Survey of repository preservation policy and activity

Steve Hitchcock, Tim Brody, Jessie M.N. Hey and Leslie Carr

Preserv Project, IAM Group, School of Electronics and Computer Science,
University of Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK

Preserv is a JISC-funded project within the programme Supporting Digital Preservation and Asset Management in Institutions. Find out more about Preserv.

Version information: This is a DRAFT paper, 9 January 2007, updated 21 February 2007


Growth in the number of digital and institutional repositories, and corresponding growth in the volume of content, means that preparing for preservation begins to assume a higher priority. So how prepared are repositories for preservation? The survey put a series of objective, practical questions to selected repositories among the largest content providers identified by the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR), and which were amenable to format profiling using the PRONOM-DROID service from the National Archives of the UK. The aim of the survey is to inform the investigation of preservation services for repositories, which we believe will be provided by specialist service providers, and the profiles provide a benchmark against which to assess the preliminary requirements of these repositories for preservation. Preservation service providers need to know the scale and shape of the task facing them, and this survey will enable them to understand repositories and help to construct appropriate services. The results were revealing:
The first finding is not surprising and can be rectified by good repository policy (not just preservation policy, which will emerge from general considerations). The second finding ought to be surprising. Restricting file formats that can be deposited unwittingly introduces an additional risk factor, because it typically leads to original source data being transformed without documentation, often prior to deposit in the repository. In other words, documents and information necessary to the ongoing process of preservation are being lost and will continue to be so unless restrictions on presentation formats are accompanied by a requirement for the source version to be deposited.


Since 2002 institutional repositories (IRs) have seen growth accelerate both in the number of repositories and in the volume of content (Hitchcock et al. 2007a): between 2005 and 2006 this growth was shown to be 25% (repository numbers) and almost 60% (content). It also brings increasing diversity in terms of the types of documents deposited in IRs and in terms of the file formats used. With this growth and diversity comes responsibility to manage the content effectively. According to Lynch (2003) IRs represent "an organizational commitment to the stewardship of these digital materials, including long-term preservation where appropriate, as well as organization and access or distribution."

What are repositories, particularly IRs, doing about preservation? There is no shortage of advocacy for digital preservation, and some good general advice on how to construct a preservation strategy (Kenney et al. 2003), but the suspicion is that little is being done yet by repositories in practical terms. This survey aimed to find out through a series of objective, practical questions rather than leading subjective and hypothetical scenarios. Thus the emphasis is on what repositories do, and the implications for preservation, rather than on what they may plan to do or what repository managers think about preservation.

The purpose of the survey is to inform investigations of preservation services models identified by the Preserv project (Hitchcock et al. 2007a). In these models repositories might typically outsource preservation to specialist service providers, which seems a natural approach since preservation expertise has always been concentrated in certain types of agency, notably national libraries and archives. In Preserv we have been working with the British Library and the National Archives in the UK. If these service providers are to produce marketable services they need to know and understand the need for the services, and the state of the repositories they are likely to confront.

The basis for the questionnaire was an analysis of the PREMIS set of preservation metadata mapped to the Preserv models of preservation services (Hitchcock et al. 2007b). The analysis aimed to identify those elements of the PREMIS set that could be accommodated in the model, and then tried to place responsibility for generating those metadata among the different players in the model, which included authors depositing in a repository, the repository software, the repository administrators and preservation services. By picking out some elements that clearly, or potentially, fall within the domain of the repository and framing the questions around those elements, we can begin to discover how prepared repositories are for preservation.

The results were revealing and, in some cases, surprising and concerning:
The first finding is not surprising as it mirrors the Cornell Survey of Institutional Readiness: "Too often, an organization undertakes responsibility for digital stewardship without first ensuring that the necessary policies and controls are in place or that the institution itself views digital preservation as a core mandate." (Kenney and Buckley 2005)

The lack of preservation policy can be rectified by good repository policy (not just preservation policy, which will emerge from general considerations). Producing good preservation policy could be assisted by practical advice from prospective service providers. The problem is that the services available to repositories currently are mostly experimental, and most of the emphasis has been on repository DIY preservation. As we will see, repositories are developing strongly and are capable in many areas of repository administration, but unsurprisingly have less expertise for serious preservation.

