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FAIR Guiding Principle A1: 

(meta)data are retrievable by their identifier using a standardized communications protocol

Interpretation of A1

Typically, the purpose of identifying a digital resource is to simultaneously provide the ability to retrieve the record of that resource, in some format, using some clearly-defined mechanism. Principle A1 asserts that there should be no additional barrier to the retrieval of the record by a computational agent when its access protocol (A1.1 & A1.2) results in permitted access to that record. Note that the agent may be a machine working behind a firewall, if that agent has been permitted access. For fully mechanized access, this requires that the identifier (F1) follows a globally-accepted schema that is tied to a standardized, high-level communication protocol. FAIR, however, does not necessarily preclude non-mechanized access, only that the mechanism is so well described that a machine can identify the appropriate next course of action even if it should include human agents.  In the latter case, it is still necessary that the identifier (F1) be sufficient as a way of unambiguously indicating, to a non-automated agent, the record that is being requested.  The “standardized communication protocol” is critical here. Its purpose is to provide a predictable way for an agent to access a resource, regardless of whether the access to the content of the resource is open or restricted, and regardless of whether that access is automated or aided by human action (e.g., send your request for access by email or telephone).

This interpretation of A1 is based on 'FAIR Principles: Interpretations and Implementation Considerations'. Jacobsen et al, Data Intelligence 2020; 2 (1-2): 10–29. doi:

Image by Jack Hamilton


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