ICPSR Digital Preservation Policy Framework

Created April 2007; last revised June 2012

ICPSR fulfills its role as a trusted steward of the heritage of the social sciences by capturing the results of past and current social science research for future researchers. The Digital Preservation Policy Framework supports that mission and is the highest level digital preservation policy document at ICPSR. It makes explicit ICPSR's commitment to preserving the digital assets in its collections through the development and evolution of a comprehensive digital preservation program. The framework reflects the goals defined in the ICPSR Strategic Plan and contains references to other relevant ICPSR policies and procedures. The audience for the framework includes ICPSR members, staff, digital content depositors, funders, and users.

This framework also addresses a de facto standard of the digital preservation community, Trusted Digital Repositories: Attributes and Responsibilities (PDF). The organization of the framework reflects the seven attributes of a trusted digital repository:

  • OAIS compliance
  • Administrative responsibility
  • Organizational viability
  • Financial sustainability
  • Technological and procedural suitability
  • Systems security
  • Procedural accountability.

2. OAIS Compliance

In achieving its digital preservation objectives, ICPSR recognizes the need to comply with the prevailing standards and practice of the digital preservation community. ICPSR is committed to developing its digital preservation policies, repository, and strategies in accordance with the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) Reference Model (2012). ICPSR tracks and responds to related OAIS initiatives, including developments in digital archives certification, persistent identifiers, preservation metadata, and the producer-archive interface. The mapping of ICPSR's preservation process to OAIS is synthesized in Digital Preservation Requirements Applied to ICPSR.

3. Administrative Responsibility

As documented in its Constitution, ICPSR was established in 1962 as a data archive within the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Since then, ICPSR has had a fundamental commitment to and successful track record for acquiring and ensuring long-term access to core digital assets of social science.

3.1 Mandate

The mandate for digital preservation at ICPSR is multi-faceted:

  • Scholarly commitment: The digital preservation program at ICPSR enables scholarship by ensuring continued access to social science research results. ICPSR also supports the scientific mission of the Institute for Social Research (ISR) and the broader scholarly mission of the University of Michigan.
  • Membership services: ICPSR preserves social science digital assets and provides its members with ongoing access to its digital collections.
  • Contractual obligations and grants: ICPSR has contracted with data producers and received grant funding to ensure that social science research data are preserved and accessible.

3.2 Objectives

The digital preservation function at ICPSR is organized to address these objectives:
  • Maintain a comprehensive and responsive digital preservation program that identifies, acquires, verifies, archives, and distributes core social science digital assets
  • Adapt preservation strategies to incorporate the capabilities afforded by new and emerging technologies in cost-effective and responsible ways
  • Serve the needs of membership organizations by enabling uninterrupted access to digital content over time as the technology for digital content creation and distribution evolves
  • Meet the archival requirements of funding agencies and contracting entities committing to the long-term preservation of designated digital content
  • Demonstrate auditable compliance with and contribute to the development of the standards and practice of the digital preservation community
  • Foster collaborative partnerships with social science researchers and other digital archives to make the best use of available resources and avoid duplicative efforts

4. Organizational Viability

The digital preservation function is integrated into the operations and planning of ICPSR and throughout the management stages of the digital content lifecycle.

4.1 Scope

ICPSR accepts responsibility for preserving and making available digital content, associated documentation, and other metadata provided by depositors in accordance with the ICPSR Collection Development Policy. During processing, ICPSR makes an explicit institutional commitment to specific digital content that will be permanently archived, retained temporarily, or not retained at all.

4.2 Operating Principles

The ICPSR digital preservation function operates in accordance with an established set of principles. ICPSR strives to:

  • comply with OAIS and other digital preservation standards and practice
  • ensure that digital content at ICPSR can be provided to users and exchanged with partner and other digital archives so that it remains readable, meaningful, and understandable
  • participate in the development and promulgation of digital preservation community standards, practice, and research-based solutions
  • develop a scalable, reliable, sustainable, and auditable digital preservation repository
  • manage the hardware, software, and storage media components of the digital preservation function in accordance with environmental standards, quality control specifications, and security requirements.

