For instance, RDF/XML, RDFa, Notation3, Turtle, N-Triples and N-Quads, and JSON-LD are RDF serialization formats.
A metadata document or selected parts of the document may incorporate additional terms from semantic resources (also referred as semantic artefacts) that unambiguously describe the contents so they can be processed automatically by machines. This metadata enrichment may facilitate enhanced data search and interoperability of data from different sources. Ontology, thesaurus, and taxonomy are kinds of semantic resources, and they come with varying degrees of expressiveness and computational complexity. Knowledge organization schemes such as thesaurus and taxonomy are semantically less formal than ontologies.
Linking data to its related entities will increase its potential for reuse. The linking information should be captured as part of the metadata. A dataset may be linked to its prior version, related datasets or resources (e.g. publication, physical sample, funder, repository, platform, site, or observing network registries). Links between data and its related entities should be expressed through relation types (e.g., DataCite Metadata Schema specifies relation types between research objects through the fields ‘RelatedIdentifier’ and ‘RelationType’), and preferably use persistent Identifiers for related entities (e.g., ORCID for contributors, DOI for publications, and ROR for institutions).
This metric evaluates if the content of the dataset is specified in the metadata, and it should be an accurate reflection of the actual data deposited. Examples of the properties specifying data content are : resource type (e.g., data or a collection of data), variable(s) measured or observed, method, data format and size. Ideally, ontological vocabularies should be used to describe data content (e.g., variable) to support interdisciplinary reuse.
This metric evaluates if data is associated with a license because otherwise users cannot reuse it in a clear legal context. We encourage the application of licenses for all kinds of data whether public, restricted or for specific users. Without an explicit license, users do not have a clear idea of what can be done with your data. Licenses can be of standard type (Creative Commons, Open Data Commons Open Database License) or bespoke licenses, and rights statements which indicate the conditions under which data can be reused.
It is highly recommended to use a standard, machine-readable license such that it can be interpreted by machines and humans. In order to inform users about what rights they have to use a dataset, the license information should be specified as part of the dataset’s metadata.
Data provenance (also known as lineage) represents a dataset’s history, including the people, entities, and processes involved in its creation, management and longer-term curation. It is essential that data producers provide provenance information about the data to enable informed use and reuse. The levels of provenance information needed can vary depending on the data type (e.g., measurement, observation, derived data, or data product) and research domains. For that reason, it is difficult to define a set of finite provenance properties that will be adequate for all domains. Based on existing work, we suggest that the following provenance properties of data generation or collection are included in the metadata record as a minimum.
There are various ways through which provenance information may be included in a metadata record. Some of the provenance properties (e.g., instrument, contributor) may be best represented using PIDs (such as DOIs for data, ORCIDs for researchers). This way, humans and systems can retrieve more information about each of the properties by resolving the PIDs. Alternatively, the provenance information can be given in a linked provenance record expressed explicitly in, e.g., PROV-O or PAV or Vocabulary of Interlinked Datasets (VoID).
In addition to core metadata required to support data discovery (covered under metric FsF-F2-01M), metadata to support data reusability should be made available following community-endorsed metadata standards. Some communities have well-established metadata standards (e.g., geospatial: ISO19115; biodiversity: DarwinCore, ABCD, EML; social science: DDI; astronomy: International Virtual Observatory Alliance Technical Specifications) while others have limited standards or standards that are under development (e.g., engineering and linguistics). The use of community-endorsed metadata standards is usually encouraged and supported by domain and discipline-specific repositories.
File formats refer to methods for encoding digital information. For example, CSV for tabular data, NetCDF for multidimensional data and GeoTIFF for raster imagery. Data should be made available in a file format that is backed by the research community to enable data sharing and reuse. Consider for example, file formats that are widely used and supported by the most commonly used software and tools. These formats also should be suitable for long-term storage and archiving, which are usually recommended by a data repository. The formats not only give a higher certainty that your data can be read in the future, but they will also help to increase the reusability and interoperability. Using community-endorsed formats enables data to be loaded directly into the software and tools used for data analysis. It makes it possible to easily integrate your data with other data using the same preferred format. The use of community-endorsed formats will also help to transform the format to a newer one, in case an older format gets outdated.