Rethinking the a in FAIR Data: Issues of Data Access and Accessibility in Research

« The FAIR data principles are rapidly becoming a standard through which to assess responsible and reproducible research. In contrast to the requirements associated with the Interoperability principle, the requirements associated with the Accessibility principle are often assumed to be relatively straightforward to implement. Indeed, a variety of different tools assessing FAIR rely on the data being deposited in a trustworthy digital repository. In this paper we note that there is an implicit assumption that access to a repository is independent of where the user is geographically located. Using a virtual personal network (VPN) service we find that access to a set of web sites that underpin Open Science is variable from a set of 14 countries; either through connectivity issues (i.e., connections to download HTML being dropped) or through direct blocking (i.e., web servers sending 403 error codes). Many of the countries included in this study are already marginalized from Open Science discussions due to political issues or infrastructural challenges. This study clearly indicates that access to FAIR data resources is influenced by a range of geo-political factors. Given the volatile nature of politics and the slow pace of infrastructural investment, this is likely to continue to be an issue and indeed may grow. We propose that it is essential for discussions and implementations of FAIR to include awareness of these issues of accessibility. Without this awareness, the expansion of FAIR data may unintentionally reinforce current access inequities and research inequalities around the globe. (…) »

source >, Shanahan H and Bezuidenhout L (2022) Rethinking the a in FAIR Data: Issues of Data Access and Accessibility in Research. Front. Res. Metr. Anal. 7:912456. doi: 10.3389/frma.2022.912456