Since 2009 initiatives that were selected for the roadmap of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures started working to build research infrastructures for a wide range of research disciplines. An important result of the strategic discussions was that distributed infrastructure scenarios were now seen as “complex research facilities” in addition to, for example traditional centralised infrastructures such as CERN. In this paper we look at five typical examples of such distributed infrastructures where many researchers working in different centres are contributing data, tools/services and knowledge and where the major task of the research infrastructure initiative is to create a virtually integrated suite of resources allowing researchers to carry out state-of-the-art research. Careful analysis shows that most of these research infrastructures worked on the Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability and Reusability dimensions before the term “FAIR” was actually coined. The definition of the FAIR principles and their wide acceptance can be seen as a confirmation of what these initiatives were doing and it gives new impulse to close still existing gaps. These initiatives also seem to be ready to take up the next steps which will emerge from the definition of FAIR maturity indicators. Experts from these infrastructures should bring in their 10-years' experience in this definition process.
Institutions driving fundamental research at the cutting edge such as for example from the Max Planck Society (MPS) took steps to optimize data management and stewardship to be able to address new scientific questions. In this paper we selected three institutes from the MPS from the areas of humanities, environmental sciences and natural sciences as examples to indicate the efforts to integrate large amounts of data from collaborators worldwide to create a data space that is ready to be exploited to get new insights based on data intensive science methods. For this integration the typical challenges of fragmentation, bad quality and also social differences had to be overcome. In all three cases, well-managed repositories that are driven by the scientific needs and harmonization principles that have been agreed upon in the community were the core pillars. It is not surprising that these principles are very much aligned with what have now become the FAIR principles. The FAIR principles confirm the correctness of earlier decisions and their clear formulation identified the gaps which the projects need to address.