In the context of the survey the second finding ought to be surprising - although less so to those who view repository content regularly - since the general tone of the responses is that managers are open to advice, and prepared to wait for examples of good practice to emerge. Restricting file formats that can be deposited runs counter to this approach and unwittingly introduces an additional risk factor, because it leads to original source data being transformed without documentation prior to deposit. In other words, documents and information both useful and necessary to the ongoing process of preservation are being lost. An example is the demand for papers to be deposited in PDF format. Typically the PDF version is produced by saving from a word processing application such as MS Word, so the Word version may be lost. It is inevitable that versions will be lost unless restrictions on presentation formats are accompanied by a demand for the source version to be deposited.

Survey method and participants

This was a closed survey carried out in June 2006 by email rather than by an open Web form, and was targetted at selected repository managers. Repositories were selected from the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) using two criteria:
  1. The largest repositories by volume of content, i.e. those with most content to preserve (obtained by using the ROAR 'Sort by Total OAI Records' filter button)
  2. From 1, those with a 'Preserv profile' (may need to scroll and page the list to find an example)
Preserv profiles were produced by applying the PRONOM-DROID file format identification service from The National Archives (Brown 2005) to repository data from the Celestial OAI data harvester and presenting the resulting graphical view of a repository broken down by file formats through the ROAR user interface. For more on PRONOM-ROAR profiling see this short illustrated guide Since a knowledge of the file formats of objects in a repository is a prerequisite for preservation planning, the availability of a Preserv profile provided a reference point for repositories included in the survey. It also offered the chance to ask repository managers to check the profiles and, since Preserv profiles were new at that time and were being revealed to managers for the first time, perhaps acted as an incentive to participate.

Size and classification of response

As a result of these considerations candidate repositories were identified and contacted, with 21 repositories completing the questionnaire.

Preserv profiles were available for repositories based on only two types of software, EPrints and DSpace (for reasons explained in the PRONOM-ROAR profiling guide), so the survey was by definition restricted to these types of repositories. The aim was to achieve a roughly equal balance between the two types in the initial invitations, but the random nature of the responses led to an eventual imbalance, with 15 EPrints and 5 DSpace repositories contributing (and one institution running both). The aim was not to investigate differences between repositories, but this detail is given as a possible contributory factor in some results.

Another difference is between institutional and subject repositories. The primary target of the survey was IRs, but four subject repositories also responded. Among the IRs, three were specialised towards a particular type of content such as dissertations, and one repository was based in a single school rather than serving the whole institution.

How content is deposited in repositories

Before asking about content in the repositories, we need to know how it arrives there because this determines how much information, or metadata, about the content can be acquired at the point of deposit or ingest, and how reliable that information might be. The original target for IRs was open access content, copies of published research papers self-archived by their authors, a low-cost way of building content. Alternatively deposit might be mediated by someone other than the author. For example, some senior or prolific authors might delegate deposit to secretaries or PAs. Where legacy papers are being added to a repository on a large scale departments might organise batch deposit from existing databases. Or for repositories where it proved hard to generate content through self-archiving, deposit might be mediated by repository staff or designated editors to reduce the time required by authors. Each of these processes has an effect on the deposit process, notably on the quality of metadata, with repository-mediated deposit potentially offering the highest quality metadata, but with higher costs for the repository.

In the questionnaire respondents were asked to estimate the use of each type of deposit.

1 How is new material deposited in your repository: by author self-archiving; mediated deposit by an agent on behalf of the author (e.g. a personal assistant); mediated deposit by repository staff? If more than one method is used, can you indicate rough proportions, or which method predominates?

