Research Data Service

Trustworthy Digital Repository

What makes a digital repository trustworthy? What is the Data Seal of Approval? How can we make sure the repository is trusted by our depositors and data users?


Edinburgh DataShare’s mission is to anticipate and serve the data sharing, publication and preservation needs of researchers at the University of Edinburgh within an open access environment.

Data Seal of Approval as a Trust standard

Edinburgh DataShare has achieved the ‘Data Seal of Approval’ (DSA), a peer-reviewed status as a ‘digital trusted repository’ via that standard. 

Much of what the DSA ensures is that we are serious about our commitment to preserve our researcher’s data for the long-term. But it is also about ensuring that data are usable for the benefit of other researchers both at the time of deposit and in the future.

The Data Seal of Approval was developed by a social science data archive in the Netherlands (DANS) in 2008, and since 2009 has been managed by an international board of experts elected by the DSA General Assembly. The criteria for assigning the DSA to data repositories are in accordance with national and international guidelines for digital data archiving.

An interesting feature of the DSA is that it accords responsibility to three roles: the data producer, the data repository, and the data consumer. This means that the data producer must take some responsibility for ‘future-proofing’ their data, as well as make it understandable to researchers who might not be in the same field as them, or have access to the same resources or software.

Similarly, the data user must take some responsibility for ensuring the data are of sufficient quality to be used in their own research. The repository manages and curates the data and interacts with both the data producers and the data consumers to help them make best use of the data.

"The standards provide the basis of a framework by which different levels of trust of digital repositories can be demonstrated."

UK Data ArchiveStandards of Trust

The DSA is one type of 'trust standard'. Others include Audit and certification of trustworthy digital repositories (ISO 16363) and Criteria for Trustworthy Digital Archives (DIN 31644).

Researchers, the repository and trust

Perhaps even more important than attaining an official standard is knowing that researchers trust Edinburgh DataShare. What makes data producers more likely to share their data using our repository? We know that items in the repository score high in search results on Google and Google Scholar.

We also emphasise the benefits for depositors down the line, for example when they move to another institution, to be able to easily obtain their data, knowing that its integrity is secured.

What makes users more likely to use datasets they find in our repository? We hope that the careful guidance we give data producers about how to make their data usable, the quality checks we do upon submission, as well as the rule that every data item must include some human-readable documentation, reaffirms our commitment and reassures users that they are accessing and using quality data.

We also hope that the University of Edinburgh’s reputation for world-class research lets them know that they are getting authentic, state of the art research data outputs from the DataShare repository.