Digital accessibility, FAIR, and CARE principles

Last updated on 2023-11-01 | Edit this page



  • How does ensuring the accessibility of digital resources contribute to the active participation of underrepresented communities in the open science framework?
  • In what ways can adherence to the FAIR and CARE principles empower the engagement in open science efforts?


After completing this episode, participants should be able to:

  • Explain how the accessibility of digital resources enhances the implementation of open science practices
  • Define how the FAIR principles are used to guide open data practices
  • Describe how the CARE principles provide a framework that supports marginalized individuals and communities in regaining control over their materials


This second lesson focuses on Digital Accessibility, FAIR, and CARE Principles in library science.

First, we will delve into the concept of digital accessibility and its pivotal role in guaranteeing equitable access to scientific information and resources.

Next, we will work towards acquiring the knowledge and tools required to promote the FAIR Principles, facilitating the efficient organization and sharing of data.

Lastly, we will acquaint ourselves with the CARE Principles, which highlight ethical responsibilities and make valuable contributions to a more accessible and inclusive open science ecosystem.

Digital accesibility in open science

In educational and research institutions, groups are characterized by a diverse range of cultural backgrounds, gender identities, native languages, socioeconomic statuses, ages, abilities, among other attributes. Individuals can experience multiple forms of discrimination or privilege simultaneously, based on these intersecting social identities.

As a fundamental human right, digital accessibility seeks to eliminate attitudinal, policy, and social barriers to enable all individuals to fully engage in the digital world.


According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 7, 2023, 1 in every 6 people worldwide experiences a significant disability (1.3 billion individuals).


Some Latin American estimations:

  • In Argentina, the population aged six years and older with “some disability” comprises 10.2%. An estimated 3,571,983 individuals. (2018)
  • In Chile, 16.7% of the population has some form of disability. An estimated 2,836,818 people. (2016)
  • In the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, disability prevalence stands at 7.6% among the population residing in urban private households in cities with 5,000 or more inhabitants. An estimated 210,400 individuals (2004)

Digital accessibility ensures that technologies and information are available and effectively usable by all individuals, including those with disabilities. Its promotion fosters autonomy, social inclusion, and equal opportunities in the digital society. It benefits individuals with disabilities, older adults, those with limited technological literacy, and those who rely on assistive devices.

Promoting digital accesibility in research

Librarians play a crucial role in improving digital accessibility by providing support, resources, and guidance. Let’s start by identifying some key elements of digital accessibility:

  • Text content should be clear, concise, and formatted in a simple manner. This helps users to easily understand and navigate information.

  • Images should provide alternative text or alt text that describes the content and function of the image, making them accessible to individuals who use screen readers or have visual impairments.

  • Color combinations should have sufficient contrast to ensure readability for all users. This is especially important for text and background colors to accommodate individuals with visual impairments.

  • Videos should include subtitles and audio content. Subtitles provide a text-based version of spoken content, benefiting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

  • Transcripts for video and audio content should be available. Transcripts provide a written version of spoken content, making it accessible to those who prefer to read or need an alternative format.

There are different ways in which librarian’s can contribute to enhance accessibility for researchers:

  • Teach about digital accessibility best practices.

  • Help creating accessible documents, websites, and presentations.

  • Curate and promote accessible resources, databases, and platforms.

  • Provide consultations for researchers who need assistance making their research materials and presentations accessible.

  • Make accessibility tools and software available to researchers and guide them on how to use them.

  • Offer document conversion services to make research materials accessible.

  • Ensure that library spaces, including computer labs and study areas, are physically accessible to researchers with disabilities.

  • Create channels for researchers to provide feedback on the accessibility issues they encounter.

Bear in mind that thinking about accessibility helps create and promote digital products and interfaces that are intuitive, flexible, and usable for a diverse audience, ultimately improving the experience for all individuals.


Universal design:

The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design

Steinfeld E, Maisel J. Universal design: creating inclusive environments. New Jersey (NJ): Wiley; 2012.