Some responses gave percentage estimates, while others indicated the predominant method, so the results are presented in two ways in Table 1.

Table 1: Method of deposit in repositories ranked by content volume (based on estimates from repository managers)
Type of deposit
Dominant method
By percentage (all repositories types*) By percentage (subject repositories)
Repository-mediated 8 repositories 50%
Self-archiving 5
Author-agent-mediated 2
Inconclusive 5

* 15 repositories provided figures that were used in calculating this result

In percentage terms we find the same order and similar proportions among all surveyed repositories as for the dominant method, but greater use of self-archiving for the four subject repositories.

One repository did not give a usable indication for this table, but summed up the range of options available to repositories: "We are shifting towards more self-deposit: 4 schools are fully self-deposit; 3 use nominated depositors; the rest export data from school databases. Repository staff will not deposit but will do QA."

Repository preservation policy

The strategy for preservation should be determined by the nature and need of the repository, and should be driven by repository policy rather than the other way around. Hence one of the first things the survey sought to discover was to what extent policy precedes preservation actions; indeed, if there is any policy. Our expectation was that, given the current focus on growing content, quite reasonably many IRs would not yet have a formal preservation policy. In a survey of 'institutional readiness' for digital preservation, Kenney and Buckley (2005) found that:

"Developing policies is a good first step, but they must be vetted and approved at the senior management level, and then implemented for a digital preservation program to develop effectively. ... only about one third of the surveyed institutions have completed all three steps."

2 Does the repository have any existing policy on preservation? Can you point us to the relevant passage?

Yes 1 No 18

This result does not even reach the level found in the Cornell survey. Policies were variously described as 'in development', and 'unwritten policies', but strictly none is likely to be sufficient in current form to guide all preservation decisions. Yet this is a reasonable and flexible position at this stage in the development of repositories, particularly if long-term preservation policy is to be founded on established practices and wider policies of repositories.

Here are two example repository policies, not preservation policies, although they may provide a basis on which to build preservation policy. Neither repository citing these examples answered 'yes' to this question:
OpenDOAR has produced a useful and practical repository policies tool ( that helps build preservation policy on top of policies for metadata, data, content and submission. Its preservation policy definition form is especially perceptive for including provision for the repository to work with external partners, such as preservation service providers.

Putting preservation into practice

Preservation actions can take many forms. Even personal computers are backed up, which can be considered a simple form of preservation. So we asked repository managers if any actions that might be considered preservation were performed on their repositories, based on examples from byte preservation (storing the bits) through processes of increasing complexity and specialisation such as emulation.

3 Does the repository implement any preservation measures, either internally or with external agents/services? If so, do any of those measures include the following example preservation services:
- Byte preservation;
- Transformation (migration on ingest by the service provider);
- Rendering;
- Emulation

Preservation services performed by repositories
Figure 1. Preservation measures adopted by repositories

These preservation measures increase in complexity from right to left in Figure 1. There is a clear trend that shows some examples of the simplest activity (byte preservation), but with fewer or no examples of the more specialised activities. While we would expect the latter to be performed by specialist service providers rather than individual repositories, the question left open the possibility for services to be performed by agents, and in this respect the following partnerships were mentioned - Sherpa-DP, MetaArchive NDIIPP, dissertation copies at German National Library - so repositories are becoming aware of the wider possibilities in terms of services, and some embryonic services appear to be emerging. Other preservation activities cited included backup, mirroring, and geographic cluster backup.

It is worth remarking that selection of these example preservation activities was informed by discussions with the British Library. In Preserv the British Library is an exemplar service provider. From an OAIS perspective, while the first two activities focus on data ingest, the latter two services are concerned with dissemination and presentation. What is striking is that each of these services is different to the extent it changes the relationship between the service provider and the repository. Preservation need not be a monolithic service. By choosing services based on a developed institutional profile this potentially changes the relationship from a simple 'you give us the data and we store it' to a more tailored and interactive partnership.

