Australian Data Archive as a Trusted Digital Repository, The Data Seal of Approval in the Australian Context

Dr Heather Leasor1, Dr Steven McEachern2

1Australian Data Archive, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia,

2Australian Data Archive, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia,



Data archives and funding agencies are increasingly interested in certification of data archives and repositories as “trusted digital repositories”.  This trustworthiness can be inclusive of the ‘FAIR’ principles but how do you ensure that ‘FAIR’ data is from a trusted source? There has been a recent interest in Australia in understanding certification models for Australian archives and repositories. In the social sciences, the Data Seal of Approval (DSA) established by DANS was the standard for certification until recently. The recent convergence among certification bodies to develop a more coherent framework for certification, has lead the DSA and the International Council for Science World Data System (ICSU-WDS) to establish a Partnership Working Group within the Research Data Alliance. They have aligned their guidelines to make one body for base level of certification.[1] The European Framework for Audit and Certification (EFAC) of Digital Repositories, incorporates three levels of certification which are detailed in Table 1, this is now used as the basis for certification within Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives (CESSDA).

Table 1: Types of Assessments for Trusted Digital Repositories [2]

  Core Extended Formal
Data Seal of Approval/ICSU WDS DIN 31644 ISO: International Organization for Standardization
Number of guidelines 16 100+
Type of certification Free Self-assessment evaluated by 2 accessors and a board review Paid assessment Paid assessment


The Australian Data Archive (ADA) was established in 1981 to provide a national service for the collection and preservation of digital research data and to make these data available for secondary analysis by academic researchers and other users [3]. The ADA holds over 5000 datasets from around 1500 studies sourced from academic, government and private sectors. The ADA has had a long standing relationship of trust with its users and depositors but this has never had a formal process or certification. The Australian National Data Service funded the ADA to undertake the DSA, to evaluate it for Australian requirements, and to implement selected changes to ADA policies, procedures and systems to enable DSA certification. This paper will provide an overview of both the process and outcomes of this project, an overview of the key findings of the evaluation of the EFAC model, and recommendations for both the DSA and for Australian and international repositories interested in certification.


The Australian Data Archive undertook a self-review based on the newly combined DSA/ICSU-WDS Data Seal of Approval 16 guidelines. Initially we assessed the changes from the DSA to the combined DSA/ICSU-WDS and found some of the new criterion were not represented in the former DSA assessment. We did a self-assessment based on the guidelines and the ADA was found to be at a level 4 of compliance with 12 of the 16 guidelines and the remaining 4 guidelines were at a level 3. The review process formerly only had one assessor but the combination of the agencies now requires two assessors and board review. One of the reviewers assigned believed that some of the levels of self-assessment were not accurate and requested more information. The final outcome of the assessment was not complete at the time of submission of this extended abstract.


The ADA was one of the first globally to undertake the combined DSA/ICSU-WDS certification,  test to base our self-assessment upon.

The conclusions we have drawn based upon the criterion are not necessarily only specific to Australia but are reflections of the diversity of the repository sector.

  • the complexity of institutions and repositories in the Australian context made assessment against the standard guidelines complex.
  • The national frameworks, infrastructure frameworks and funding frameworks used in Australia also lead to challenges in fulfilling requirements for the assessment and have unique relevance to Australian bodies.
  • Governance frameworks Australia
  • specific areas in which  could improve our own organization and delivery of information to our community of interestself-assessment process has lead the ADA to some redevelopments of delivery systems. It has also assisted in shaping policy and procedure documents and illuminated which items should be more clearly accessible in the public domain.


  1. Research Data Alliance Repository Audit and Certification. , accessed 22/06/2017
  2. Digital Preservation Handbook. Available from accessed 26/06/2017.
  3. Australian Data Archive. , accessed 22/06/2017



Dr Heather Leasor is a data archivist at the Australian Data Archive. She project managed the project for trusted digital repository for ADA with funding from ANDS.

Dr Steven McEachren he is Director  and Manager  of the ADA at ANU. He is responsible for daily operations, technical and   strategic  development of the archive. He has high level expertise  in survey methodology  and data archiving for over 15 years he has been actively involved in the development and application of survey research   methodology and technologies  in the Australian  university  sector.

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