Access, Use & Reuse

RDM Consultation: Repositories

Publication Paths Outside of a Research Data Center

There are various ways for researchers to publish research data. One option is to publish a data paper in a data journal, where research data can be described in detail. The actual dataset is archived in a repository, and the journal article refers to the respective dataset. Journals often require that research data be submitted and, if possible, published together with a publication (often during the review process). This can be done, for example, through such platforms like the GESIS Replication Server. However, other recognized repositories can also be used for this purpose.

What are Repositories?

Repositories are online databases in which research data can be archived, documented, and published. There are institution-specific, generic, and discipline-specific repositories. Due to their advantages, it is recommended to first check whether there is a suitable discipline-specific repository (“subject repository”) for your research data. Additionally, there are well-known cross-disciplinary (generic) repositories, such as,, or

Institutional Repositories

Institutional repositories are typically established and managed directly by universities and research institutions for their employees or members. This means you should be employed by an institution to publish or archive data there. However, under certain conditions, the data is often accessible beyond the institution as well.

In case of institutional repositories, you should always check whether you are obliged to publish your data there or if you can also turn to institution-independent repositories.

Generic Repositories:

  • Broad Availability: Generic repositories are often publicly accessible and provide a platform for publishing and archiving research data for a wide audience.
  • Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Generic repositories facilitate collaboration and data exchange across different disciplines. This allows researchers from various fields to share their knowledge and gain new insights from each other.
  • Lack of Discipline Specificity: Generic repositories are often not tailored to specific subject areas. As a result, certain requirements and needs of researchers in specific disciplines may not be met.
  • Limited Metadata Standards: Generic repositories often use general metadata standards that may not be sufficient to cover the specific requirements and characteristics of research data in different fields.
  • Limited Data Management Support: Generic repositories may not provide necessary tools and resources to support comprehensive data management. This can make the organization, documentation, and reusability of research data more challenging.

Subject-Specific Repositories:

  • Subject Matter Expertise: Subject-specific repositories are often operated by subject matter experts and provide specific and informed support for archiving and managing research data. They understand the specific requirements and needs of the respective research community and can offer tailored solutions.
  • Specific Metadata Standards: Subject-specific repositories often use specific metadata standards tailored to the needs of the respective field. This facilitates searching, accessing, and reusing data within the research community.
  • Collaborative Exchange: Subject-specific repositories promote the data and information exchange within the research community. Researchers can share data, collaborate, and benefit from each other’s data, leading to more effective and efficient research.
  • Quality Assurance: Subject-specific repositories can implement quality assurance mechanisms to ensure that the archived data are of high quality. This can enhance the trustworthiness and reliability of the data.
  • Long-Term Archiving: Subject-specific repositories may have specialized infrastructure and resources to ensure the long-term preservation and accessibility of data. This can ensure that the data remains accessible and usable in the future.
  • Visibility Within the Research Community: Subject-specific repositories are often well-integrated into their respective research communities and enjoy high visibility within those communities. This can help other researchers find and use the data.
  • Fragmentation: Because there are many different subject-specific repositories, research data can become fragmented and distributed across various platforms. This can make it challenging to find and use all relevant data.
  • Accessibility: Some subject-specific repositories may have strict access restrictions that limit free access to the data. This can hinder collaboration and data exchange between different researchers and disciplines.
  • Sustainability: Subject-specific repositories may depend on funding and support from their respective research communities. If this support were to disappear, the repositories could potentially be closed, resulting in the loss of archived data.
  • Interoperability: Because subject-specific repositories often use different data formats and metadata standards, it can be challenging to exchange or integrate data between different repositories. This can make data reuse and sharing more difficult.

An overview of internationally existing repositories, along with a search function offering a wide range of search settings, can be found on the re3data website. Various icons provide information about the characteristics of each platform. For example, repositories that offer open access or restricted access can be specifically filtered. German repositories can be found on RIsource.

This video summarizes information on the following topics:

  • What is a repository?
  • What are the advantages of a repository?
  • How do I find the right repository?
  • Publishing data in a repository

Repository Certifications

Quality criteria can make it much easier to decide for or against a repository. Such certificates provide the data producers the certainty that their data will be retained, usable, and citable in the long term. Data users can trust that data held in certified repositories meet a minimum level of quality (data format, citability, etc.).

Certified repositories, archives, libraries, or museums benefit from increased visibility of their services. Several initiatives grant seals of quality or certificates to repositories based on different criteria. The two most common quality seals that set high standards are the CoreTrustSeal and the nestor seal.