Remember that although repositories are admitting to relatively simple preservation actions, these are being performed in the absence of any guiding policy. Later in the report (Q5c) we will find the incidence of transformation may be greater than revealed here.

Selection for preservation

One of the largest problems facing any preservation example is selection of content to be preserved. With potentially high growth, diversified sources such as repositories, any over-specified selection approach could waste time and resources before becoming dated and requiring review. Next the survey tried to find out about selection criteria used by the repositories.

4 What part of its contents does the repository designate for preservation? All; if not all, what are the selection criteria?

All 11 No answer 8 Other 2 ('undecided', 'don't designate (currently)')

This is probably a positive answer, showing that repositories have so far resisted the temptation to over-specify selection, while planning for the bold but practical step of preserving all content. This is certainly feasible while the simplest forms of preservation are being applied, but some form of selection may be necessary depending on object types and formats for more complex preservation requirements. This analysis might be carried out in conjunction with a service provider, and begins to show the value of the Preserv profile.

File formats: the crux of preservation

We are now reaching the specifics of preservation practice, which centre on file formats, special features within formats, delivery formats, the recording of provenance, user authentication, rights and identifiers. These are the kind of issues that populate PREMIS, and the following questions are informed by its metadata set.

5a Does the repository have a policy on submission file formats?

Y 13 N 4 No reply 4

Comments An example de facto format 'policy' is:
It is not presented as a policy, but in this guide to submission the step-by-step approach begins with 'Start by converting your project report to PDF-format' and points to a tabbed section on converting to PDF, which in turn emphasises the point with 'the project report should always be submitted as an Adobe PDF file'.

Note that where there is no preservation policy (Q2), we now have 'policies' on formats. The disconnect with general repository and preservation policy potentially has major implications for preservation. This is presumably only temporary: building general policy is hard, while favouring selected formats is easy. Where the disconnect persists repositories could be creating preservation problems for the future. A better temporary approach might be no policy: no format policy. An all-embracing repository policy is best.

5b Are there any restrictions for submitting authors?

Y 7 N 11 unclear 3
This result tends to confirm that of 4a, again with an emphasis on the requirement for PDF. Interestingly, fewer repositories claim to impose restrictions on formats than have format policies, suggesting the policies are not rigidly prescriptive.

5c Does the repository transform submitted formats in any way?

Y 15 N 2 no reply 4
It follows that if repositories have strong preferences for particular deposit formats but do not rigidly enforce this, the findings of 5a and b, then they are likely to attempt to produce those formats by transforming non-conforming documents. This is borne out here. This is not a bad approach, so long as it is accompanied by careful retention of the source, i.e. the original document that is transformed, and by documenting the transformation (ideally using PREMIS guidelines). We cannot tell if that happens in these cases, although the next question offers some clues.

5d Does the repository require the original source version from the author?

Y 1 N 13 no reply 7
This is the most alarming result from this set. It is inconsistent to have format 'policies' without a commitment to obtaining the source copy. The inevitable consequence of requesting non-authored formats such as PDF without a requirement for source is that authors, or someone else, will produce the transformation, leaving the repository short of those features just identified above, source and documentation. There is some consolation in the result of 4c, which indicates that source is often received even if not required, but it would be simple to make source a requirement, and is an essential supplement to any format policy.

How repositories manage file formats
Figure 2. How repositories manage file formats (ordered by most active)

Re-ordering the responses to questions 5a-d by the most active approaches (Figure 2) gives a clearer picture of priorities, from the preference for a simple and uniform range of formats achieved through transformation into selected formats, in some cases for reasons stated in simple policy. The level of adoption of transformation means that authors face fewer restrictions on deposit than may have been the case. All of this is done effectively without the requirement for source copies.

