Home FAQ What is the difference between “FAIR data” and “Open data” if there is one?

FAIR is not equal to Open: The ‘A’ in FAIR stands for ‘Accessible under well defined conditions’. There may be legitimate reasons to shield data and services generated with public funding from public access. These include personal privacy, national security, and competitiveness. The FAIR principles, although inspired by Open Science, explicitly and deliberately do not address moral and ethical issues pertaining to the openness of data. In the envisioned Internet of FAIR Data and Services, the degree to which any piece of data is available, or even advertised as being available (via its metadata) is entirely at the discretion of the data owner. FAIR only speaks to the need to describe a process – mechanised or manual – for accessing discovered data; a requirement to openly and richly describe the context within which those data were generated, to enable evaluation of its utility; to explicitly define the conditions under which they may be reused; and to provide clear instructions on how they should be cited when reused [force11.org/datacitationprinciples]. None of these principles necessitate data being “open” or “free”. They do, however, require clarity and transparency around the conditions governing access and reuse. As such, while FAIR data does not need to be open, in order to comply with the condition of reusability, FAIR data are required to have a clear, preferably machine readable, license. The transparent but controlled accessibility of data and services, as opposed to the ambiguous blanket-concept of “open”, allows the participation of a broad range of sectors – public and private – as well as genuine equal partnership with stakeholders in all societies around the world.


Reprinted from Information Services & Use, vol. 37, no. 1, Mons, Barend; Neylon, Cameron; Velterop, Jan; Dumontier, Michel;da Silva Santos, Luiz Olavo Bonino; Wilkinson, Mark D., Cloudy, increasingly FAIR; revisiting the FAIR Data guiding principles for the European Open Science Cloud, , pp. 49-56, 2017, with permission from IOS Press.
The publication is available at IOS Press.