Ten simple rules for making a vocabulary FAIR

Simon J.D. Cox, Alejandra N. Gonzalez-Beltran, Barbara Magagna, Maria Cristina Marinescu

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


We present ten simple rules that support converting a legacy vocabulary—a list of terms available in a print-based glossary or in a table not accessible using web standards—into a FAIR vocabulary. Various pathways may be followed to publish the FAIR vocabulary, but we emphasise particularly the goal of providing a globally unique resolvable identifier for each term or concept. A standard representation of the concept should be returned when the individual web identifier is resolved, using SKOS or OWL serialised in an RDF-based representation for machine-interchange and in a web-page for human consumption. Guidelines for vocabulary and term metadata are provided, as well as development and maintenance considerations. The rules are arranged as a stepwise recipe for creating a FAIR vocabulary based on the legacy vocabulary. By following these rules you can achieve the outcome of converting a legacy vocabulary into a standalone FAIR vocabulary, which can be used for unambiguous data annotation. In turn, this increases data interoperability and enables data integration.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1009041
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


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