A new(?) aspect of software and the FAIR principles

23 Mar 2020


Dear Colleagues,

I would like to share some thoughts on FAIR principles and software. I do not know how or whether it fits
the scope of this interest group.

Andras Holl

I think there is an other, maybe neglected aspect of the relation of FAIR principles and software.
Software should not only be FAIR itself, but should support FAIR-ness: let us call it FAIR-supporting or FAIR-friendly.

Ensuring that research data is FAIR could be a tedious job, and this is a major problem for Open Science. Ensuring FAIR-ness should be, as much as possible, off-loaded from the shoulder of the researcher. The instrumentation used in the creation of observational or experimental data (the software in the instrument) or the software that produces the modelling data should take care - to the possible extent -  of creating FAIR output. The software used for data processing should support FAIR data objects. The free software used for repositories (like DSpace and EPrints) should support the FAIR principles, and help the arciving and dissemination.

1.) Creation of the data. Software used for the creation of the data should i.) output data in standard, FAIR compliant formats; ii.) should take care of capturing and logging metadata into the FAIR data object it outputs.

2.) Processing of the data. Software used for data processing – especially open source software – should i.) be able to input FAIR data objects; ii.) output FAIR data objects; iii.) and log metadata on the processing steps into the FAIR data objects it produces.

3.) Visualizing data. Software used for data visualization should produce output that is FAIR, and could be re-used, and should be able to input fair data objects, and use captured metadata in the visual output.

4.) Archiving and distributing data. Software used for repositories – especially open source software – should support FAIR-ness: i.) support FAIR data objects, ii.) support workflows ensuring FAIR-ness.

Such FAIR-supporting or FAIR-friendly behaviour of software should be certified, so researchers and research support organisations could rely on using software that is FAIR-supporting.

Astronomy provides an example how such (though at that time FAIR principles were not laid out yet) properties
of software could promote openness in science.