Summing up Q5, clearly formats are not just the crux of preservation but of policy too. Repositories may not have preservation policies, but some have policies on the formats that can be deposited. This mainly centres around the demand for PDF. This is not the place to debate the merits of particular formats, except to say that contrary to received wisdom, the case for PDF as a preservation format is not clear cut. Apart from the special case of PDF/A (archival) version it was not designed specifically for preservation, though it has many useful features for repository use.

Managers most probably believe that presentationally PDF offers more consistency, stability and openness than other formats, but it is not an originating format and therefore where all but one format 'policies' fall down is that they do not supplement the policy with a demand for the original source version. This is a critical omission that undoes any good intent that may lie behind a format policy.

Limitations on admissible formats may be a natural if naive approach, which can ultimately be improved with better preservation planning and format risk assessment (Arms and Fleischhauer 2005, Brown 2003, FCLA 2005), and the advent of better services and tools, e.g. PRONOM-DROID (, also GDFR (Global Digital Format Registry and JHOVE (JSTOR/Harvard Object Validation Environment

Special format features

A common complicating factor for preservation is the inclusion of special features within formats, such as links or scripting. If repositories allow such features, how would they become aware of the presence of such features on deposit? Unlike with primary file formats, which can be identified on ingest by services such as PRONOM-DROID, there is no automated test for these features.

6 Is the repository aware of special features within format types, e.g. links within pdf, Javascript within html? If so, how is it aware of these, what features does it look out for, and are there any restrictions?

Y 3 N 16 no reply 2

Clearly most repositories do not know about the inclusion of special format features. We cannot estimate the scale of usage of such features in repository content, even in Preserv profiles. Usage could be low, although the types of features referred to in PREMIS and highlighted in the question are not that uncommon. Those repositories that are aware of these features become so because authors are asked to note them.

For IRs this is an area that requires more investigation and ultimately probably requires the intervention of specialist services to identify the scale of the problem and to advise on best practice.

Delivery packages

When digital data is deposited, stored or moved around - three essential activities for preservation - as with physical materials it helps if they are packaged in some way. This might be to save storage space or bandwidth on transfer (compression), to collect the components of a presentation such as text and images (zipped), or to secure the data (encryption).

7 Does the repository allow submission of files in the following forms: compressed, encrypted, zipped?

Y 9 N 7 mixed response 4 no reply 1

The mixed responses were revealing, showing that invariably compression and zipping were acceptable but encryption is not permitted. Among those that answered 'yes' to all three, one noted that encryption is 'not recommended'. Another accepts these forms in the confident knowledge they are not used, but does not indicate whether this position would remain were they to be used.

As with most of the technical features highlighted in the survey, use of these packaging methods is not driven by preservation but has implications for preservation. Unlike the special features of Q6, these forms are readily identifiable, and repositories can decide what to do on ingest in the cases of compression and zipped files. Encryption is more complex and is probably best avoided by repositories in the general case, especially by those that primarily provide access to content, although it may be necessary to consider examples case-by-case, perhaps with specialist advice on preservation.

Tracking change

It is the nature of digital documents that they change over time, in content and in format. They may be changed by author or other agent. Sometimes it is the act of change that requires preservation action; on other occasions it may be the act of preservation itself (such as format migration) that causes a change. Then there are new digital objects that derive from some processing or combination of other objects. Tracking these changes might generally be referred to as digital provenance.

In the context of PREMIS the importance of digital provenance is to track 'derivation relationships' at the file and representation level, and PREMIS requires that relationships between agents and events, and between objects and events, are documented.

It is immediately apparent that these issues are becoming more difficult to define and understand among non-specialists, even before considering how it might be done. This needs to be borne in mind for the next question, about provenance.

