#05 2023

SAEON Open Data Platform receives CoreTrustSeal certification

By Lindsay Callaghan, Data Curation Specialist, uLwazi Node, NRF-SAEON

The SAEON Open Data Platform (ODP) was certified as a Trustworthy Data Repository by the CoreTrustSeal Standards and Certification Board on 5 September 2023. This is the result of years of work by the uLwazi Node to ensure that the SAEON ODP is set up and run according to international standards.

The certification is the culmination of setting up a sustainable and trustworthy repository. The SAEON ODP is the second repository to receive the certification on the African continent.

The Open Data Platform (ODP) is SAEON’s overall research data infrastructure and the SAEON Data Portal is the frontend system for accessing datasets hosted within the infrastructure. The ODP includes several data and metadata collections for SAEON projects that serve particular stakeholder communities.

The CoreTrustSeal Certification is an anonymous peer-reviewed process that assesses a repository against 16 requirements, which fall into three categories: organisational infrastructure, digital object management and technology. The requirements broadly cover the workings of the repository, from a preservation plan, licences used and storage procedures to the technical infrastructure, security and workflows.

The CoreTrustSeal Trustworthy Data Repository Requirements drew from criteria already established by the Data Seal of Approval (DSA) and the World Data System (WDS) of the International Science Council. The requirements were developed by the DSA–WDS Partnership Working Group on Repository Audit and Certification, a working group of the Research Data Alliance.

The SAEON ODP is a relatively new undertaking in the larger context of SAEON’s 21-year history. The uLwazi Node was formally established in 2018 (although the technology infrastructure underpinning the ODP has been in development for some years); the data portal search catalogue was released in 2021.

The CoreTrustSeal Certification is valid for three years, after which time the uLwazi Node will submit an updated application to apply for a renewal. The requirements of the certification are also reviewed and revised every three years.

Since its inception, the uLwazi Node has referred to the requirements laid out by the CoreTrustSeal and the Open Archival Information System Reference Model, developed by the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS), as an underlying conceptual model. These have provided a framework for managing the technology infrastructure, workflows and curation standards that inform the SAEON ODP.

The review process can include several rounds of feedback from the anonymous reviewers in which they can ask questions and request additional information. The applications for certification are made public and the SAEON ODP application can be read here.

Writing the CoreTrustSeal application and going through the review process was valuable in taking a clear-eyed look at the SAEON ODP and the elements that feed into it. There are several teams at uLwazi working on different components of the SAEON ODP and the application process enabled the teams to take a deeper look at how each of these discrete parts informs and impacts on the repository.

The CoreTrustSeal is a certification body that promotes sustainable and trustworthy infrastructures. It was formed in 2017 after the merger between the Data Seal Approval and the World Data System of the International Science Council.