Data Archives and Digital Preservation

Data archives play a central role in times when data is considered “the new gold” and when there is increasing pressure on researchers to manage, archive, and share their data1.

What exactly is the role of data archives?

They must strive to both be reliable providers of services to those seeking to securely store research data, and suppliers of data for researchers who seek to reuse data in their own analyses or teaching.

Offering far more than a storage facility, archives actively curate and preserve research data. This entails the design and implementation of suitable strategies, policies, and procedures to maintain the usability, understandability and authenticity of the data.

In this role, archives are met with numerous requirements from a number of different actors.

  • Users:
    who expect to be provided with high-quality data which is easily accessible, understandable and well-documented;
  • Data producers:
    who look for support and guidance throughout the research process and who expect archives to keep their data safe and protect it against unauthorised use;
  • Funders:
    who count on archives to efficiently ensure the quality of the data and sustain its intellectual value for generations.

Thus, pressure on researchers has increased, but this is similarly true for archives, which face a more competitive environment today than in the past, as well as demands for greater transparency and accountability (closely linked to the availability of audit procedures and certification standards)2. Nowadays, a broad range of actors are involved in data sharing, from research data centres (e.g. SHARE ERIC), institutional repositories, university libraries, other online tools or websites etc. However, these do not necessarily offer the active data curation that social science data archives offer.

In the social sciences, data preservation and sharing comes with the added responsibility of protecting the human subjects of the research in line with data protection laws and regulations. This can be done through suitable anonymisation strategies, or by restricting access to data which is only weakly anonymised.

To help archives meet these challenges, CESSDA Training offers resources, workshops, and consultancy to support the development and provision of trustworthy, sustainable, and efficient preservation services throughout the CESSDA community.

1 http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-11-872_en.htm?locale=en

2 e.g. Data Seal of Approval, DIN 31644, and ISO 16363

The CESSDA User Guide on digital preservation can be downloaded below.

CESSDA User Guide DP
Name Type Size
1_What is digital preservation PDF 252 KB
2_OAIS PDF 199 KB
3_Data appraisal and ingest PDF 225 KB
4_Documentation and metadata PDF 157 KB
5_Access and reuse PDF 201 KB
6_Trusted digital repositories: audit and certification PDF 165 KB

Last updated: Wednesday 23 March 2016

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