8 Does the repository have a process to record and track provenance of submitted materials?

Y 6 N 11 qualified response 3 no reply 1

The bald figures disguise a complexity and confusion about provenance that needs more investigation but which is hinted at in the accompanying comments. Among the repositories that claimed to track provenance, one says it is a 'feature of the repository software' (DSpace software in this case), others say that provenance is 'not necessarily handled by software' or it is 'not preservation provenance', while another admits its provenance tracking is 'off-line and not robust'.

Among those not tracking provenance one notes that the 'submitting author is always linked to documents', while another repository intends to 'use LDAP and JHOVE'.

Some repositories are neither tracking provenance nor not, but have some processes that may play a role in fuller, more formal provenance tracking, e.g. tracking depositors (by changing the file naming convention if the author is not the depositor;  another tracks 'who submits what').  Another valid contributory factor in provenance for the type of materials that would be expected in IRs, postprints of peer reviewed published papers, is to perform 'Metadata checks for published works'.

Clearly, a wide range of interpretations of what provenance is. This looks like another good reason to outsource repository preservation to specialist service providers, recognising that repositories have to put in place mechanisms for acquiring sufficient data from the point of ingest to serve the needs of provenance tracking by the service provider. As an example, it is worth noting again that acquiring, say, a PDF from an author without the source version means there is likely to be a gap in the provenance information for that object from the outset..

Depositors: who do you trust?

Even though we learned in this survey that there may be less self-archiving deposit in IRs than might have been anticipated (Q1), it is still in the nature of IRs that they will have many depositors, and repository software is designed to facilitate this. With so many depositors, however, how can the repository be sure they are legitimate depositors, and that what they are depositing is what is purported? There are different levels to this question, e.g. security, and another which concerns preservation. In the latter case the concern might be to verify that the depositors are who they say they are and what they are depositing is what they say they are depositing. This is the process of authenticating users and files.

9 Does the repository authenticate users or files at submission? If so, how is this done?

Y (Users) 13 Y (files) 0 Y (both) 2 N 4 No answer 2

It is not unexpected that the majority of repositories have some kind of log-in process for depositors, often tied to an LDAP directory or other maintained directory of people in the institution, and this can be considered a viable form of authentication of users. Repository software supports this. It is less obvious how to authenticate files. File format checking on ingest may cover one aspect, and some editorial checking could help. First, however, repositories must identify the concerns that file authentication might help resolve before prescribing which actions to take.

Who has the rights?

Creators of new works inherently own the rights, including copyright, to use and disseminate those works. In some cases they may assign those rights exclusively, to a publisher for example. In other cases creators might grant non-exclusive rights, as is typically the case for repositories. In both cases there is an exchange to enable each party formally to perform the tasks intended, e.g. to publish, to provide access, etc., without recourse to law. With so much information now being disseminated freely on the Internet there is some benefit in making the rights of users more explicit, leading to initiatives such as Creative Commons.

For repositories there is an additional complication. Authors of self-archived or deposited papers that are intended to be formally published in peer reviewed sources have to be careful they do not compromise their ability to publish and to assign some rights to the publisher. Yet, since repositories are formal, long-term resources they too need to obtain sufficient rights from the author, or publisher in the case of exclusive rights, to continue to perform the required tasks over time without contest. Without being concerned here about the rights and wrongs of author agreements with publishers, the survey sought to discover whether repositories were seeking any rights (Q10a) and whether those rights might cover anticipated preservation scenarios (Q10b).

10a Does the repository have any explicit agreement with authors on rights? If yes, where is this expressed (URL?)

Y 17 N 3 qualified 1

Almost all repositories surveyed present some sort of agreement to authors during the deposit process. This can be built into repository software. One repository noted that it uses the DSpace license with minor changes. Whether they are using agreements that are correct and adequate is another matter, and requires examination of individual agreements, but in principle repositories are taking the correct actions in seeking agreements. From the responses to the question some example repository-author agreements are highlighted below.
As can be seen by examining these agreements, we can anticipate a range of impacts on preservation activities. It could be argued the Caltech agreement has sufficient provision to cover preservation, although it doesn't refer to preservation explicitly. Roskilde obtains permission 'to archive', although whether this would be adequate to cover all preservation actions described by PREMIS and referred to here, other than simple byte storage, is debatable. SLU nowhere uses language that be be construed as pertaining to preservation.