Exercise: Multiple choice

In the realm of research, what does digital accessibility primarily focus on?

  1. Ensuring data encryption and cybersecurity measures are in place for research data.
  2. Making the research workflow and findings accessible and usable to all, including those with disabilities.
  3. Optimizing websites and digital platforms for faster access to research articles.
  4. Implementing cloud-based storage solutions for efficient data management.

B is correct

FAIR principles and data accessibility in open data practices.

While digital accessibility focuses on making digital content inclusive and user-friendly, data accessibility is concerned with making data sets, databases, and research findings open and accessible to researchers, policymakers, and the general public.

The FAIR principles are a set of guidelines and best practices designed to improve reusability of data, which refers to the ability to use existing data for different purposes beyond the original intent of its collection.

The FAIR acronym stands for Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reusability of data (or any digital object), metadata (information about that digital object), and infrastructure.


Check out the Go Fair website:

Data should be Findable

Data and associated metadata should be easily discoverable and accessible by both humans and computers. This ensures that researchers, scientists, and practitioners can efficiently locate the data they need for their work.

A globally unique and persistent identifier for data and metadata

In order to be findable, (Meta) data should be assigned a globally unique and persistent identifier. These identifiers remove ambiguity in the meaning of the published data, they make it findable, allow computers to interpret it in a meaningful way, and help the people who reuse it to properly cite it.

Many data repositories will automatically generate them when you store a datasets, but you can also use registry services that use algorithms to guarantee the uniqueness of the generated identifiers.

A few examples:

Descriptive metadata

Metadata provide essential context about the data, describing its content, structure, source, and other pertinent information. Extensive and descriptive metadata makes it possible to automatize some routine tasks which currently demand a lot of attention from researchers.

Examples of metadata frameworks:

Searchable resources to register or index data

Merely having an identifier and detailed metadata is not enough. The highest quality and most comprehensive datasets or digital resources are essentially useless if users are unaware of their existence. The process of ensuring discoverability of digital resources, particularly scholarly research data, is a critical step in facilitating efficient access and utilization of valuable information.

There are various methods that address this issue, such as indexing, specializes repositories, and cross-linling refences.


  • Indexing: Search engines send out crawlers that analyze web content, index it, and make it searchable. For scholarly research data, specialized indexing approaches tailored to the academic domain are necessary.

  • Specialized Repositories and Catalogs: Uploading data to specialized repositories or catalogs relevant to the specific field of research enhances discoverability within the target audience.

  • Cross-Linking and References: Creating links from related publications, datasets, or similar resources to the target dataset or resource can significantly boost discoverability. Academic papers that cite or reference the data also indirectly enhance its visibility.

Data should be Accesible

Within the FAIR principles, making the data accessible refers to making it easily available and retrievable to users and systems. It implies:

  • Clear Access Protocols: the protocol (HTTP, FTP, SMTP…) should be free (no-cost) and open (-sourced) and thus globally implementable to facilitate data retrieval and should ensure Metadata are accessible, even when the data are no longer available

  • Data Repositories: Storing data in reputable and accessible repositories or data centers, which offer standardized access methods (e.g., APIs, web interfaces), enhances accessibility.

  • Standardized Formats: Using widely accepted and standard data formats, such as Comma-Separated Values files, makes it easier for both humans and machines to access and interpret the data.

  • Compliance with Legal and Ethical Standards: Ensuring that data access complies with legal, ethical, and privacy standards to protect sensitive information while enabling appropriate accessibility.

Data should be Interoperable

Data should be easily integrated with other datasets, applications, workflows of analysis and processing. For this,

  • Use a language to represent information that has precisely defined syntax and grammar, is shared and accessible so that others can learn it, and can be used in multiple scenarios (e.g. RDF, JSON LD).

Data should be Reusable

The ultimate goal of FAIR is to optimize the reuse of data. To achieve this, metadata and data should be well-described so that they can be replicated and/or combined in different settings:

  • Described with accurate and relevant details.
  • With a clear and easy-to-understand license for usage.
  • Linked to its complete history and origin.
  • Adhering to the standards relevant to its field.

