Unpublished Research Data from Government Researchers


 Critically Endangered small

Data sets and research outputs produced in the course of government research but never shared or made available outside of the initial research. In particular, the risk classification applies to research data under government embargo, restrictions due to sensitivities, classification issues, and/or materials suppressed for ideological reasons.

Digital Species: Research Outputs

Trend in 2022:

No change No Change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Trend in 2023:

No change No Change

Previously: Critically Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within twelve months; detailed assessment is a priority.

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on many people and sectors.

Effort to Preserve | Inevitability

Loss seems likely: by the time tools or techniques have been developed the material will likely have been lost.


Data sets or research outputs produced for agencies that have closed or have had funding withdrawn from research initiatives, research data from government agencies that is no longer active.

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Lack of access to archival services; sudden or unanticipated closure; loss of implicit knowledge from destabilized or demoralized staff; encryption.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Archival responsibility well developed; documentation; published through research channels.

2023 Review

This entry was added in 2019 under ‘Unpublished Research Data from US Govt Researchers’ It has significant overlaps with other entries in the research outputs group but was retained to draw attention to two realities: firstly that research outputs are not simply a matter for academic institutions, and that government is, in fact, a major producer of research data; and secondly that political instability and threats to the continuity of government services are a significant preservation risk. The 2019 entry description noted that while it related to the US, it did not mean that other jurisdictions are immune from political instability and commented that politically inconvenient research outputs face particular and immediate threats of which the digital preservation community should be cognizant.

The 2021 Jury agreed with this concern and broader applicability but recommended that this should be more explicit, and both title and description should be changed to broaden and include governments across national and international contexts. This change does mean that the risk profile will range and depend on the political system, the political change and the measures in place to save and reuse data from disbanded research projects; in other words, there may be instances where the unpublished research data in one country may fall under the Vulnerable category.

The 2023 Council agreed with the Critically Endangered classification but recommended getting an expert in this area for the next review. A further recommendation was made that this should not be an individual entry and instead be an example under the Unpublished Research Data entry.

Additional Comments

The US made the news as part of the last government, but this is probably an issue in other countries as well and is, therefore, a category that could be made more generic. One question to ask is whether the research data is considered of long-term value or considered ephemeral?

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