Islandora Research Data Repositories

Open Research Data (ORD) has many benefits. For researchers it can mean having their work cited more often, but the impact can be much greater. In a recent article titled Shall we share? A repository for Open Research Data in agriculture and environmental sciences (2015) the authors spell out the big picture impacts.

[...] Sharing research data can ultimately lead to faster scientific progress and economic growth, for the benefit of researchers that share their own data, the researcher that re-uses others’ data, for innovative industries and citizens (Abbà, et al., 2015, p. 4).

The authors are involved in the V2P2 repository project, based primarily in Torino, Italy. It’s focused on improving access to agricultural data internationally.  To do so, the project needed to focus on interoperability and aggregator harvesting capacity.

“One of the main barriers to open research data (ORD) is the need for interoperable data e-infrastructures that allow researchers to manage a whole scientific information life cycle and a variety of stakeholders from different sectors to retrieve and exploit these data” (Abbà, et al., 2015, p. 1).

To facilitate ORD, the project team selected the Islandora digital repository framework for the pilot instead of a database system, to ensure they’d be on the cutting edge of digital curation technologies. Islandora has integrated tools for:

  • describing and harvesting data

  • using standardized vocabularies

  • using standard metadata standards

  • creating relationships with ontologies to associate data

  • ingest any file format and generate meaningful derivatives to facilitate accessibility and discovery.  

V2P2 is one of a handful of Islandora research data repositories that will help inspire the next wave of innovation in the Islandora community.

Simon Fraser University (SFU) in British Columbia, Canada is undertaking a research data repository as proof of concept in the hopes of helping researchers manage, preserve, and publish their research data. It’s collecting data from all disciplines, including but not limited to numeric data, image-based, observational and survey data  (Simon Fraser University, 2014). The project is using  SFUdora, an Islandora & Pydio integration module built in collaboration with discoverygarden to facilitate the project. The integration provided researchers with an interface and experience similar to Dropbox, a commercial cloud-based storage service, in addition to Islandora's enhanced preservation functionality.

The University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI), the birthplace of the Islandora framework, is also making strides with research data curation. A survey conducted at the UPEI library found the many of the university’s researchers used Dropbox to manage research data, although they also mentioned the desire for local storage. The library realized the various challenges with this approach, including  privacy issues, lack of standards and interoperability, preservation, and the lost potential to share data more broadly (M. Leggott, personal communication, July 9, 2015).

As an alternative, the library is now encouraging researchers to manage their data with Islandora for the entire lifecycle of the project - from grant applications, through the gathering of findings to the  publishing of conclusions. The Library facilitated the process with its Virtual Research Environment (VRE) program, where any Faculty, Administrators, and Researchers affiliated with the university could apply for their own repository. The library also spearheaded enhancements to the repository system to accommodate special requests from researchers, such as a data plan creation tool, custom data ingest forms and tools to help manage lab operations. (University of Prince Edward Island, n.d.). More recent efforts (soon to be launched at built on the SFUdora project (mentioned above) and other efforts reflecting research data management best practices will be used to  provide a full featured "out-of-the-box" repository for research.

The ideas and practices surrounding research data management have percolated down to the researcher level. For example, a group of researchers studying Canadian management theory decided to use Islandora to preserve and make accessible information supporting their research. The project, spearheaded by Associate Professor and Area Coordinator of Business Technology Management at Wilfrid Laurier University, Patricia McLaren, resulted in the ground work for discoverygarden’s soon-to-be-launched Islandora OnDemand for Researchers. Working with McLaren helped discoverygarden determine what services and price point would be required for researchers.

In all examples presented here, research data is being curated and/or exposed as a valuable asset in the research process.  This work underlines what research data initiatives internationally such as Europe’s Horizon 2020 Open Research Data project are attempting to promote: the deposit of research data for long-term preservation to enable access, mining, exploiting, reproducing and disseminating data in an open way (Abbà, et al., 2015, p. 2). The outcomes will include leveraging data to its highest potential as well as an opportunity to accelerate research through collaboration.

To continue the discussion on research data management, join our next Islandora Webinar: Research Data Repositories on July 29, 2015 at 12 pm EDT. To register, click here.


Abbà, S., Birello, G., Vallino, M., Perin, A., Ghignone, S. and Caciagli, P. (2015), Shall we share? A repository for Open Research Data in agriculture and environmental sciences. EPPO Bulletin. doi: 10.1111/epp.12212

Simon Fraser University. (2014). Research Data Repository. Retrieved from

University of Prince Edward Island. (n.d.) VREs (Virtual Research Environments). Retrieved from