Personal tools


DSA–WDS Certification Working Group Case Statement

Data sharing is a hot topic. Sharing enables reuse of data by researchers who did not generate these data themselves; leading to greater efficiencies, more research, and thus a higher return on investment. Moreover, it offers researchers the possibility to combine datasets and to use them in other disciplines, as well as stimulating their usage beyond academic research. Ultimately, data sharing makes science more transparent and facilitates replication of research by others; especially important elements in upholding the integrity of research as part of the scholarly record. To ensure the quality and usability of shared data, and provide long-term preservation and access, sustainable data repositories are key components of scientific infrastructure. Repositories manage and archive scientific and scholarly data; safeguarding against the loss of substantial investment and stimulating additional research. Notwithstanding, guaranteeing the trustworthiness of a digital repository to perform the aforementioned functions is vital, and certification by an appropriate authority is fundamental in providing the needed guarantees. Repository certification promotes trust and confidence in the usability and persistence of shared data resources, and also helps the repositories themselves to improve their practices and procedures.

Value Proposition

Who will benefit:

Repository certification is important because it promotes trust and confidence in the usability and persistence of shared data resources. It also helps repositories improve their practices and procedures. However, the value of certification is not apparent to all communities; more work needs to be done to clarify the problem that certification solves and to demonstrate that certification is worth the associated effort.
By reconciling two fundamental and lightweight certification mechanisms, we seek to simplify the array of certification options and to show the value to be gained from a certification procedure requiring relatively low investment of time and effort. Four community stakeholder groups will directly benefit from this combined certification standard for trusted digital data repositories and services:
Researchers, who want to be confident that the integrity and authenticity of data in digital repositories are protected; that those data remain accessible, usable, and meaningful over time; and that the data services provided can be safely used.
Funders, who want reassurance that their investment in the production of valuable research data is not wasted, and will continue to stimulate research into the future. Certification will make it easier for funders to assess repositories and to make informed investment decisions. Indeed, some funders in the Netherlands, for example, require the deposit of data they fund in trusted repositories.
Data repositories and services, for which certification provides a quality indicator to show to funders and users. In addition, the certification process will provide them with advice on where improvements are needed and useful.
Science publishers, who want to redirect article-related data and other supplementary materials to trustworthy data repositories.
More generally, a combined standard will benefit the larger community of scientific data users because more repositories will be certified; leading to greater trust in these institutions and more data sharing.


By combining forces, DSA and ICSU-WDS bring together much expertise and experience in the area of certification over a broad range of disciplines and with a global reach. Collaboration will create an opportunity to profit from the best elements of the two organizations. It will create an economy of scale, as well as the required critical mass of stakeholders to offer a certification service that is of high quality, efficient, agile, and able to serve the scientific community in an age in which the demand for data sharing will only grow.
The activities of this WG are furthermore of great value to the overall certification goals. The DSA–WDS partnership will work under the umbrella of the RDA/WDS IG on Certification of Digital Repositories. The long-term goal of the IG is implementation of certification as a common service in order to stimulate the development of a global network of trusted digital repositories that meet international certification standards. This long-term goal calls for an incremental and iterative approach; consisting of a number of limited, targeted, relatively short-term and sequenced steps.
The first of these steps will be the DSA–WDS partnership: DSA and ICSU-WDS do not fully address the same targets. The envisioned work examining the commonalities and differences will therefore highlight the issues that arise from having different approaches, with the goal of possibly bringing together the two certification methods.
Secondly, developing a common organizational framework for ICSU-WDS and DSA will serve as an exemplar, and make it possible to clarify the requirements for opening up this authority at a later stage to other certification bodies.
Finally, mutual work performed by DSA and ICSU-WDS in this WG will be the starting point for a second stage encompassing other organisations that deal with data repository certification.
Dissemination of the results of DSA–WDS collaboration, and preliminary discussions with other potential groups, will be managed by the Certification IG. In the initial instance, we are focusing on two community-driven organisations offering core certification in order to comply with the schedule and practical deliverables expected of RDA-endorsed WGs. We hope to gain knowledge in this first phase of work that can then be applied more broadly.

Work Plan

The main goals are to improve—and possibly combine—the current ICSU-WDS and DSA certification catalogues and procedures, thereby identifying synergies between these organisations and ultimately other organisations and initiatives. Three steps are planned:

  1. Mapping and comparing the guidelines, processes, and review procedures of DSA and ICSU-WDS in order to explore further collaboration and understand similarities and differences. Of particular interest will be examination of the review procedures within scientific networks, such as the ICSU Scientific Unions. Other important aspects to explore include the expertise of reviewers, as well as that of applicants.
  2. Compiling a common catalogue of certification criteria. Both organisations have developed criteria for a repository function. The WG will first attempt to merge the generic parts of the WDS and DSA catalogues related to data repositories. It will then look to appropriately describe and group all the specialized functions that data services may possess, before finally establishing a catalogue of criteria to handle these.
  3. Developing a common testbed, and its surrounding organisational framework, for peer review and certification based on the current WDS and DSA catalogues and certification procedures. The testbed will provide practical insight into the proposed common WDS–DSA catalogue and review process, thus enabling iterative improvements to those procedures. The testbed will be driven by the DSA Board and the WDS Scientific Committee. A pool of reviewers will be set up to test the common procedures developed.

Download the full Certification Case Statement.