All the flavours of FAIR, fair & F.A.I.R

The word fair can mean many different things to many different people, but it’s generally a description of activities or processes which are just, equitable and reasonable. Within scholarship it’s been used as an acronym FAIR (Freedom of Access to Information and Resources) for the ongoing campaign for an open democratic society where everyone can access information. In 2015, fairness was found in another acronym in the F.A.I.R. Data principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable). Created to support knowledge discovery and innovation and to promote sharing and reuse of data, these principles informed the development of the F.A.I.R. Access policy statement in 2016 for all Australian publicly funded research outputs.


The concept of fairness has implications for how journals should be run. “Fair Open Access” has been a rallying cry for researchers seeking to achieve fair, low-cost journal open access. In 2017 a group of researchers and librarians formalized Fair Open Access principles for journals and the Fair Open Access Alliance. The basic principles are:

1. The journal has a transparent ownership structure, and is controlled by and responsive to the scholarly community.
2. Authors of articles in the journal retain copyright.
3. All articles are published open access and an explicit open access licence is used.
4. Submission and publication is not conditional in any way on the payment of a fee from the author or its employing institution, or on membership of an institution or society.
5. Any fees paid on behalf of the journal to publishers are low, transparent, and in proportion to the work carried out.

The Fair Open Access Alliance is currently working on disciplinary organizations aimed at helping journals flip from a subscription model to Fair OA, and have so far started LingOA, MathOA and PsyOA. The Alliance includes independent journals already practising Fair OA principles, flipped journals, and other institutional members with a strong belief in FairOA. The idea is to share resources and harmonize journal practices. In working towards spreading Fair journal practices, it’s hoped the debate about Green vs Gold OA is forgotten and the movement yields a way forward towards a goal of the conversion of the entire body of scholarly literature to Fair Open Access.

Drafted in 2015, the FAIR Data Principles are a framework for thinking about sharing data in a way that will enable maximum use and reuse.  The principles have been recognised by organisations including FORCE11, NIH and the European Commission.  The Australian National Data Service (ANDS) says they are useful because they:

  • support knowledge discovery and innovation
  • support data and knowledge integration
  • promote sharing and reuse of data
  • are discipline independent and allow for differences in disciplines
  • move beyond high level guidance, containing detailed advice on activities that can be undertaken to make data more FAIR
  • help data and metadata to be ‘machine readable’, supporting new discoveries through the harvest and analysis of multiple datasets.

ANDS says not only will researchers benefit professionally by making their data FAIR, the entire research community will be better off.  Benefits include:

  • gaining maximum potential from data assets
  • increasing the visibility and citations of research
  • improving the reproducibility and reliability of research
  • staying aligned with international standards and approaches
  • attracting new partnerships with researchers, business, policy and broader communities
  • enabling new research questions to be answered
  • using new innovative research approaches and tools
  • achieving maximum impact from research.

The example below shows what it looks like when the components of F.A.I.R. for research outputs are applied to an Australian research project comprising a thesis, paper and data set – on penguin poo in the Antarctic!










In the first webinar of our 2018 series we discussed the future of all types of FAIR in scholarly publishing. Joining the AOASG’s Ginny Barbour were Keith Russell, Partnerships Program Manager from the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) and Alex Holcombe, Associate Editor of Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science.