Home FAIR Principles A1: (Meta)data are retrievable by their identifier using a standardised communication protocol

What does this mean?
Most users of the internet retrieve data by ‘clicking on a link’. This is a high-level interface to a low-level protocol called tcp, that the computer executes to load data in the user’s web browser. (Note that http(s) or ftp, which form the backbone of modern internet, are built on tcp, and make requesting and providing digital resources substantially easier than other communication protocols.) Principle A1 states that FAIR data retrieval should be mediated without specialised or proprietary  tools or communication methods. This principle focuses on how data and metadata can be retrieved from their identifiers*.


  • Most data producers will use http(s) or ftp.
  • Barriers to access that should be avoided include protocols that have limited implementations, poor documentation, and components involving manual human intervention. However, note that it may not be possible to provide secure access through a fully mechanised protocol, for example for highly sensitive data. In such cases, it is perfectly FAIR to provide an email, telephone number, or Skype name of a contact person who can discuss access to the data. This contact protocol must be clear and explicit in the metadata.
  • FAIR Accessor (see Interoperability and FAIRness through a novel combination of Web technologies) http://linkeddata.systems/Accessors/UniProtAccessor/C8V1L6

* The text explaining this principle has been updated on February 21, 2020 to fix the previous sentence that gave the idea that this principle is about who should have access to the digital resource (which is covered by principle R1) instead of how to access it.