Trusted Digital Repositories

In recent years, there have been multiple efforts to assess repositiories with the objective of making repository practices and procedures transparent, and assuring that valuable digital assets are protected.

Data Seal of Approval

The Data Seal of Approval is one such assessment initiative. Created by the Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) archive in The Netherlands and overseen by an international board, the Data Seal of Approval is meant to demonstrate to researchers that data repositories are taking appropriate measures to ensure the long-term availability and quality of data they hold.

The seal sets forth 16 guidelines related to trustworthy data management and stewardship. ICPSR was one of the first six data repositories to earn the Data Seal of Approval in 2011. You can read ICPSR's self-assessment. The other five archives awarded the Data Seal of Approval are the Archaeology Data Service (United Kingdom); the DANS Electronic Archiving System (Netherlands); the Platform for Archiving CINES (France); the Language Archive of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (Netherlands); and the UK Data Archive.

The seal is awarded after an online self-assessment regarding a data repository's adherence to the guidelines. The assessment is then reviewed by the DSA Board before the seal is given.

In Europe, the Data Seal of Approval serves as a Basic Certification step in an integrated framework for auditing and certifying digital repositories.

Trusted Repositories Audit and Certification

A product of more than three years' work, Trusted Repositories Audit & Certification (TRAC) has its roots in a joint task force created to develop criteria enabling the identification of digital repositories capable of reliably storing, migrating, and providing access to digital collections. Originally sponsored by RLG (Research Library Group, now known as OCLC) and the US National Archives and Records Administration, the work grew to incorporate and leverage work from several organizations, laying the groundwork for international collaboration on digital repository audit and certification between the DCC, RLG, NARA, nestor, and the US Center for Research Libraries.

TRAC provides tools for the audit, assessment, and potential certification of digital repositories, establishes the documentation requirements required for audit, delineates a process for certification, and establishes appropriate methodologies for determining the soundness and sustainability of digital repositories.

Trusted Repositories Audit & Certification: Criteria and Checklist (PDF) incorporates the sum of knowledge and experience, new ideas, techniques, and tools that resulted from cross-fertilization between the U.S. and European efforts.

In 2006, ICPSR participated in an test audit of the TRAC checklist and procedures. Findings are available here --

ICPSR also makes available extensive information about its archival procedures in a section of this website titled ICPSR: A Case Study.

In March 2012, the TRAC standard was approved by the International Standards Organization (ISO) for publication.


The DRAMBORA initiative, developed by the The Digital Curation Centre (DCC) and DigitalPreservationEurope (DPE), provides a Digital Repository Audit Method Based on Risk Assessment (DRAMBORA) toolkit. This toolkit is intended to facilitate internal audit by providing repository administrators with a means to assess their capabilities, identify their weaknesses, and recognize their strengths.