Working Group formed by CI Compass for NSF Major Facilities to help make data FAIR

Author: Christina Clark

Don Brower, CI Compass team member and computational scientist, during the FAIR Data panel at the 2022 CI Compass Cyberinfrastructure for NSF Major Facilities Workshop.

By Christina Clark

In August, CI Compass launched its FAIR Data Topical Working Group. Making data FAIR, or Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable, is a present and growing need within facilities that deal with large volumes of data, especially the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Major Facilities. Scientists and researchers need to find ways to adhere to the FAIR principles.  Preserving and sharing data is not only important for research and scholarship; the data will also be essential for the development, training, and machine learning models in the future. Thus, researchers also need to prepare their data to work with developing these models. 

The group will meet monthly to discuss and solicit topics. In the future, the group will develop recommendations for implementing FAIR practices, organize guest speakers for webinars, and disseminate research. The group will periodically assess its participation and products, and  decide on future activities.

During CI Compass’s “Cyberinfrastructure for National Science Foundation (NSF) Major Facilities Workshop” in March 2022, Don Brower, CI Compass team member and computational scientist, took note of the growing questions and discussion surrounding the panel he and fellow CI Compass computer scientist Chuck Vardeman led. They led a panel titled “Making the Major Facilities Data Lifecycle FAIR to Provide AI-Ready Data,” which was just under two hours long. However, conversations on FAIR practices continued through networking sessions and beyond the workshop.

“There is not really another forum, especially for people in the Major Facilities, to discuss the challenges with making processes FAIR. The facilities have unique operations, legacy systems, and they are all in different disciplines,” said Brower. “There are concerns that seem to be unique to the Major Facilities, and that really stood out during the workshop."

The Topical Working Group’s charter notes that the workshop participants were aware of the FAIR principles, and there was a desire to improve the “FAIR-ification” of the Major Facilities’ data. “While participants clearly indicated the willingness to implement FAIR, they questioned how to determine what exactly is considered FAIR and how best to implement FAIR,” according to the charter.

Due to the complexity of implementing the FAIR principles on data, Brower said he hopes the group’s discussions prove helpful for the Major Facilities and cyberinfrastructure practitioners involved.

“The FAIR principles provide a direction, but now how to get there,” said Brower. “What we want to do is focus in the middle of the FAIR topic. At the top , there is what we want to do and what the principles are. At the bottom, there are the thoughts on how we build our systems. We think there is a middle area that we can try to aim for. It is a level above information technology (IT) and how we use IT, and that’s what we want to focus on. It’s evolving.”

CI Compass encourages NSF Major and Midscale Facility cyberinfrastructure practitioners who are interested in joining the discussion in the FAIR Working Group to reach out to for more information.

CI Compass has materials linked and published in its Resource Library regarding FAIR practices.

About CI Compass

CI Compass is funded by the NSF Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering under grant number 2127548. Its participating research institutions include the University of Southern California, Indiana University, Texas Tech University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Utah.

To learn more about CI Compass, please visit


Christina Clark, Research Communications Specialist

CI Compass / Notre Dame Research / University of Notre Dame / 574.631.2665 / @cicompass