A seal of approval for research data
How would researchers and funders like the idea of a seal of approval to testify that that research-derived datasets and metasets meet minimum quality requirements? This is the purpose of a recent initiative, that I’ve only just come across, from Data Archiving and Network Services (DANS), which is an institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The initiative, termed Data Seal of Approval, is founded on a set of guidelines aimed at "safeguarding high quality and reliable processing of research data for the future without it entailing new thresholds, regulations or high costs." The guidance, which is not a million miles away from RIN’s own principles on data stewardship, suggests a number of questions to be addressed by data producers, repositories and consumers which, if addressed, can serve to provide an assurance that data will be properly curated to allow for dissemination and re-use.
The intention is to ‘award’ the seal according to a range of quality criteria drawn from existing national and international guidelines produced by the Digital Curation Centre - these are outlined and referenced in the Data Seal of Approval document. As it’s still early days for this initiative, it’s not entirely clear how the ‘award’ will be made - it seems to me that, initially at least, it will be highly selective, given the huge breadth of available data outputs. However, in a world where peer review or any sort of quality control of research data is very patchy, the idea of a seal of approval might have some currency. It remains to be seen how it might achieve credibility. It’s a laudable objective, so please take note…