RePol is available at https://repol.ni4os.eu
RePol Registry Policy Generator - Description and Documentation
A trustworthy repository should have a transparent policy, informing users about the roles, responsibilities, rights and procedures aimed at ensuring that their deposited data are preserved and disseminated in line with the FAIR principles. Having a repository policy is required for the onboarding of scientific repositories and data into NI4OS-Europe, OpenAIRE and EOSC. As this is directly linked to the policies governing repositories, the University of Belgrade Computer Centre (RCUB) has developed repository policy generator RePol as a tool to facilitate the making of key choices and drafting of policy documents. Specification and exchange of metadata in repositories have been largely defined in the context the related OpenAIRE, EOSC Enhance, EOSpilot and FAIRsFAIR efforts. At the same time, it was found that along with the lack of awareness that a repository should have a clearly defined policy, deciding on the rules of repositories’ operation and expressing these decisions through comprehensive repository policies is a major problem for their owners and administrators. The developed tool will hopefully help repository owners in the creation of policies that they must publish and in the alignment of provided services with requirements for participation and onboarding in the above-mentioned infrastructures.
The addressed features of RePol include:
- The platform is flexible and it and can customise the output. The tool asks for a few mandatory customisation inputs, several choices, and a few options related to primary choices. Based on these inputs, it creates a corresponding draft repository policy document by tailoring a carefully crafted and redacted template. Questions, inputs, offered choices and values, and provided explanations are customizable and are configured through the management of application configuration files and without any additional programming. The used data model reflects the evolving user-facing content, options and choices. The repository policy documents are generated after the user provides a few mandatory inputs (such as repository and owner name) and makes several explained and selectable choices and options. Some options are nested, i.e., some choices are shown only if choices or options they depend on are selected.
- Choices and inputs offered to users are clear and well-explained, with reasonable defaults, well-handled mutual dependencies and, where possible, validity checks. Some of the offered values are complemented with an open-ended entry field, e.g., when specifying the thematic areas, types and languages of the repository content.
- The policy template text is concise, clear and aligned with the current best practice, but also adaptable to specific user needs.
- The collected data and the key elements of the generated policy are provided in a machine-readable format. This allows for an automated interpretation of created policies and extraction of repository-level metadata for inclusion in registries, catalogues and various operational and data discovery tools. Repository policies will be updated as needed to keep them in line with changes in internal and external rules, requirements, norms and conventions. Machine readability permits to easily save user choices and update or modify a previously created registry policy.
- Users may additionally edit, customise or reformat the generated policy document using their regular document editing tools, as policy documents are produced in an accessible and editable text format. It is assumed that such edits are minor and that they do not affect the validity of associated machine-readable data.
Key features and design decisions
RePol uses a lightweight online form to guide the user through the process of defining a repository policy. By choosing options in the form, the user chooses sets of predefined policy clauses formulated in line with the current best practice. The resulting policy document may be downloaded, additionally customized, and integrated into your repository.
While the policy template must be able to accommodate occasional extensions and new options, the used software platform has to be flexible enough to handle both current requirements and future adaptations of policies. This is achieved by a modular design, which makes it easy to extend the data entry forms and document templates with new sections, options, values and rules.
The development of the underlying policy template was started by collecting a set of representative repository policies, comparing them against the frequently used OpenDOAR “Minimum” and “Optimum” templates, and combining their most essential elements into an integral form with options and alternatives. The resulting composite document was then updated to accommodate the terminology and conventions adopted in the context of recent infrastructure development in Europe. The entire alternative sub-policies needed to be developed to accommodate Creative Commons licenses or policy-related requirements of the Core Trust Seal (CTS) certification framework. The template has been tailored to produce a lightly formatted and easy to edit and publish HTML format.
The data that needs to be provided to generate policy documents, which are supposed to be publicly available anyway, is not particularly sensitive. However, the RePol tool at this point applies a radical approach to sensitive data protection and privacy. The tool does not persist any user-provided data beyond the users’ web browser session and all data is returned to the user within the generated draft policy document, without any local data saving or logging. Although this slightly reduces the capabilities related to the analysis and profiling of RePol, we hope that the resulting simplicity of access to the tool will overweight the drawbacks, particularly during the initial popularisation of the tool. The user-provided data is handed back to the user by being embedded as hidden metadata within the HTML mark-up of the produced policy document or exported in a standalone XML document, both of which can be imported back into the tool. This allows the user to upload a previously saved policy and update or change it.
RePol location and support
The baseline implementation of RePol is fully operational and is available at https://repol.ni4os.eu. It is available for evaluation, use and comments by users, which can be sent to email@example.com.
At this point, it is not foreseen that RePol will be localised to any of NI4OS-Europe languages, but the NI4OS-Europe team will evaluate the feasibility of this endeavour, especially as part of the National Open Science Cloud priorities and the activities performed by the networks of EOSC Promoters and NI4OS-Europe Translation Officers.
The technical implementation of RePol is general and quite independent from its current application related to repository policies, it may be adopted by other groups in need of similar specific or generic functionality, which would facilitate its further development. Although RePol has already been designed to be highly configurable, its potential application for other purposes would require further separation of core code and functionality from the application-specific configuration, templates and branding.