A study reviewing the presence of certification information for organizations that are recognized as Trustworthy Digital Repositories by Devan Donaldson, an assistant professor of information science at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, has been published in PLOS ONE.
Donaldson’s paper, “Certification Information on Trustworthy Digital Repository Websites: A Content Analysis,” assesses what certification-related information TDRs from five continents and over 26 countries include on their websites. He ultimately wants to address whether the audit and certification of TDRs matter to stakeholders, such as funders, data producers, data consumers, etc., which wasn’t possible without first understanding what information TDRs provide. If certification of TDRs identifies them as high-quality archives, does it have an impact on the way they are perceived?
“Digital repositories are information systems that ingest, store, manage, preserve, and provide access to digital content, and TDRs are a subset of these that have undergone audit and certification by a third party to ensure they have the technical, legal, financial, and organizational capacity to preserve digital content over the long term,” Donaldson said. “It is important to know how the seals and certification marks that convey trustworthiness are used.”
Prior to Donaldson’s study, there was no systematic, empirical investigation of what, if any, information repositories put on websites regarding their TDR status. This study’s findings provide key insights into what information repositories actually provide including its placement. Donaldson’s research showed that most repositories provide a wide range of information about TDR certification on their websites including: attestations of their certification, explanations of the certification process, seals and certification marks, hyperlinks, and audit reports.
“Ultimately, all good data need a good home,” Donaldson said. “Digital repositories offer a huge benefit to society. Researchers care about innovation. Data drives innovation in so many areas, be it astronomy and outer space or biology and the spread of COVID-19. Data that are not taken care of and are not properly stored may cease to exist. Digital repositories provide a very important home for our data, including services for our users, grounding the foundation upon which scientific innovation rests. Some homes are better and fancier than others. Perhaps TDRs are the mansions of homes for our data.”
Donaldson plans to continue his research by conducting semi-structured interviews to learn more about why some TDRs do not include certification information on their websites despite having earned the right to do so.
“Research isn’t necessarily about finding a clear answer,” said Kay Connelly, associate dean for research at Luddy. “It’s often about discovering a clearer picture so more work can be done. Devan’s critical research is a great step toward illuminating the impact of certifications for TDRs, and it opens the door for further exploration.”