Certification of Digital Archives Project


Phase 1: Design the process of auditing the digital archives

May–September 2005

The project will leverage the work of the RLG-NARA Task Force on Digital Repository Certification. The group identified certifiable metrics related to attributes, processes, functions, and activities of a digital repository or types of repositories and also designed a standard certification process framework that can be implemented across domains or types of digital repositories. This framework, together with pertinent metrics developed by other communities, will be the basis for the metrics used in the CRL test audits.

Project staff will develop reporting terminology for codifying and expressing the results of the audits and certifying the archives. The reporting terms will cover the full range of aspects of the archives audited.

The terms will then be indexed to a rating or certification scheme devised for digital archives. The scheme will reflect the full range of criteria applied in the auditing process. Because not all electronic resources are equally valuable or costly, and because different types of content require different types and levels of archiving solutions, all archives will probably not be certifiable to a single standard. A range or scale of possible standards, each with a corresponding specified level of assurance and cost, will be devised.

Project staff will also determine the frequency at which certification of a single archive should be undertaken or renewed. Archives that hold dynamic or rapidly growing content will have to be audited more frequently than archives of relatively static content. Again, the audit cycle will vary according to the value of the content, cost of the resource, and needs of its users.

Phase 2: Model the auditing process by test-auditing three digital archives

October 2005–June 2006

The purpose of auditing a digital archive is to determine the degree of assurance the archive provides for the long-term availability and functionality of the digital resources maintained therein. The audit must establish with a high degree of certainty that an archive can, at a given point in time, present content that is deposited in or ingested by the archive, and that said content will retain its critical characteristics and functions.

Project staff will conduct audits, analyzing and evaluating the various activities and processes of each of the subject archives through on-site visits to the archives, examination of pertinent specifications and documents, interviews, and periodic queries. The audit may include analysis of audited financial statements of the publishers and archiving organizations involved.

The project advisors will then analyze the results of the audit, including test materials and test outputs, and determine the usefulness and completeness of the audit and resulting data. The auditing methodology will then be revised as appropriate.

Phase 3: Profile and business model for a certifying agency

July–October 2006

A certifying organization or agency, capable of sustaining itself, will be needed to provide certification services to the field on an ongoing basis. At minimum, such an agency will have to ensure accountability to the research, publishing, and cultural heritage communities. Project staff and the principal investigator will identify the essential functions of such an agency and the major features of an appropriate business model to support it. At minimum, such a model must possess an organizational structure, governance, and funding system that ensure accountability to the higher education and scholarly communities. Ideally, the optimal certifying agency will have a large and diversified client base, to ensure that no single client or stakeholder can exert undue influence on its policies and activities or compromise its accountability to the research community.

Project staff will present and analyze costs of the auditing and certification activities on the basis of the subject archive audits, and identify benefits and assets accrued. They will then identify the range of potential stakeholders and “markets” for certification services and products, and quantify the prospective value of those products and services to each market.

The project director, principal investigator, and advisors will examine a number of existing models for certifying and rating organizations in the for-profit and nonprofit fields, analyzing their respective funding systems or payment models, organizational structures, and forms of governance.