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Minimum Criteria for an Archival Repository of Digital Scholarly Journals

Version 1.1
D. Greenstein and D. Marcum 17 April 2000


This document sets out the minimum criteria of a digital archival repository that that acts to preserve digital scholarly publications. It is based closely on the Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System and modified to reflect the specific needs of library, publishing, and academic communities. It also indicates some of the key research issues that are likely to emerge for those who establish digital archival repositories that meet these criteria.

The criteria have been agreed by representatives from university research libraries that have a stated interest in contributing to the development of such repositories. They are to be reviewed shortly by a group of publishers (Version 1.2) and finally by representatives of library licensing consortia. In the meantime, comments are actively encouraged from the broadest possible community and should be sent to dlf@clir.org.

Revisions of this document will be maintained on this web site.

Criterion 1. The digital archival repository that acts to preserve digital scholarly publications will be a trusted third party that conforms to minimum requirements agreed by both scholarly publishers and libraries.

Agreed minimum criteria are essential. Libraries need them to assure themselves and their patrons that digital content is being maintained, and to enforce any maintenance requirement on scholarly publishers. Publishers need them so they may demonstrate to libraries, but also their authors that they are taking all reasonable measures to ensure persistence of their publications. Finally, emerging repositories need them as a blue print for services, but also as a benchmark against which service can be measured, validated, and above all trusted by the libraries and publishers that rely upon them.

The key research question entails the definition of those criteria. Initial meetings with libraries and publishers are an essential first step in developing these definitions. Their refinement is expected to be an iterative process, one that takes account of experience building, maintaining, and using digital archival repositories.

Criterion 2. The repository will define its mission with regard to the needs of scholarly publishers and the research libraries. It will also be explicit about which scholarly publications it is willing to archive.

This definition will help to focus the repository on the nature and extent of digital information it will acquire and on the requirements of the research library as the primary recipient of any data disseminated by the repository.

Research issues:

  • Mission statements" that document the scope and nature of materials a repository aims to collect, the strategy and methods it adopts for developing its collections (attracting deposits), and the community of libraries (and other users) it seeks to serve.
  • The development of registries that documenting what scholarly publications are archived where (and implicitly those not archived at all), is a further research issues

Criterion 3. The repository will negotiate and accept appropriate deposits from scholarly publishers.

The repository will develop criteria to guide consideration of what publications it is willing to accept. Criteria may include subject matter, information source, degree of uniqueness or originality, and the techniques used to represent the information (e.g., physical media, digital format, representation information).

Individual negotiations with publishers may result in deposit agreements between the repository and the data producer. Deposit agreements may identify the detailed characteristics of the data (and accompanying metadata) that are deposited, the procedures for deposit, the respective roles, responsibilities, and rights of the repository and the data producer with regard to those data, references to the procedures and protocols by which a repository will verify the arrival and completeness of the deposited data, etc.

Research issues:

  • Selection criteria used by the repository to review potential accessions
  • Guidelines for depositors that identify preferred or required data and metadata formats, transmission methods and media, etc.
  • Schedules, licenses and other administrative materials that surround and govern the deposit process and determine rights and responsibilities of depositor and repository
  • Procedures for verifying the arrival and completeness of deposited data and metadata
  • Adherence by several archives to some common range of data and/or metadata formats

Criterion 4. The repository will obtain sufficient control of deposited information to ensure its long-term preservation.

In this respect, the repository will at a minimum require perpetual licenses that allow it sufficient control to accession, describe, manage, even transform deposited data (and accompanying metadata) for the sake of their preservation. Where repositories act in association with one another (e.g. to ensure sufficient redundancy in the preservation process), they may also require rights allowing them to mirror or deposit data with other associated archives.

Further repositories will need to pay attention to whether and how its rights and responsibilities with regard to any particular deposit may change through time. For example, where a depositor ceases to supply its materials to the scholarly community, the repository must be positioned to supply those materials to existing licensees (perhaps at a fee).

Research issues:

  • Acceptable licenses and licensing principles
  • Fuller understanding of how the repository's rights and responsibilities may change over time

Criterion 5. The repository will follow documented policies and procedures which ensure that information is preserved against all reasonable contingencies and enables the information to be disseminated as authenticated copies of the original or as traceable to the original

Preservation strategies and practices are not right or wrong but more or less fit for their intended purposes. Nor is any general theory of digital preservation or data migration likely to become available anytime soon. Thus data in different formats may require different strategies and these may need to be worked out with the data producer (depositor). Documenting how and where different preservation strategies and practices prove cost effective and fit for their intended purposes will be a primary interest of any co-ordinated approach to developing preservation capacity appropriate to scholarly publisher, research library and academic communities. Because preservation practices are likely to vary across repositories, and because we have an interest in encouraging the development of different practices, we may wish simply to request that participants in any such co-ordinated effort agree to a document the practices they adopt and disclose them to some community review and evaluation.

Research issues:

  • Preservation metadata
  • Migration strategies (and their application with specific data formats)
  • Data validation and integrity checking
  • Scaleable infrastructure

Criterion 6. The repository will make preserved information available to libraries.

Repositories may support several kinds of interactions with libraries including: questions to a help desk, requests for literature, catalog searches, order and order status requests. Orders may involve an agreement outlining, for example, how (in what form, on what media, with what metadata) data are disseminated, the rights and responsibilities of libraries as users of those data, etc.

Although repositories will need to support access at some level, those services should not replace the normal operating services through which digital scholarly publications are typically made accessible to end users.

Research issues:

  • Resource discovery mechanisms
  • Access (data dissemination) strategies supported by archives
  • User licenses and how enforced

Criterion 7. The repository will ensure that data can be disseminated to libraries in a renderable form.

At a minimum, libraries should be able to create end-user services appropriate to the disseminated data and to do so independently of any assistance from those who initially produced the data.

Research issues:

  • Minimum definition of "renderable form" and implications for data and metadata format, and transmission method for any data disseminated by a repository

Criterion 8 Repositories will work as part of a network.

At a minimum, repositories will need to operate as part of a network to achieve a satisfactory degree of redundancy for their holdings. Although an appropriate level of redundancy is difficult to quantify (let alone to mandate), it will ideally extend for any single data to three archival sites, at least one of which is located off shore.

A network of repositories offers additional advantages to libraries and scholarly publishers. Libraries may benefit from common finding aids, access mechanisms, and registry services that are supported by a network and allow libraries more uniformly to identify and gain access to information about scholarly publications that are preserved in trusted repositories. Publishers may benefit from having access to a single repository or group of repositories that specialize in publications of a particular type and from the cost efficiencies that emerge from within a network.

Research issues:

Perceived value of:

  • standard interfaces between repositories;
  • standard deposit licenses and/or user agreements
  • standard methods for data deposit;
  • standard methods for data dissemination;
  • standard preservation and other metadata;
  • standards resource discovery practices;
  • standard migration strategies and implementation procedures;
  • standard specifications for physical media;
  • standard accreditation of requirement conformant archives.

For further information, please consult the following pages:

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