The train metaphor

“Stations” are locations containing FAIR data. Stations can range from very large core databases to small Personal Lockers holding an individual’s own data. A station has house rules: each data element has an associated license describing what a visiting train is allowed to do with that data element. This can range from “nobody is allowed to do anything” to “anyone can use this element as they wish”. Stations are built and maintained by trusted parties and governed by the data owner.

“Trains” are ‘workflows’ executing specific research questions or use cases that need FAIR data. Trains can be big: “Which data elements are most predictive of survival after lung cancer given all data in the Netherlands?” or small and personal: “Is there a trial that I can join given my specific disease?” Trains are built and maintained by the researcher.

The “Track” sets, maintain and check the rules of interaction and is the interface between trains and stations. Only certified research trains and certified FAIR data stations are allowed on the track and their use is fully controlled and auditable. Tracks are built and maintained by health informatics experts.