If a repository has sufficient rights to copy, store and present content, it would appear that it naturally has the rights for some form of preservation. That would be to assume at best a limited range of preservation actions, however, and also that the repository performed the task of preservation itself. In the case of preservation service providers this introduces another agent, and the rights vested with the repository do not necessarily transfer to that agent, especially where other rights holders may be involved. Thus we need to find out whether any repository agreements cover preservation specifically and adequately for the for the services envisaged.

10b If yes, does it refer to rights for preservation?

Y 4 N 12 no answer 5

On this score the first result (Q10a) is effectively reversed. If in some senses the preservation service provider model seems a natural approach for repositories, this result suggests that few repositories are aware of the model. For the types of service providers envisaged, national libraries and archives, the inclusion of preservation rights in repository author agreements will be a prerequisite to services. This ought not to be a major obstacle in principle, perhaps beginning with the following examples: ANU refers to preservation explicitly, although non-specifically, so its overall effectiveness for preservation services is hard to guage. In contrast, the University of Dortmund's agreement with authors is the clearest example of covering preservation in its fullest sense, including agreement to transformation and migration to other electronic and physical formats, as well as transfer to the German National Library (Wollschlaeger 2006) granting the library the same rights as the Dortmund repository.

Somewhat surprisingly, DSpace repositories in the survey do not appear to have adopted the DSpace at MIT licence that extends clauses to cover possible preservation actions within the IR (illustrated by MacColl 2004):

"You agree that MIT may, without changing the content, translate the submission to any medium or format for the purpose of preservation. You also agree that MIT may keep more than one copy of this submission for purposes of security, back-up and preservation."

The longer-term issue will be to identify what rights service providers need, which in turn will depend on the types of services offered, including access perhaps. The original PREMIS standard considered only rights required for preservation activities. Coyle (2006) investigated how this might be expanded, including rights for access, which might become relevant for the service provider model. For now, however, most preservation services are still at the early stage of experimentation and evolution.

A question of identity

All repositories and preservation activity would flounder unless items were clearly and distinctively identified. Both EPrints and DSpace software automatically assign identifiers to deposited items: DSpace uses the Handle system, which also underpins the DOI system, while EPrints generates its own ID numbers. These are perfectly adequate and persistent within the repository systems that generate them. They may be criticised for lacking an external agency to regulate and reference the IDs, such as in the DOI example. In the case of preservation services, where content is accessed and acted upon by an external system, this raises the question of whether the EPrints and DSpace ID systems are adequate and useful for this purpose, i.e. whether the IDs will migrate effectively, or whether service providers will map to new IDs.

At this stage these issues are moot, however. What we want to know now is simply whether and how repositories generate any IDs.

11 Does the repository use IDs generated by the repository software, or does it have its own system of IDs?

Repository generated 18 Manually generated 2 no answer 1

Confirms what was expected and what preservation services prospectively need to work with. Few repositories have need of more sophisticated systems of IDs at this stage, but may need to consider how that might change when repositories interact with more Web services, including preservation services.


Preservation begins with policy. For IRs this need not start with preservation policy, which can be hard and sometimes technical. More general repository policy considerations, starting with OpenDOAR's policy tool, for example, or open access mandates, will lead naturally towards preservation considerations and can inform a repository's need for preservation. That's the good news. The bad news is that some repositories may be inadvertently turning that order around, and making decisions based on technical preservation considerations, in the form of restricting file formats. As well as being a limited preservation strategy, that approach risks compromising general repository policy and content, and may affect the ability of a repository to adopt other policies and attract content in the future. One way repositories can avoid this temporarily is to couple file format control with a simple policy requiring deposit of source formats, but this is only a partial solution that risks turning away content that does not or cannot conform. The only way to avoid that is to make a full assessment of the institutional needs and purposes the repository is intended to serve, which brings us back full circle to general considerations.

