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Integrated use of multidisciplinary data is nowadays a recognized trend in scientific research, in particular in the domain of solid Earth science where the understanding of a physical process is improved and made complete by different types of measurements – for instance, ground acceleration, SAR imaging, crustal deformation – describing a physical phenomenon. FAIR principles are recognized as a means to foster data integration by providing a common set of criteria for building data stewardship systems for Open Science. However, the implementation of FAIR principles raises issues along dimensions like governance and legal beyond, of course, the technical one. In the latter, in particular, the development of FAIR data provision systems is often delegated to Research Infrastructures or data providers, with support in terms of metrics and best practices offered by cluster projects or dedicated initiatives. In the current work, we describe the approach to FAIR data management in the European Plate Observing System (EPOS), a distributed research infrastructure in the solid Earth science domain that includes more than 250 individual research infrastructures across 25 countries in Europe. We focus in particular on the technical aspects, but including also governance, policies and organizational elements, by describing the architecture of the EPOS delivery framework both from the organizational and technical point of view and by outlining the key principles used in the technical design. We describe how a combination of approaches, namely rich metadata and service-based systems design, are required to achieve data integration. We show the system architecture and the basic features of the EPOS data portal, that integrates data from more than 220 services in a FAIR way. The construction of such a portal was driven by the EPOS FAIR data management approach, that by defining a clear roadmap for compliance with the FAIR principles, produced a number of best practices and technical approaches for complying with the FAIR principles.
Such a work, that spans over a decade but concentrates the key efforts in the last 5 years with the EPOS Implementation Phase project and the establishment of EPOS-ERIC, was carried out in synergy with other EU initiatives dealing with FAIR data. On the basis of the EPOS experience, future directions are outlined, emphasizing the need to provide i) FAIR reference architectures that can ease data practitioners and engineers from the domain communities to adopt FAIR principles and build FAIR data systems; ii) a FAIR data management framework addressing FAIR through the entire data lifecycle, including reproducibility and provenance; and iii) the extension of the FAIR principles to policies and governance dimensions.
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