Making Data FAIR – What Information Managers Can Bring to the Table

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The following is an excerpt from Mary Ellen Bates’ recent white paper Vocabularies, Text Mining and FAIR Data: The Strategic Role Information Managers Play. Download the full paper here

The FAIR guiding principles, first articulated in a Scientific Data article in March 2016 are designed to make data both machine- and human-actionable:

  • Findability: Metadata is assigned consistently and permanently, and maintained in a searchable source.
  • Accessibility: Once identified, the data is accessible, given any necessary authentication and authorization; the metadata remains accessible even if the data is no longer available.
  • Interoperability: The data and metadata can be integrated with other data, and can be used by applications for analysis and further processing; metadata can reference other metadata.
  • Reusability: Metadata is applied to the data as thoroughly as possible, so that it can be reused in unanticipated ways and so that context and provenance is retained.

How Information Managers Add Fairness

Information managers bring a unique set of skills to the organization with their understanding of what information sources and tools are available, how information flows within the organization, and how various user groups acquire, use, and store information. They can have important consultative roles to play in every aspect of creating and maintaining FAIR data and workflows, outlined here:

  • Findability: Information managers can identify existing internal ontologies and vocabularies, third-party ontologies, and semantic enrichment tools to consistently apply the right metadata to internal and external data. This significantly increases the ability of a user to find the necessary data, regardless of its source.
  • Accessibility: Information managers are often tasked with identifying internal data sources and open source content, and licensing content from publishers and content providers. With their deep familiarity with the varied information needs and workflow processes of the organization, information managers bring a unique perspective to acquiring and licensing content.
  • Interoperability: Information managers can work with research teams to bring semantic enrichment to internal data, licensed content, and data streams, and work to facilitate the sharing of information collections, APIs, and ontologies. This de-siloing of data and resources increases the ROI of the content and leverages enterprise investments.
  • Reusability: Information managers have an enterprise-perspective on which groups could benefit from an information resource, and know how to leverage resources to make content acquisitions as cost-effective as possible. Their long familiarity with negotiating content licenses enables them to get better value for their content investments.

Information professionals have long been familiar with metadata—author, source, date, subject terms—enhancing the findability of published material such as journal articles or bibliographic citations. But this type of metadata is static and descriptive of the item as a whole, and does not capture relationships among concepts, nor do article-level subject headings capture all the concepts discussed within the article. Full-text searching, while allowing searchers to search for ideas mentioned only briefly in an article, suffers from the ambiguities and richness of language, in which a concept, disease, or entity could be described in a number of ways. Neither the metadata of bibliographic citations nor the entire content of full-text articles truly addresses the challenge of increasing both the relevance and recall of search queries while extending the search to disparate types of content.

Keep learning:

Molly Buccini

Author: Molly Buccini

Molly Buccini is a marketing communications manager at CCC. Her background before CCC includes B2B content marketing and local news reporting. Outside of the office, she enjoys reading, traveling, and theater.

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