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

Dr Adela Sobotkova1, Assoc/Prof Shawn Ross1, Dr Brian Ballsun-Stanton1

1Macquarie University, North Ryde, 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 Slide Show
Presenter(s) Dr Adela Sobotkova, Research Associate, Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University and Co-Director, FAIMS Project.

A/Prof Shawn A Ross, Director of Data Science and eResearch, 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.


Adela Sobotkova is a landscape archaeologist who combines pedestrian field survey with digital methods to study the long-term history of the Balkans and Black Sea region, with focus on the evolution of social complexity. Adela is a co-director of the FAIMS project and an incoming assoc/prof of Digital History at the Aarhus University, Denmark.

About the conference

eResearch Australasia provides opportunities for delegates to engage, connect, and share their ideas and exemplars concerning new information centric research capabilities, and how information and communication technologies help researchers to collaborate, collect, manage, share, process, analyse, store, find, understand and re-use information.

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