4.3 Roles and Responsibilities

As an organization acting for its member institutions, funding bodies, and depositors, ICPSR has accepted responsibility for preserving its digital assets. Within ICPSR, the Director, the Digital Preservation Officer, the Computer and Network Services unit, the Collection Development unit, the topical archive managers, and the Collection Delivery unit all contribute to the management of the digital preservation function and the lifecycle of digital content at ICPSR. The ICPSR Council, an elected advisory board, evaluates high-level policy documents and reviews programmatic plans and progress. The roles and responsibilities within ICPSR for long-term management have been explicitly defined as part of the File-Level Archival Management Engine (FLAME) project.

4.4 Selection and Acquisition

The ICPSR Collection Development Policy sets forth the priorities and criteria for acquiring digital content. The ICPSR Deposit Form reflects the priorities and criteria that are defined in the policy. The Guide to Social Science Data Preparation and Archiving provides guidance and templates for depositors to encourage complete and well-documented deposits. ICPSR has also defined several lower-level policies, including the Series Policy that expresses ICPSR's commitment to acquiring the results of ongoing research projects, the Preservation with Delayed Dissemination Policy that stipulates terms and requirements for acquiring digital content that will not be made available immediately, and the Preservation-only Policy - draft that delineates criteria and requirements for preserving significant digital content that will continue to be made available by the content producers. The Collection Development Policy and the Guide are available on the ICPSR Web site and the related policies are available upon request.

4.5 Access and Use

The designated community at ICPSR, as described by OAIS, includes traditional users, i.e., social science researchers and graduate students at member institutions; and newer categories of users, e.g., undergraduates, policymakers, practitioners, and journalists. To protect the identity of human subjects who may be represented in the deposited data, ICPSR devotes significant resources to developing and implementing the means to ensure confidentiality.

ICPSR uses current technology and tools to provide a range of access services. The ICPSR Data Access Policy defines the principles and criteria for access to data in the ICPSR collections. ICPSR has developed lower-level policies and procedures to manage access to digital content, including Procedures for Processing Requests for Restricted Data, the Privacy Policy for handling information about users, Release Management Procedures that specifies the preparation of digital content for release, and the Requests for Permission to Redistribute ICPSR Data policy that addresses the use of ICPSR digital content by other data archives and distributors.

4.6 Challenges

ICPSR faces several digital preservation challenges.

  • Technological change: ICPSR, like any organizations engaged in digital preservation, needs to be responsive to continually changing technology. As information technology evolves, new digital content types, new capabilities, and new preservation challenges emerge and existing digital content faces the risk of obsolescence.
  • New digital content: To document social science research effectively, ICPSR is expanding the types of digital content collected to include research project Web sites, audio and video files, and geospatial information systems. Existing policies, procedures, and practices need to be revised or re-engineered to encompass new digital content.
  • Training and awareness: All of the ICPSR staff contribute directly and indirectly to the digital preservation function, though the majority of staff members do not have digital preservation as an explicit or significant portion of their responsibilities. ICPSR is committed to providing appropriate training for and raising awareness about digital preservation issues and developments both for its internal staff and for the broader community of data producers, data archivists, and data users.

5 Financial Sustainability

ICPSR has identified specific resources to support and enhance its digital preservation function.

5.1 Institutional Commitment

To sustain its digital preservation function, ICPSR has allocated a portion of its membership support to digital preservation services. In addition, ICPSR continually seeks external research funding to extend its digital preservation scope and capabilities and has secured contracts to fund specific initiatives. Detailed information about digital preservation funding is available in the ICPSR Annual Report and in the annual budget of ICPSR.

5.2 Cooperation and Collaboration

The active and collaborative research program at ICPSR integrates digital preservation requirements and competencies into its priorities and acknowledges digital preservation as a shared community responsibility. ICPSR has long-standing and emerging partnerships with other data archives, other digital repositories, data producers, and data providers in the United States and internationally for digital preservation cooperation and collaboration. The ICPSR Web site maintains a current list of partners and collaborative projects.

