Seven years of FAIMS Mobile and still going strong

Categorised: INSPIRE, News

The Field Acquired Information Management System (FAIMS) project has grown exponentially over the past 7 years. Since its inception in 2012, FAIMS software has been customised for 58 workflows and deployed across six of the seven continents. 

FAIMS was originally funded by Nectar, now the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC), and was designed to provide tools and services to archeologists.  The project has since expanded its scope to support a range of disciplines including geosciences, ecology, oral history, linguistics, and ethnography (the study of people and cultures), including citizen science applications.

The FAIMS project builds open-source tools for digital data collection in the field. Recognising the diversity of field research and the variety of data field researchers collect, the FAIMS platform takes a ‘generalised’ approach that allows researchers to generate a custom workflow in an Android application specific to their own fieldwork.  Researchers in remote locations are then able to capture their data efficiently on their mobiles, while using their own workflows. These workflows can then be publically shared online, supporting open science and reproducible research. 

“FAIMS Mobile has been such an incredible advantage in terms of workload, data quality, and other data management issues. It readily links disparate data types that are otherwise stored separately, such as photographs, tabular logs, and context relationships,” Jessica Thompson, Malawi Early-Middle Stone Age Project, Emory University said.

The platform is capable of capturing and integrating various data types including structured data, text, multimedia, instrument data and geospatial data.  The application boasts features such as versioning, data exports, mobile mapping and sensor connectivity. Multiple users can create, view, and edit data on the same workflow while offline, with data being synced when they return to a network.

The FAIMS project received two awards, one from the  Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Infrastructure Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) in 2014 and a Research Attraction and Acceleration Program in 2016.  These funds were used to further improve and enhance the FAIMS platform, as a result of user feedback. FAIMS is currently planning a major re-engineering of the platform to encourage wider use, after participating in the CSIRO ON Prime pre-accelerator. This update will improve performance and scalability, and add features requested by users, including cross-platform support, better interoperability with desktop software, and self-customisation using a web-based graphic user interface. Although the update is yet to be implemented, the application design was selected as a winner of the ‘DataApp: A Mobile App Framework for Field Data Capture’ competition, US Bureau of Reclamation / US Geological Survey prize in 2018.