From FAIMS to Fieldmark: Electronic field notebooks for offline digital data collection

This presentation will briefly present the history of the FAIMS Project, the current and planned feature set, and our approach to sustainability through a commercial open-source software business model.

The Field Acquired Information Management Systems (FAIMS) Project has been developing field data capture software since 2012. The first iteration of our software, FAIMS Mobile (for Android), was customised by about 45 projects for more than 65 workflows between 2014 and 2021. The software was flexible, essentially a platform allowing users to mint custom applications with their own data schemas and workflows. Although developed for archaeology, it was used for a range of disciplines, including geoscience, ecology, linguistics, ethnography, and oral history. In 2020, the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) and 19 partners invested in FAIMS to rebuild the platform using modern approaches and components.

Our new software, FAIMS3, retains key features of the previous version: it functions entirely offline, manages different types of data (structured, geospatial, multimedia, and text) together, and can accommodate each user’s particular data and workflow. The new version, moreover, is cross-platform (Android, iOS and desktop), offers new ways to integrate with other software, provides a DIY approach to customisation, and a more systematic approach to open research good practices. We are now preparing our first public release for early 2023.

FAIMS data collection in Macquarie River catchment western NSW, Australia.
Photo credit: Tess Nelson and Loren Pollitt CC-BY-SA 4.0 Int 2022


About the speakers

Shawn Ross (Co-Director, FAIMS Project)

Prof Shawn A Ross, FRSN, FSA (Ph.D. University of Washington, 2001) is a Professor of History and Archaeology and Director, Strategic Initiatives, Digitally Enabled Research, at Macquarie University. Shawn’s research interests include the history and archaeology of the ancient Balkans and the application of information technology to research. He helps lead two landscape archaeology projects, one in central and southeast Bulgaria and another in Greece. He also directs a major information infrastructure project developing data capture and management systems for field research. In 2022 Shawn took up an external secondment with the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) to serve as Product Manager for the Research Activity Identifier (RAiD), developing a global persistent identifier service for research projects and related activities. Previously, Prof Ross worked at the University of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia), the American University in Bulgaria (Blagoevgrad), and William Paterson University (Wayne, New Jersey).

Penny Crook (Co-Director, FAIMS Project)

Dr Penny Crook (PhD La Trobe University, Melbourne) is a historical archaeologist and part-time Research Fellow in the Department of History and Archaeology, Macquarie University. Her research interests include urban assemblage analysis, material-culture studies and digital research methods. She draws on cross-disciplinary research in consumption studies to analyse and interpret material culture derived from Australian historical archaeological sites. She has designed customised databases for artefact identification and other heritage applications and helped establish and maintain domain-specific repositories for archaeological data. She is Co-Director of the FAIMS3 project, creating open-source software for FAIR field data collection, and also runs a small archaeological consultancy practice.

Brian Ballsun-Stanton (Technical Lead, FAIMS Project)

Brian Ballsun-Stanton (PhD UNSW Australia) is Solutions Architect (Digital Humanities) with 10 years designing and delivering technical solutions for academic and student research projects at the Macquarie University Faculty of Arts. Chief Investigator in grants and prizes across the humanities and social sciences. These have included Technical Director for a field-data collection project, delivering 50+ field data collection modules since 2013 and Lead Investigator on a social media analysis project with findings presented to State Ministers. Member of The Carpentries, Instructor Trainer, and Instructor supporting Carpentries workshops and instructors across Australia. Lead instructor for 10+ carpentries workshops delivered since 2017 and active in local initiatives such as the Research Bazaar Sydney. Developed a partnership with Ubisoft that led to Macquarie University’s engagement on the Google Arts and Culture Platform, using AI to assist researchers in translating Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs.