Field Acquired Information Management Systems Project: FAIMS Mobile, a customisable platform for data collection during field research

A/Prof. Shawn Ross1, Dr Adela Sobotkova1, Dr Brian Ballsun-Stanton

1Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

Title Field Acquired Information Management Systems Project: FAIMS Mobile, a customisable platform for data collection during field research
Synopsis FAIMS Mobile is open-source, customisable software designed specifically to support field research across many domains. It allows offline collection of structured, text, multimedia, and geospatial data on multiple Android devices, and is built around an append-only datastore that provides complete version histories. It includes customisable export to existing databases or in standard formats. Finally, it is designed for rapid prototyping using and easy redeployability to reduce the costs of implementation. Developed for ‘small data’ disciplines, FAIMS Mobile is designed to collect heterogenous data of various types (structured, free text, geospatial, multimedia) produced by arbitrary methodologies. Customised by an XML-based domain specific language, it supports project-specific data models, user interfaces, and workflows, while also addressing problems shared across field-based projects, such as provision of a mobile GIS, data validation, delivery of contextual help, and automated synchronisation across multiple devices in a network-degraded environment. Finally, it promotes synthetic research and improves transparency and reproducibility through the production of comprehensive datasets that can be mapped to vocabularies or ontologies as they are created.
Format of demonstration Slides / screenshots
Presenter(s) A/Prof Shawn A Ross, Director of Data Science and eResearch, Macquarie University and Co-Director, FAIMS Project.

Dr Adela Sobotkova, Research Associate, Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University and Co-Director, FAIMS Project.

Dr Brian Ballsun-Stanton, Research Associate, Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University and Technical Director, FAIMS Project.

Target research community Researchers in fieldwork disciplines where people (rather than automated sensors) collect data, e.g., archaeology, biology, ecology, geosciences, linguistics, oral history, etc.
Statement of Research Impact FAIMS Mobile has changed users’ daily practice. Case studies indicate that users benefit from the increased efficiency of fieldwork (the time saved by avoiding digitisation more than offsets the time required to implement the system). Born-digital data avoided problems with delayed digitisation, which often occurred long after field recording when the context of records had been forgotten. Researchers reported more complete, consistent, and granular data, and that information could be exchanged more quickly between field researchers and lab specialists, facilitating the evaluation of patterns for meaning. They also observed that the process of moving from paper to digital required comprehensive reviews of field practice, during which knowledge implicit in existing systems to become explicit and data was modelled carefully for the first time.
Request to schedule alongside particular conference session  
Any special requirements Nothing special.


Shawn A Ross (Ph.D. University of Washington, 2001) is Associate Professor of History and Archaeology and the Director of Data Science and eResearch at Macquarie University.  A/Prof Rossʼs research interests include the history and archaeology of pre-Classical Greece, oral tradition as history (especially Homer and Hesiod), the archaeology of the Balkans (especially Thrace), Greece in its wider Mediterranean and Balkan context, and the application of information technology to research. Since 2009, the focus of A/Prof Rossʼs work has been fundamental archaeological research in Bulgaria. He is a Research Associate at the American Research Center in Sofia, Bulgaria, and supervises the Tundzha Regional Archaeological Project (, a large-scale archaeological survey and palaeoenvironmental study in central and southeast Bulgaria. Since 2012 A/Prof Ross has also directed the Field Acquired Information Management Systems (FAIMS) project ( aimed at developing data capture, management, and archiving resources for researchers in fieldwork-based disciplines. Previously, A/Prof Ross worked at the University of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia) and William Paterson University (Wayne, New Jersey).

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