Trust in Data, Trust in CCDC

Earlier this year, the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre (CCDC) was delighted to receive the news that we had been approved for CoreTrustSeal certification. This certification accredits the CCDC with providing trusted stewardship and access to data as judged against criteria established and endorsed by the wider research data community. It reinforces and reflects the faith that our depositors and partner organisations have shown in CCDC over the years to provide a trusted home for their data.

The current CoreTrustSeal criteria were the result of a collaborative partnership involving the World Data System and the Data Seal of Approval who had both developed schemes for certifying repositories as trustworthy. Through a Research Data Alliance Working Group, the two organisations worked together with the wider community to come up with a common set of criteria for assessing repositories. Out of this emerged the CoreTrustSeal which provides an important complement to criteria such as those set out in the FAIR Data Principles, focussing as it does on the trustworthiness of the organisations supporting data repositories as well as the services and infrastructure they provide. 

In order to achieve CoreTrustSeal certification, the CCDC had to prepare an application that covered many facets of our operation. This includes details of the services we have in place for managing, preserving and providing access to data and the technical infrastructure supporting these. It describes the activities we undertake to engage with our user communities and the governance structures we have in place to ensure we stay true to our mission. It provides evidence that we have appropriate levels of staff, revenues and funding to ensure the long-term sustainability of our operations, and contingency plans should something unforeseen occur. It offers an account of the procedures and workflows we have in place to ensure the authenticity integrity of data deposited with us and enable meaningful reuse by others.

It was my colleague Eric Rogers who was primarily responsible for preparing our application for CoreTrustSeal certification and much of the credit for the success of this is due to him. Alongside this, Eric was responsible for crafting our recent Data Preservation Policy which helped demonstrate compliance with some of the key CoreTrustSeal requirements. There are some other facets of the CCDC as it is constituted and operates today that also helped achieve certification and I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of these.

One is our status as a UK registered charity which brings with it an obligation to have an external board of Trustees who oversee our activities at a strategic level. This provides a governance framework that ensures we are meeting the goals needed to satisfy our overall mission. It also ensures our finances are being managed to satisfy both short-term and long-term needs. We now complement this organisational governance with scientific oversight through our recently constituted Scientific Advisory Board.

Secondly, I would highlight the investment made by our Systems Team over the years to specify, source, install and maintain the hardware and IT services needed to provide technical infrastructure appropriate for a world class data repository. With both requirements and technology changing so rapidly their work is never done but, through their efforts, we can be confident of robust platforms that enable us to reliably serve community needs.

Finally, I would note the work undertaken by our editorial teams who review all the datasets that get published by the CCDC and ensure these have the provenance and scientific metadata required to enable appropriate citation and broad reuse. This is greatly aided by the various standards and services that have been developed by the crystallographic community through the years as well as the systems developed and implemented by our inhouse team of developers to ensure reliable workflows that enable trust in the integrity of the data managed by the CCDC.

Once completed, our application was reviewed by members of the CoreTrustSeal Assembly of Reviewers and the CoreTrustSeal Board.  They provided feedback on areas that they felt required elaboration or clarification and we are grateful to the reviewers for helping us to strengthen our application. You can view the final version here.

The availability of trusted data is an important enabler of rigorous and innovative research and the CoreTrustSeal is an important indicator of which resources and organisations can help ensure trust in data. The crystallographic community is now blessed with two CoreTrustSeal repositories as we join ranks with the Worldwide Protein Data Bank who have been previously certified. We are proud to have gained this formal accolade and remain grateful to the members of the community who continue to place their trust in CCDC to ensure trust in their data.