Enabling FAIR Data Project


Open, accessible, and high-quality data and related data products and software are critical to the integrity of published research. They ensure transparency and support reproducibility and are necessary for accelerating the advancement of science. In many cases, the data are one-time observations that cannot be repeated.  Unfortunately, not all key data are saved and even when they are, their curation is uneven and discovery is difficult, thus making it difficult for other researchers to understand and use the data sets.

To address this critical need, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation has awarded a grant to a coalition of groups representing the international Earth and space science community, convened by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), to develop standards that will connect researchers, publishers, and data repositories in the Earth and space sciences to enable FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) data – a concept first developed by Force11.org – on a large scale. This will accelerate scientific discovery and enhance the integrity, transparency, and reproducibility of this data. The resulting set of best practices will include: metadata and identifier standards; data services; common taxonomies; landing pages at repositories to expose the metadata and standard repository information; standard data citation; and standard integration into editorial peer review workflows.

“AGU’s commitment to open data and data stewardship started in 1997 when we developed one of the first society position statements on open data. We developed that position statement because we recognized properly documented, credited, and preserved, data would help future scientists understand the Earth, planetary, and heliophysics systems, and that is an integral responsibility of scientists, data stewards, and sponsoring institutions to ensure the preservation of that data,” said Chris McEntee, AGU’s executive director/CEO. “Today, with the generous support of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, our community is working together to ensure that the Earth and space sciences, including more than 50,000 publications, will then be the first scientific field to have open and well-described data as a default, making that data discoverable and freely accessible across our sciences, as well as other scientific disciplines and the public.”

The partnership currently includes AGU, the Earth Science Information Partners and Research Data Alliance, and has support from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature, Science, AuScope, National Computational Infrastructure of Australia, the Australian National Data Service, and the Center for Open Science. This effort will build on the work of The Coalition on Publishing Data in the Earth and Space Sciences (COPDESS.org), ESIP, RDA, the scientific journals, and domain repositories to ensure that well documented data, preserved in a repository with community agreed-upon metadata, and supporting persistent identifiers becomes part of the expected research products submitted in support of each publication. It is expected that the broader community will play a key role in the recommended guidelines and approach. A key goal is to make a process that is efficient and standard for researchers and thus supports their work from grant application through to publishing.

Scientific results are increasingly dependent on large complex data sets and models that transform these data. This is particularly true in the Earth and space sciences, where critical data increasingly provide diverse and important societal benefits and are used in critical real-time decisions. The partners will work with major Earth and space science data repositories, publishers, editorial workflow vendors, researchers, and allied stakeholders to develop common standards and workflows for submission of data, connect repositories and publishers, develop and implement tools needed for search and discovery, and enhance quality peer review. This process will help: 1) researchers understand and follow expectations regarding data curation; 2) publishers adopt and implement standard and best practices around data citation; and 3) make data discoverable and accessible, including to the public.

Read AGU’s position statement on data.

Read AGU’s Press Release.

Project Objectives

  • Earth and Space science publications cite, following leading guidelines, supporting data and derived products that are deposited in open access repositories with metadata that supports discovery, interlinking, and interoperability. Information about new data sets are included in article metadata.
  • Sufficient, essential documentation (metadata) is included with submitted datasets and derived products to ensure that the data are findable, accessible, interoperable (across repositories and publishers), and reusable – supporting the FAIR principles.
  • Repositories support data citation through the use of persistent identifiers, landing pages, and machine-readable metadata.
  • Repositories support publication peer review by providing reviewer access to datasets during the pre-publication period.
  • Leading publishers and repositories implement the recommendations and guidelines.
  • Researchers have a common experience when submitting their paper and supporting data and metadata (and software/services) for any leading Earth and space science journal.


  • Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP)
  • Research Data Alliance (RDA)
  • Science
  • Nature Research
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
  • Center for Open Science (COS)
  • National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) of Australia
  • AuScope
  • Australian National Data Service (ANDS)
  • Coalition on Publishing Data in Earth and Space Sciences (COPDESS)

Steering Committee

  • Kerstin Lehnert (Chair), Director of IEDA; Chair, EarthCube Executive Council; and co-PI, COPDESS.
  • Erin Robinson, ESIP Executive Director, Chair of the AGU Data Advisory Board
  • Mark Parsons, Director of Data Science Operations at Tetherless World Constellation, Previously Secretary General of Research Data Alliance
  • Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, Brandeis University, Founder of the Stakeholder Alignment Consortium
  • Brian Nosek, Executive Director of the Center for Open Science
  • Brooks Hanson, AGU Sr. Vice President Publications; co-PI on COPDESS
  • Shelley Stall, AGU Director, Data Programs, and Program Manager for this effort

Plan Overview

  • Establish common standards for journals, repositories & researchers—implemented in publication submission systems and further upstream of the research lifecycle.
  • Direct data supporting a publication, if not previously, to an appropriate repository (with preference to domain repositories) for curation and preservation.
  • Require community-agreed upon essential and optimal (preferred) metadata.
  • Collaborate with and endorse repositories (domain, general, institutional, government, etc) internationally who meet the data documentation and preservation standards and are part of a community of data preservation providers.
  • Implement these recommendations and guidelines developed by the community initially by a set of key journals and key repositories.

18-Month Timeline and Milestones

  • November 16-17th, 2017 – First Stakeholder Meeting, approximately 70 attendees.
    • Present and review possible solution components (existing), and draft final solution.
    • Determine any gaps, establish workgroups to address gaps.
  • December – April 2018
    • Workgroup activity addressing identified gaps
  • April – June 2018
    • Test/prototype full solution including workgroup recommendations
    • Update recommendations and guidelines with any needed adjustments
  • June 2018 – Second Stakeholder Meeting
    • Kickoff journal and repository adoption
  • June 2018 – February 2019
    • Adoption by Leading Publishers and Repositories
    • Provide Guidance and Support
    • Secure funding for completing the adoption process for the remaining repositories

Enabling FAIR Data Survey

You are invited to participate in a survey about the increasingly open use of data in science.  The information aggregated from the survey will directly support the “Enabling FAIR Data” project managed by a partnership that currently includes the American Geophysical Union, the Coalition on Publishing Data in the Earth and Space Sciences (COPDESS), the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) and Research Data Alliance (RDA), and has support from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), NatureScience, AuScope, National Computational Infrastructure of Australia, the Australian National Data Service, and the Center for Open Science. The project is funded by a grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

Your participation in the survey is voluntary and your responses will not be individually identified.  We estimate that it will take 10-15 minutes to complete the survey.  You can participate in the survey at the following link:


A summary of the findings will be shared back with you in a format designed to assist your location and others to achieve the full potential.

The survey is being conducted by Professor Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld of Brandeis University, who is an expert in organizational effectiveness and stakeholder alignment.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.  Your time is valuable and we appreciate your input.

Shelley Stall


Announcement – EOS Article

DataONE Webinar – Enabling FAIR Data, September 12 2017 – Recording Here

Peer Review Week – EOS Article

Have a question or interested in participating?

Contact:  Shelley Stall, sstall@agu.org
AGU Director of Data Programs