Under the umbrella of the Network Digital Heritage (NDE), a Dutch working group focused on certification. I reported earlier on their results. Following the European Framework of Certification (the website is not updated since a while ago, but apart from that, the different levels of certification still make sense) the first level of certification is acquiring the Data Seal of Approval. Currently around 50 organisations are rewarded with this seal, in various disciplines. As NDE project group we expected we could learn from their experiences. We were particularly looking for some practical information so that our Dutch colleagues could be better prepared for the certification process. Things like time investment, the people that were involved and the benefits the certificate offered the organisations.
So after approval of the DSA Board we distributed a survey amongst all DSA holders with a set of questions. We received 18 completed surveys back (out of 50). Some interesting information can be derived from the answers, as described by Kees Waterman and me in a report Survey on DSA-certified digital repositories
DSA itself outlined a set of benefits on their website. Did they match the results of the survey? Actually they did. The benefits propagated by the DSA itself are in line with the perception of the respondents: this is most clearly the case with the stated benefit “awareness raising about digital preservation,” followed by “stakeholder confidence.” When queried about other perceived benefits, it is clear that the certification process not only led to external benefits but also to improved internal processes, documentation and opportunities to attract data producers as well as data consumers (most of the DSA holders are dealing with scientific data). The overall conclusion was that starting a certification process on this level was seen as a rewarding exercise. Not only because it resulted in more management support ( … after 20 years of preservation we still need to persuade our management ) but it had also a considerable influence on the preservation policies. I guess the main reason for this is that DSA forced the organisations to write down the existing practices into a policy. The certificate however had less influence on the financial planning for preservation.
The survey was related to the previous version of the Data Seal. Since this year we have the new Core Trustworty Data Repositories Requirements. Still we hope the report will help organisations to make the case for certification and will support them with practical information of their colleagues.