In the envisioned Internet of FAIR data and services (IFDS), all data, services, and other digital objects that drive the research process, deserve the utmost respect and care.
GO FAIR Implementation Networks deal with domain-specific content and services, as well as the key infrastructure to run the IFDS. Infrastructure at its best is invisible, i.e., we tend to only notice it when it fails. If successful, it is stable and sustainable and largely (quite literally) ‘taken for granted’. Above all, it is trusted and relied on by the broad community it serves. Therefore, we require trust in running (governance), funding (sustainability), and preserving community ownership of (assurance) the infrastructure.
In this spirit, we have drafted a set of Rules of Engagement to support the development of GO FAIR Implementation Networks that create and federate modules and components of a shared infrastructure such as the EOSC and ultimately the IFDS. These Rules of Engagement should be signed by all participants of GO FAIR Implementation Networks. The General Governance principles and the actual Rules of Engagement have been conceived following these premises:
All data and other research objects should have a persistent identifier (PID) and FAIR metadata. In addition, the data themselves should be made FAIR if possible. Services that deal with data and analytics should also contain FAIR metadata and they will need to be able to operate on FAIR data to be fully operational in the IFDS.
Sustainability issues should be properly addressed in the development of the IFDS as a public good. We recognise the value of private partners, but we also acknowledge that they traditionally do not answer to any community oversight. In addition, many public and private parties are not obliged to continue to provide services at their current rates, particularly when these rates are not commercially viable. We also recognise the sustainability issues associated with academic solutions that run on cyclic research project funding without proper long-term support. Today, publicly-funded projects are under substantial pressure to show revenue opportunities. This often drives them into areas where they lack expertise.
Public-private partnerships may be a very fruitful approach leading to sustainability, especially where publicly-conceived and developed services become so important that they need to be reliable and stable. Entirely public or private consortia may also play a role in GO FAIR.
An appropriate funding scheme needs to be demonstrated to allow for the proper development and support for academically and/or privately conceived infrastructure, prototypes, and reliable services for data, software, and/or other services and tools related to research.
It is very important for the IFDS to learn from the early developments of the Internet. We should avoid previous mistakes in scholarly communication, where a lack of community engagement and governance led to a lack of community control and subsequent locking-up of what should have been community resources. In particular, the data that are generated by the actions of the publicly-funded research community should be a community resource, and as open as possible, but in all cases FAIR. However, as noted in the report of the EOSC high-level expert group, we acknowledge that community resources are not always open and not free by default. We should make absolutely clear in the context of GO FAIR that ‘free does not exist’. At best, ‘other people paid for it’. The term ‘open’ has also been discussed earlier; we recognise the need for data to be accessible under well-defined and transparent conditions.