For a FAIR data

Over the last months, I wrote several articles about data governance. One aspect of data governance is also the principle of FAIR data. FAIR in the context of data stands for: findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. There are several scientific papers dealing with this topic. Let me explain what it is about

What is FAIR data?

FAIR builds on the four principles stating at the beginning: findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. This tackles most of the requirements around data governance and thus should increase the use of data. It doesn’t really deals with the aspect of data quality, but it does deal with the challenge on how to work with data. In my experience, most issues around data governance are very basic and most companies don’t manage to solve them at the elementary level.

If a company gets started with the principle of FAIR, some elementary groundwork can be done and future quality improvements can be built on top of it. Plus, it is a good and easy starting point for data governance. Let me explain each of the principles in a bit more depth now.

Findable data

Most data projects starts with the question on how to find if there is data for a specific use-case. This is often difficult to answer, since data engineers or data scientists often don’t know what kind of data is available in a large enterprise. They know the problem that they want to solve but don’t know where the data is. They have to move from person to person and dig deep in the organisation, until they find someone that knows about the data that could potentially serve for their business need. This process can take weeks and data scientists might get frustrated along the way.

A data catalog containing information about the data assets in an enterprise might solve these issues.

Accessible data

Once the first aspect is solved, it is necessary to access data. This also brings a lot of complexity, since data is often sensitive and data owners simply don’t want to share the data access. Escalations often happen along that way. To solve these problems, it is necessary to have clear data owners for all data assets defined. Also, it is highly important to have a clear process for data access available.

Interoperable data

Data often needs to be combined in use-cases with other data sets. This means, that it must be known what each data asset is about. It is necessary to have metadata available about the data and have this shared with data consumers. Nothing is worse for data scientists to constantly ask data owners about the content of the data set. The better a description about a data set is available, the faster people can work with data.

A frequent case is that data is being bought from other companies or shared among companies. This is the concept of decentralised data hubs. In this context, it is highly important to have a clearly defined metadata available.

Reuseable data

Data should eventually be reusable for other business cases as well. Therefore, it is necessary on how data was created. A description about the source system and producing entities needs to be available. Also, it is necessary how include information about potential transformations on data.

In order to make data reusable, the terms of reusability must be provided. This can be a license or other community standards on the data. Data can be either purchased or made available for free. Different software solutions enable this.

What’s next on FAIR data?

I believe it is easy to get started with implementing the tools and processes needed for a FAIR data strategy. It will immediately increase the access times to data and provide a clear way forward. Also, it will increase data quality indirectly and enable future data quality initiatives.

My article was inspired by the discussions I had with Prof. Polleres. Thanks for the insights!

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