The results of this survey present an impression of how repositories are approaching the issue of preserving their contents. Given the scale and quality of the data the results do not constitute market trends. The aim is to inform the investigation of preservation services for repositories, which we believe will be provided by specialist service providers. Those providers need to know the scale and shape of the task facing them, and this survey will enable them to understand repositories and to construct appropriate services. Even if the results prove to be atypical of repositories generally - although bear in mind that in terms of content the repositories selected are among the largest IRs - the aim is to identify and advise on the best and worst aspects of the practices found, in particular short-term and ad hoc policies founded on file formats alone, and inconsistencies in policy development.


Arms, Caroline R. and Carl Fleischhauer (2005) Digital Formats: Factors for Sustainability, Functionality, and Quality, Second IS&T Archiving Conference, Washington, D.C., April 2005
see also the authors' ongoing resource Sustainability of Digital Formats Planning for Library of Congress Collections

Brown, Adrian (2005) Automatic Format Identification Using PRONOM and DROID, The National Archives, Digital Preservation Technical Paper: 1, 17 September 2005

Brown, Adrian (2003) Selecting File Formats for Long-Term Preservation, The National Archives, Digital Preservation Guidance Note: 1, 19 June 2003

Coyle, Karen (2006) Rights in the PREMIS Data Model, Report for the Library of Congress, December 2006

FCLA (2005) Recommended Data Formats for Preservation Purposes in the FCLA Digital Archive, Florida Center for Library Automation, June 2005

Hitchcock, Steve, Tim Brody, Jessie M.N. Hey and Leslie Carr (2007a) Digital Preservation Service Provider Models for Institutional Repositories: towards distributed services, Preserv project, January 2007

Hitchcock, Steve, Tim Brody, Jessie M.N. Hey and Leslie Carr (2007b) Preservation Metadata for Institutional Repositories: applying PREMIS, Preserv project, January 2007

Kenney, Anne R., et al. (2003) Digital Preservation Management: Implementing Short-Term Strategies for Long-Term Problems, Cornell University, September 2003

Kenney, Anne R. and Ellie Buckley (2005) Developing Digital Preservation Programs: the Cornell Survey of Institutional Readiness, 2003-2005, RLG DigiNews, Vol. 9, No. 4, August

Lynch, Clifford A. (2003) Institutional Repositories: Essential Infrastructure for Scholarship in the Digital Age. ARL Bimonthly Report, no. 226, February, 1-7

MacColl, John (2004) DSpace Institutional Repositories and Digital Preservation, DPC Forum on Digital Preservation in Institutional Repositories, London, 19th October, slide 5

PREMIS (PREservation Metadata: Implementation Strategies) Working Group (2005) Data Dictionary for Preservation Metadata: Final Report of the PREMIS Working Group, May 2005

Wollschlaeger, Thomas, ETD's as pilot materials for long-term preservation efforts in kopal (pdf 8pp), 9th International Symposium on Electronic Theses and Dissertations, Quebec City, June 7 - 10, 2006


We are grateful to the managers of the following repositories who participated in the survey and agreed to be acknowledged in this report:

Queensland University of Technology, OpenMED@NIC (India), Organic eprints (Denmark), University of Queensland, University of Dortmund, SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences), Georgia Tech, Roskilde University, Australian National University, Universidade do Minho, LMU Munich University (dissertations), dLIST Digital Library of Information Science and Technology, White Rose Consortium of the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York, Università di Bologna (AMS Acta), University College London, Glasgow University, Southampton University, School of Electronics and Computer Science (Southampton University), Oxford University, E-LIS Eprints for Library and Information Science, Caltech (Authors)