DataCrate: Formalising ways of packaging research data for re-use and dissemination

Dr Peter Sefton1

1University Of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, Australia



In 2013 Peter Sefton and Peter Bugeia presented at eResearch Australasia on a format for packaging research data(1), using standards based metadata, with one innovative feature – instead of including metadata in a machine readable format only, each data package came with an HTML file that contained both human and machine readable metadata, via RDFa, which allows semantic assertions to be embedded in a web page.

Variations of this technique have been included in various software products over the last few years, but the there was no agreed standard on which vocabularies to use for metadata, or specification of how the files fitted together.



This presentation will describe work in progress on the DataCrate specification(2), illustrated with examples, including a tool to create DataCrate. We will also discuss other work in this area, including Research Object Bundles (3)  and DataConservency(4) packaging.

We will be seeking feedback from the community on this work should it continue? Is it useful? Who can help out?

The DataCrate spec:

  • Has both human and machine readable metadata at a package (data set/collection) level as well as at a file level
  • Allows for and encourages inclusion of contextual metadata such as descriptions of organisations, facilities, experiments and people linked to files with meaningful relationships (eg to say a file was created by a particular machine, as part of a particular experiment, at an organisation).
  • Is a BagIt profile(5). BagIt(6) is a simple packaging standard for file-based data.
  • Has a README.html tag file at the root with bagit-style metadata about the distribution (contact details etc) with a link to;
  • a CATALOG.html file in RDFa, using metadata inside the payload (data) dir with detailed information about the files in the package, and a redundant CATALOG.json in JSON-LD format
  • Is extensible easily as it is based on RDF.



  1. Sefton P, Bugeia P. Introducing next year’s model, the data-crate; applied standards for data-set packaging. In: eResearch Australasia 2013 [Internet]. Brisbane, Australia; 2013. Available from:
  2. datacrate: Bagit-based data packaging specification for dissemination of research data with useful human and machine readable metadata: “Make Data Crate Again!” [Internet]. UTS-eResearch; 2017 [cited 2017 Jun 29]. Available from:
  3. Research Object Bundle [Internet]. [cited 2017 Jun 16]. Available from:
  4. Data Conservancy Packaging Specification Home [Internet]. [cited 2017 Jun 29]. Available from:
  5. Ruest N. BagIt Profiles Specification [Internet]. 2017 Jun. Available from:
  6. Kunze J, Boyko A, Vargas B, Madden L, Littman J. The BagIt File Packaging Format (V0.97) [Internet]. [cited 2013 Mar 1]. Available from:



Peter Sefton is the Manager, eResearch Support at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). Before that he was in a similar role at the university of Western Sydney (UWS). Previously he ran the Software Research and development Laboratory at the Australian Digital Futures Institute at the University of Southern Queensland. Following a PhD in computational linguistics in the mid-nineties he has gained extensive experience in the higher education sector in leading the development of IT and business systems to support both learning and research.

While at USQ, Peter was involved in the development of institutional repository infrastructure in Australia via the federally funded RUBRIC ( project and was a senior advisor the the CAIRSS repository support service ( from 2009 to 2011. He oversaw the creation of one of the core pieces of research data management infrastructure to be funded by the Australian National Data Service consulting widely with libraries, IT, research offices and eResearch departments at a variety of institutions in the process. The resulting Open Source research data catalogue application ReDBOX is now being widely deployed at Australian universities.

At UTS Peter is leading a team which is working with key stakeholders to implement university-wide eResearch infrastructure, including an institutional data repository, as well as collaborating widely with research communities at the institution on specific research challenges. His research interests include repositories, digital libraries, and the use of The Web in scholarly communication.

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