Behind the review proces

There are several ways to get certified, but currently we see that the CoreTrustSeal is the most popular. With 104 repositories certified, according to their website. And more to come as, for example the EU supports the CoreTrustSeal in their EOSC program. But who is behind the review process?


Jonathan Crabtree, member of the CTS board and currently assistant director for Cyber Infrastructure at the Odum institute UNC at Chapel Hill, US, investigated in his dissertation the perspectives of the reviewers in the CoreTrustSeal review process. Via a semi-structured interview, he approached 37 people who recently reviewed repositories on behalf of the CoreTrustSeal. He was especially interested in how the reviewer’s perspective impacted the evaluation of the evidence given by the repository and how the reviewers looked at their own role in the process.

Literature review on certification

He gives a literature review that describes in broad terms the developments around certification in digital preservation. A bit too much written from an US point of view, I think. In the US they still seem to prefer the CRL TRAC from 2007 above ISO 163636-2012, for example. Some references that are mentioned cannot be checked any more. Like information about the European projects SHAMAN and APARSEN project. There we have reference rot, the website is still there but the original content is long gone or changed. SHAMAN is now about creditcards, before that it was a porn site. (Shame on the preservation community that did not rescue this research).

Outcome of interviews

The interesting part of the dissertation in my opinion is the outcome of the interviews. I think both repositories that already were approved as well as repositories that are preparing themselves for the CoreTrustSeal certification can benefit from the answers that were given. We learn for example that requirement 0, Repository Overview, Context and Designated Community, is seen as the most important requirement by the reviewers. So it is worthwhile to put some effort in answering this as it will give the right context for the reviewers to weigh the evidence given by the repository.

What next?

The interview results also give some insight in the organisation behind the CoreTrustSeal. As is well known, the reviewers are volunteers, selected from CoreTrustSeal approved repositories. It is expected that more reviewers are needed with the growing demand for certification. Question is whether the voluntary model will still be adequate. Crabtree worries about this “If this trend continues, the potential for more reviewers with less experience will increase and could potentially impact the subjective review of applications.” (p. 72) Also the expressed wish of one interviewee “I think we need to give the reviewers sometimes a little bit better guidance” (p. 89) shows that with the growing importance of CoreTrustSeal the organisation will need to professionalize itself. The diversity in certification programs is important. Also big funding organisations like the EU need to realize that this diversity cannot be based on voluntary contributions only.


© 2021 Barbara Sierman