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Case study: Data persistence

When you publish information about where others can access your data online, you want to make sure that the information you are giving them will always be correct. If you publish your data online in a place that is not going to be accessible in the future, others may discover that their efforts to find, view, and reuse your data are futile.

Take the example of former Stanford researcher Malin Pinsky. In 2009, Malin published an article in the journal Conservation Biology (see bottom of page for reference). In this article, he provided information about how to find an additional list of sources and a database with citations. These items could be downloaded from a Stanford web site located in his personal AFS space.

 Excerpt from published article, image by Amy Hodge

This system worked fine until Malin left Stanford. When someone leaves Stanford, web sites within their AFS space are permanently disabled. Because of that, the links in the Conservation Biology article no longer directed researchers to the data they were looking for. Instead, they saw only the message below that access to the site was forbidden. Contacting the site administrator or HelpSU as suggested would not have gotten anyone the data they were looking for.

Forbidden access message screen shot by Amy Hodge

When the Stanford Digital Repository began accepting data from Stanford researchers, Malin's data files were deposited. They are now available on their own persistent URL (PURL) page. This URL is designed to be persistent, so Malin's data should be accessible here for a long time to come, no matter where he heads to next. (We even got the published ilnk redirected to the PURL!)

Example persistent URL (PURL) page, screen shot by Amy Hodge  

View our pages on data preservation and sharing to learn more. If you have data that you would like to make easily accessible to others now and in the future, contact us about using the Stanford Digital Repository.

* Article reference: Pinsky, M. L., Springmeyer, D. B., Goslin, M. N. and Augerot, X. (2009), Range-Wide Selection of Catchments for Pacific Salmon Conservation. Conservation Biology, 23: 680–691. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.01156.x. Available at