6. Technological and Procedural Suitability

The majority of digital content in the collections at ICPSR currently consists of social science research data, requisite documentation to use and understand the data, and associated files. Upon receipt of a deposit, ICPSR processes the digital content to ensure that confidential information has not been included in the data; corrects errors; fills gaps in the documentation; and produces distribution versions of the data. Technicians digitize documentation that is received only in hard copy format. ICPSR archives the original digital content received, the normalized versions of processed data, superseded versions of data that have been distributed. The archived files will enable ICPSR to retain the ability to regenerate distribution formats over time. For files submitted on physical storage media, ICPSR makes archival copies but does not preserve the original transmission media. In terms of documentation, ICPSR has been an active participant in the development of and is an adherent to the Data Documentation Initiative (DDI) standard.

ICPSR has adopted normalization and migration as its primary digital preservation strategies. Normalization produces file formats for data and documentation that are as close as possible to ASCII for text, or TIFF for images, to enable preservation, and reduces the range of file formats to be preserved to ensure that the digital preservation load is manageable. Migration converts digital content to current file formats as software and related technology evolve and copies digital content from older to newer storage media as part of a systematic program. ICPSR is investigating appropriate preservation strategies for the expanding range of digital content types in its collections.

7. System Security

The processing procedures for digital content at ICPSR actively address the need for ensuring the accuracy and completeness of digital content through the careful comparison of documentation and data submitted and the generation of metadata and documentation for data. The implementation at ICPSR of an automated deposit form addressed the need for ensuring the authenticity of digital assets by requesting detailed information and signatures for submission. ICPSR ensures the authenticity and integrity of its digital content through the active and ongoing use of checksums from receipt of the digital content onward. In addition, ICPSR conducts periodic reviews and audits of its digital content in archival storage.

ICPSR has developed several lower-level policy and procedural documents that address specific aspects of the long-term protection of its digital assets. For example, Secure Package Handling Procedures at ICPSR stipulates the procedure for receiving and sending physical packages containing sensitive data; Procedures for Processing Requests for Restricted Data stipulates the steps for responding to requests for restricted data; and ICPSR Policy on Receiving Data with Direct Identifiers defines appropriate actions when data received contain direct ICPSR define a set of principles for protecting digital assets within the context of disaster planning for ICPSR.

8. Procedural Accountability

As a member organization with a service orientation and as a proponent of good digital preservation practice, ICPSR is committed to transparency in its policies and operations and has established a program to develop, promulgate, and maintain a comprehensive set of policies, procedures, and protocols.

8.1 Audit and Transparency

ICPSR is continued to an ongoing self-assessment and improvement process that aligns policies and practice at ICPSR with the Trustworthy Repositories Audit and Certification (TRAC) requirements that were revised and incorporated into the ISO/DIS 16363 (CCSDS 652-R-1). In 2006, ICPSR participated as a test audit in the Certification of Digital Archives research project conducted by the Center for Research Libraries. ICPSR is committed to a two-year cycle of self-assessment and a five-year audit cycle to evaluate, measure, and adjust the policies, procedures, preservation approaches, and practices of the digital preservation function. Current ICPSR policies are available on the ICPSR website and or may be made available upon request.

8.2 Policy Framework Administration

This digital preservation policy framework was updated in June 2012 and approved by the ICPSR Council at the October 2012 meeting. The framework was initially completed in April 2007; approved by the ICPSR Directors Group on May 1, 2007; and approved by the ICPSR Council at the June 2007 meeting. The March 2006 predecessor document, ICPSR Preservation Policy, served as a starting point for developing the framework. ICPSR will review the framework every two years to ensure that it remains current and comprehensive as the digital preservation function at ICPSR evolves.

8.3 Definitions

The Glossary of Social Science Terms is available on the ICPSR website. It provides a definitions of terms used in this digital preservation policy framework and employed by the digital preservation function at ICPSR.

8.4 References

The resources list in the digital preservation section of the archived ICPSR website provides a list of ICPSR, digital preservation community, and other documents that have informed the development and maintenance of the framework.

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