Sustaining Domain Repositories for Digital Data: A Call for Change from an Interdisciplinary Working Group of Domain Repositories by ICPSR with Support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Representatives of 25 organizations that archive scientific data today released a Call for Action urging the creation of sustainable funding streams for domain repositories — data archives with close ties to scientific communities.
The document was developed after a meeting of data repositories across the social and natural sciences June 24-25, 2013, in Ann Arbor. The meeting was organized by the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan and supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to discuss challenges facing domain repositories, particularly in light of the February 2013 memorandum from the U.S. Government’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) requiring public access to federally funded data.
Domain repositories in the natural and social sciences are built upon close relationships to the scientific communities that they service. By leveraging in-depth knowledge of the subject matter, domain repositories add value to the stored data beyond merely preserving the bits. As a result, repositories contribute to scientific discovery while ensuring that data curation methods keep pace as science evolves. “However, the systems currently in place for funding repositories in the US are inadequate for these tasks,” the document states.
The Call for Action argues that “Domain repositories must be funded as the essential piece of the US research infrastructure that they are,” emphasizing the importance of:
• Ensuring funding streams that are long-term, uninterrupted and flexible
• Creating systems that promote good scientific practice
• Assuring equity in participation and access
The document expresses concerns regarding current and future funding models in consideration of the OSTP rules. “The push toward open access, while creating more equity of access for the community of users, creates more of a burden for domain repositories because it narrows their funding possibilities.”
“We are memory institutions,” ICPSR Director George Alter said. “One of our missions is to ensure data will be available for a long time, yet we’re being funded by short-term grants. There is a mismatch between our mission and the way we are funded. Widening access to data is a good thing. Everyone agrees on that. But it has to be done in a way that provides sustainable funding to the organizations that preserve and distribute the data.”
Repositories may require varied funding models, based on their scientific domain, the document states. “But in every case, creating sustainable funding streams will require the coordinated response of multiple stakeholders in the scientific, archival, academic, funding, and policy communities.”
The statement is endorsed by 30 domain repository representatives. It can be viewed on the ICPSR’s website.