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Repositories and data preservation FAQ

FAQ stencil, photo by Flickr user a_kep

Where can I store my data for the long term?

While many funding agencies are requiring that data be shared, they are not providing a mechanism for doing this. Some directorates, like the NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences, recommend specific repositories (pdf), while others do not.

Regardless of whether your funding agency provides specific recommendations, data that is intended to be preserved for the long term should be stored in a repository that offers digital preservation services. The Stanford Digital Repository is such a service. You may also choose to preserve your data in a trusted subject-specific repository (like GenBank or PDB) or with publishers who offer a data deposit service as part of the publishing process.

Please note that the SDR is for use by Stanford researchers only. A valid SUNet ID is required to access our online deposit application.

The use of a standard back-up service is not recommended as a long term data archiving strategy.

What can the Stanford Digital Repository do for me?

The Stanford Digital Repository provides you with 1) secure permanent preservation of your data, 2) an easy access point (persistent URL or PURL with a address) for those who are interested in finding, downloading, and reusing your data -- without all those emails back and forth and digging through old hard drives! -- and 3) peace of mind that you have fulfilled your duties to your funding agency with a minimum amount of fuss.

What data formats can I store in the Stanford Digital Repository?

The Stanford Digital Repository is completely content agnostic. We can take any type of data in any format.

However, another question you may want to ask yourself is "What data formats are best for sharing or best for preservation?" You may also consider how others may want to use your data. Some researchers may want your entire data set, while others may only need subsets. Some researchers will have access to the same proprietary software that you used, while others may not. Thinking about questions like these will help inform your decision making on how exactly you want to preserve your data.

Is there a fee to use the Stanford Digital Repository?

There are currently no fees associated with depositing data into the Stanford Digital Repository using the web-based, self-deposit interface. Larger deposits cannot be completed via this interface and will likely require more work, more storage space, and a fee. We are currently still in the process of working out the fee structure. 

Please note that the SDR is for use by Stanford researchers only. A valid SUNet ID is required to access our online deposit application.

How much time and effort does it take to preserve data in the Stanford Digital Repository?

Our web-based self-deposit interface is very easy to use. Once you have organized your files and gathered the basic information about your data deposit (contributors, abstract, citation, related publications and links, brief descriptions of the files), a deposit can literally be done in less than five minutes. The information we ask you to supply with your deposit is important for enabling and supporting the discoverability of your deposited data.

What's the lowdown on the PURLs? How does that work?

A PURL is a persistent URL. It's a web address that is guaranteed to remain stable over time. The PURL contains a persistent identifier called a DRUID (digital resource unique identifier) that functions much like a DOI. You can link to a PURL from anywhere and it will always take the user to that same page. Never worry again about shifting servers or moving to another institution!

My colleague told me I could get a PURL from you. Is that true? How do I go about doing this?

Your colleague is correct! When you deposit data in the Stanford Digital Repository, you will receive a PURL address for that data. If you are interested in depositing data for a PURL, please contact us at We can set you up with access to the web-based self-deposit interface.

Please note that the SDR is for use by Stanford researchers only. A valid SUNet ID is required to access our online deposit application.

Will you come talk to our group about preserving data in the Stanford Digital Repository?

We would love to come talk to your group, anywhere on campus, at any time, about preserving data. Please contact us at, and we will schedule a visit to your part of campus!

Should I obtain permission from someone before naming the Stanford Digital Repository in my data management plan?

While this is not absolutely required, we would very much appreciate advanced notice that people intend to use our services. With advanced notice, we can plan ahead for an increase in use in the coming months or years. Also, by talking with us when you are generating your data management plan, we can discuss with you whether the data you are collecting is of a type or quantity that will require special treatment or may incur fees (see the comment above about fees for the Stanford Digital Repository). If your project will incur fees, you may be able to write these costs into your grant.

Please note that the SDR is for use by Stanford researchers only. A valid SUNet ID is required to access our online deposit application.

I have a lot of data and want to do some serious data preservation. Are you up for it?

You bet we are! Please contact us at and we'll plan a time at your convenience to talk with you about what you have in mind.