Will It Ever Be FAIR?: Making Archaeological Data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable


A fundamental task of archaeology is to address challenging scientific questions related to the complexity of human societies. If we are to systematically understand the processes that affect human societies on multiple spatial and temporal scales, research leveraging existing archaeological data is essential. However, only a fraction of the data from archaeological projects are publicly findable or accessible, let alone interoperable or reusable. This is the case despite statements of disciplinary ethics, availability of capable technologies for data stewardship, publications providing guidance, and legal mandates. This article introduces the FAIR principles for data stewardship in North American archaeology, which state that data should be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable. We call for efforts to promote widespread adoption of the FAIR and CARE (Collective benefit, Authority to control, Responsibility, and Ethics) principles among professional organizations, publishers, data repositories, and researchers. We also call for adoption and implementation of requirements to adhere to these principles by governmental agencies, funding bodies, and other regulators of archaeological research. Ultimately, adoption of the FAIR principles in an ethical framework contributes to our understanding of our human experience and can lead to greater integration and reuse of research results, fostering increased partnerships between academia and industry.

Advances in Archaeological Practice