In 2016, the ‘FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship’ were published in Scientific Data. The authors intended to provide guidelines to improve the findability, accessibility, interoperability, and reuse of digital assets. The principles emphasise machine-actionability (i.e., the capacity of computational systems to find, access, interoperate, and reuse data with none or minimal human intervention) because humans increasingly rely on computational support to deal with data as a result of the increase in volume, complexity, and creation speed of data.
The first step in (re)using data is to find them. Metadata and data should be easy to find for both humans and computers. Machine-readable metadata are essential for automatic discovery of datasets and services, so this is an essential component of the FAIRification process.
Once the user finds the required data, she/he needs to know how can they be accessed, possibly including authentication and authorisation.
The data usually need to be integrated with other data. In addition, the data need to interoperate with applications or workflows for analysis, storage, and processing.
The ultimate goal of FAIR is to optimise the reuse of data. To achieve this, metadata and data should be well-described so that they can be replicated and/or combined in different settings.
The principles refer to three types of entities: data (or any digital object), metadata (information about that digital object), and infrastructure. For instance, principle F4 defines that both metadata and data are registered or indexed in a searchable resource (the infrastructure component).