Opportunities To Improve Alignment With the FAIR Principles for U.S. Geological Survey Data

Open-File Report 2022-1043
By: , and 



In 2016, an interdisciplinary, international group of 53 scientists introduced a framework named “the FAIR Principles” for addressing 21st century scientific data challenges. The FAIR Principles are increasingly used as a guide for producing digital scientific products that are findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR), especially to enable use of such products in automated systems. Data aligned with the FAIR Principles can increase the efficiency of science integration capabilities such as those envisioned for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Monitoring, Analyses, and Projections (EarthMAP) initiative.

The FAIR Principles clearly define the characteristics of reusable scientific products, but it is less clear how to facilitate consistency in achieving these characteristics across the Bureau. USGS data are produced by local research projects distributed over more than 100 centers in 7 regions. After data are approved for release, they could be managed in numerous repositories and online data systems. The diversity of USGS data is illustrated by the topical range of the USGS mission areas: Core Science Systems, Ecosystems, Energy and Minerals, Natural Hazards, and Water Resources. In the USGS context, realizing the EarthMAP vision for automated, predictive, integrated science that provides timely and actionable results involves providing knowledge and support services and developing the skills, infrastructure, and culture to enable Bureau-wide implementation of the FAIR Principles.

In 2019, the USGS Community for Data Integration funded a project to convene a broadly representative workshop and produce recommendations to enable consistency with the FAIR Principles across the USGS. The workshop, held in Fort Collins, Colorado, in September 2019, brought together 28 participants for 3 days to engage with the FAIR Principles, analyze USGS use cases, and discuss the roles of data producers and managers, data storage and catalogs, value-added services, and policy makers in implementing the FAIR Principles. Workshop participants agreed that scientific reproducibility requires the extension of the FAIR Principles beyond measured data to include physical samples, research methods, software, and tools at the USGS. Workshop discussions focused on how the USGS can implement the FAIR Principles by supporting research teams in creating data, metadata, and other scientific products and also by supporting enterprise systems that maintain and leverage the products’ consistency with the FAIR Principles.

The resulting FAIR roadmap of recommendations describes nine proposed interdependent strategies that could be achieved by coordinated actions taken by different parts of the USGS. A proposed early action would be the creation of a coordinating council that includes representatives from the groups engaged in activities consistent with better alignment with the FAIR Principles. The nine proposed strategies, which are presented in more detail in this roadmap report, focus on enabling improvements to individual data products, providing infrastructure, and structuring administrative activities to support an organizational culture that values the FAIR Principles.

Suggested Citation

Lightsom, F.L., Hutchison, V.B., Bishop, B., Debrewer, L.M., Govoni, D.L., Latysh, N., and Stall, S., 2022, Opportunities to improve alignment with the FAIR Principles for U.S. Geological Survey data: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2022–1043, 23 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20221043.

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Background: The FAIR Principles
  • Background: Data Management at the U.S. Geological Survey
  • Current U.S. Geological Survey Practices Relative to the FAIR Principles
  • Goals of the Roadmap for Enabling the FAIR Principles
  • Strategies for Enabling Better Alignment With the FAIR Principles
  • First Steps Toward Better U.S. Geological Survey Alignment With the FAIR Principles
  • Conclusion
  • References Cited
  • Glossary
  • Appendix 1. FAIR Workshop Participants
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Opportunities to improve alignment with the FAIR Principles for U.S. Geological Survey data
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2022-1043
DOI 10.3133/ofr20221043
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description vi, 23 p.
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details