Exercise: Multiple choice

Which characteristics ensure that data can be easily located and accessed within a searchable resource?

  1. Data are assigned a unique and persistent identifier.
  2. Data are described with rich metadata.
  3. Data are locked in a secure vault.
  4. Data are kept offline and inaccessible to others.

A and B are correct


To make their findings openly accessible to the public, researchers have different options:

  • Green Open Access (Green Route):

It involves self-archiving or depositing a version of a scholarly article or research output in a repository or other online platform. Typically, this is done after the work has been published in a subscription-based journal. Authors retain the rights to their work and can share it publicly without violating copyright restrictions. Green open access enhances the visibility and accessibility of research outputs.

  • Diamond Open Access (Diamond Route):

Also known as “gold” open access, it involves making research outputs freely accessible immediately upon publication, and readers can access them without any paywalls or subscription fees. Diamond open access journals often cover publication costs through various means, such as institutional support, grants, or author fees.

CARE principles and open science

The CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance are a set of guidelines developed to address the unique needs and considerations related to the collection, use, and management of data pertaining to Indigenous people and communities. The acronym stands for Collective Benefit, Authority to Control, Responsibility, and Ethics.

Collective Benefit from the data ecosystems design and function

  • The use of data should be facilitated by establishing the foundations for Indigenous innovation, value generation, and the promotion of local self-determined development processes.
  • The use of data should enrich the planning, implementation, and evaluation processes that support the service and policy needs of Indigenous communities.
  • Any value created from Indigenous data should benefit Indigenous communities and contribute to their well-being.

Authority to Control data

  • Recognizing the interests in Indigenous Knowledge and data, and the Indigenous people’s right to consent in data collection and policy development.
  • Data for governance must be made available and aligned with their worldviews for self-determination and governance.
  • Creation of protocols to control the management and access to information.

Responsibility of those working with Indigenous data

  • For establishing positive relationships, built on respect, trust, and dignity for Indigenous Peoples.
  • For enhancing the communities competencies to create the digital infrastructure for data creation, collection, administration, security, governance, and usability.
  • For Indigenous languages and worldviews, and lived experiences, including values and principles.

Ethics in the data life cycle and across the data ecosystem

  • For minimizing harm and maximizing benefit, aligning the data treatment with Indigenous ethical frameworks and rights affirmed in UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples).
  • For justice that rectifies power and resource imbalances affecting Indigenous and human rights expression.
  • For future use acknowledging the provenance and purpose and any limitations or obligations in secondary use, including issues of consent.


The CARE principles empower underrepresented individuals and communities to actively participate in the management and sharing of their research and data through:

  • Respecting the sovereignty of Indigenous communities, honoring their rights to self-governance and self-determination.

  • Prioritizing Indigenous values, worldviews, and cultural norms in all interactions, aligning actions with community traditions.

  • Investing in community research and development capacity, empowering active participation in decision-making and research.

  • Embracing and adhering to existing tribal and Indigenous data governance protocols, respecting established mechanisms for data management and sharing.

  • Providing support to Indigenous scholars within communities and academia, involving them in decision-making, co-authorship, and grant review processes to leverage their unique expertise and perspectives.

Exercise: Multiple choice

In the CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance, what does “Collective Benefit” emphasize?

  1. Ensuring data is accessible to all members of the community.
  2. Protecting the rights and interests of individual data contributors.
  3. Prioritizing the benefits of the research for the broader community.
  4. Safeguarding data from unauthorized access and use.

C is correct

Key Points

  • Considering the digital accessibility of the research workflow, ensures everyone can contribute and fully benefit from its products.
  • In order to be reusable, data should be findable, accessible, and interoperable. This is essential to accelerate scientific discoveries and decrease research costs, improving the opportunities of marginalized communities to get involved.
  • Data should contribute to the well-being and advancement of the community as a whole rather than individual or external interests.