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13 Nov 2023

Repository Services - developing trust in the ecosystem

From the perspective of the RDA TIGER project, International Data Week 2023 was a significant staging post. As you all know, part of IDW2023 was RDA’s Plenary 21 event, with its usual combination of practical breakout meetings, progressing or starting off the work of RDA Groups, and wider plenary sessions, giving a stocktake of activities going on at the organisational level. Running through each of the RDA components of IDW was a strong RDA TIGER theme, whether it be presentations of prospective Working Groups in their early planning stages, Birds of a Feather meetings to further engage the RDA community, or discussions of how the RDA TIGER project will benefit the RDA community at large.

In this blog I want to focus on one particular session, which served as a starting point for one of the TIGER project’s Pilot Working Groups. The ‘Community-based catalogue of requirements for trustworthy Technical Repository Service Providers (TRSPs)’ WG was put forward as a potential pilot WG for TIGER by Ingrid Dillo, Deputy Director at DANS (Data Archiving and Networked Services) in the Netherlands. As explained elsewhere by my colleague Najla Rettberg, six pilot WGs have been taken on by TIGER to test and develop its service offering. With this TRSPs WG, the services made available from TIGER were intended to support the Group for the earliest stages - engaging with the original concept put forward by Ingrid and building on previous work done under the auspices of the RDA Repository Audit and Certification DSA–WDS Partnership WG.

In June, a kick-off meeting took place, to which were invited those who might have an interest in developing community-agreed standards for those providing technical service to repositories to demonstrate their trustworthiness. Underpining the idea for the WG is a recognition of the many different service providers in the ecosystem who, although they may not meet the requirements or qualify for CoreTrustSeal certification, nonetheless provide key services to repositories. From this June session, an early draft of a Case Statement was put together, synthesising the discussions that took place in the kick-off session and inviting people to contribute further to the draft document.


Welcome to Salzburg!

The P21 BoF meeting sought to open up the initial ideas of the WG to the wider RDA community and IDW attendees. I chaired the session on the day along with Ingrid, who introduced attendees to the concept of the WG and its initial aims. We had three lightning talks to give some further background on why there might be a need for this WG and its Recommendations. The first lightning talk was given by Andrew Treloar from the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC), who outlined the current situation in Australia with respect to research infrastructures, the fragmented nature of service provision, and how the Australian Nation Research Infrastructures (NRI) Roadmap may address this.

The second talk came from Mark van de Sanden, enterprise architect the SURF repository in the Netherlands. Mark gave an account of how his repository applied for - and was unsuccessful in obtaining - CTS certification in 2018. To wrap up the lightning talks, DANS chief technical officer Wim Hugo, who will be acting as WG co-chair, spoke about the need to broaden the definition of ‘trust’ in research services and establish more scalable mechanisms to verify their trustworthiness.


Diverse landscape of services

The key part of any RDA Plenary breakout sessions are the discussions that take place and this was the main focus of our meeting. The floor was open for virtual attendees and those in the room to raise questions in reaction to the lightning talks or address issues in the draft Case Statement, which was shared in advance of the session.

The discussion mainly focused on the need to recognise the diversity of the research services landscape; while the CTS certification criteria provide a way for repositories and other service providers to assess the services they provide to their user community, full certification isn’t possible for a large section of repositories, nor to most support service providers. Expanding this ‘umbrella of trust’, including a focus on service sustainability, as a general principle will be one of the WG’s aims; how to accomplish this in a practical sense, defining the trustworthy requirements for services that TRSPs use, and allowing for a more granular assessment of trustworthiness, will be the tasks for the WG’s 18-month lifespan.  

We endeavoured to capture the gist of the discussion in the session’s Collaborative Notes document, but the best way to get a sense of the discussion is to listen back to the session via the Whova app (for those of you who didn’t register for P21, the sessions recordings will be made available via RDA’s YouTube channel in the next few weeks).


Case Statement and finding co-chairs

Since the P21 BoF session, I have worked with WG co-chair Wim to collate the main points of discussion raised in Salzburg with a view to feeding these back into the draft Case Statement. This is still a work in progress and we are inviting people to review and comment on the document and, if you are interested in participating in the group, to add your details to the end of the document.

We are also still looking for people to take up the position of WG co-chairs alongside Wim. To allow people to declare their interest in taking up this role, we have put together a brief Google form to fill out, accessible here. The co-chairs of this WG, as with all those receiving TIGER support, will benefit from assistance in the organisational and communications aspects of their responsibilities - if you are interested in becoming a WG co-chair or would like to learn more about the TIGER support available please contact me or one of my TIGER colleagues at


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