Accessible: (Meta)data are retrievable by their identifier using a standardised communication protocol

The tale

Alok was the saddest elf in the whole kingdom of Datamania. Or so he thought. A wizard found him by the Magellan fountain on his way back to the castle.

– “What’s up?” the wizard asked in a perky way.

– “I was sent off to the kingdom of Dovia to read all the descriptions of their data chests and to see which ones we could buy. Alas, I was not able to read a single one. I’m horrible at this!” Alok cried out.

– “Don’t be so hard on yourself”, the wizard replied in a sweet and soft voice, regretting his perky attitude. “Tell me exactly what happened.”

– “Every time I grabbed a chest to read what was inside, all the letters on the label changed position. I tried to follow them, but they just kept changing. I’m supposed to be able to read them, aren’t I?” Alok muttered.

– “Oh, you have come across some old Dovian data chests written in chunky Dovianic. It is complete nonsense to us – and to them as well, I might add. Nobody can read chunky Dovianic, and it is a shame that we cannot even read the chests’ descriptions. The last creature that was able to read it was a toad, but he passed away some years ago.”

– “This is so complicated,” Alok sighed. “I should go and sleep for a couple of days. My eyes are really tired.”

– “Good idea”, said the wizard. “And keep up the good work”.

The truth

Once someone has found either your metadata or the data themselves, they – or their machine – should be able to access the (meta)data using standardised mechanisms. This principle states that access should be provided through a standardised protocol. Most often, these are protocols we know from the internet – e.g. http(s) or FTP. This is usually the case, when data are deposited in a trusted repository. However, there might be cases where you will need additional mechanisms such as contract information or similar before someone can access your data. This is perfectly in line with the FAIR principles, if you clearly account for this in the metadata. This may be in the form of contact options that are broadly accepted and easy to use. Examples of this are telephone numbers and email addresses.