Lessons learned: on the challenges of migrating a research data repository from a research institution to a university library


The transfer of research data management from one institution to another infrastructural partner is all but trivial, but can be required, for instance, when an institution faces reorganization or closure. In a case study, we describe the migration of all research data, identify the challenges we encountered, and discuss how we addressed them. It shows that the moving of research data management to another institution is a feasible, but potentially costly enterprise. Being able to demonstrate the feasibility of research data migration supports the stance of data archives that users can expect high levels of trust and reliability when it comes to data safety and sustainability.

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  1. 1.

    As a starting point, depositing agreements can draw upon templates that are prepared by infrastructure providers. The legal evaluation of an instantiated template, however, often depends on the very instantiations, that is, specific criteria that involve the character of the data, the legal status of depositor and depositee, third parties etc. To avoid any form of liability, templates are rarely shared across institutions. If templates are shared, then with an explicit disclaimer (“do not use it as is”) and the strong suggestion to seek for independent professional legal advice.

  2. 2.

    It is possible that the new archive may move the resources at a much later point in time to yet another location, so the capability to manipulate PID-URL mappings should be transferred from the giving archive to the receiving archive.

  3. 3.

    In the Fedora repository, the deletion of a digital object yields a “tombstone”. The PID associated with this object then points to a tombstone notifying users that the resource has been deleted. Note that tombstones still require migration, meaning that PIDs still need to resolve to inform users that their associated digital objects have been removed.

  4. 4.

    Usually, researchers working in the same organization that also hosts the archive do not need depositing agreements.

  5. 5.

    See https://wiki.duraspace.org/display/FF/Training+-+Migrating+from+Fedora+3+to+Fedora+4.

  6. 6.

    The ontology has, for instance, the concept ’MediaObject’ which can be described with properties such as ’encodingFormat’, ’bitrate’, and ’duration’, among many others.


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This work has been supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG reference no. 88614379), and the SFB 833 data management project INF (DFG reference no. 75650358). The data centre cooperates closely with the CLARIN-D centre in Tübingen which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

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Correspondence to Claus Zinn.

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Trippel, T., Zinn, C. Lessons learned: on the challenges of migrating a research data repository from a research institution to a university library. Lang Resources & Evaluation 55, 191–207 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10579-019-09474-4

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  • Research data management
  • Data repositories
  • Data migration