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Quality criteria for electronic source editions

In 2008, Porta Historica drew up standard quality criteria for electronic source editions. With these quality criteria, Porta Historica makes clear what the requirements are that academic source editions have to meet.



The quality requirements are minimum requirements because they have to apply to editions that vary greatly in nature and purpose. Moreover, they have to apply to editions that are part of different scholarly traditions. The quality standard thus constitutes a general guideline.

The academic principles that are the foundation for electronic source editions do not deviate significantly from the principles that generally apply to source editions, whether they appear in print or in a mixed printed/digital format. In the case of electronic editions, specific requirements have to be added due to the publishing format. These specific requirements have been incorporated into this standard.

The aim of the quality standard is to provide a basis, a common starting point, for setting up an electronic source edition. The standard can be of assistance when cooperation between different partners is involved. It can also assist in the assessment by users of the quality (authenticity, reliability, etc.) of historic sources that are published on the  internet.

In general, therefore, the aim of this standard is to further the quality of electronic source editions.

1. Aim and requirements to be met by the criteria

-    these quality criteria are a minimum standard forming the basis for electronic source editions, with which all source editions should aim to comply
-    in accordance with the definition of ‘source edition’ by Porta Historica, the quality criteria are concerned with source editions in the true sense, repertoria, reference works and editions of statistical data as well
-    starting from the minimum standard, the quality criteria can be expanded and deepened, for example in terms of academic principles, how digital source editions can be presented or practical tips for setting up source editions

2. Academic principles

-    digital source editions must comply with the general requirements for academic research, such as meticulousness, reliability, verifiability, impartiality and independence
-    digital source editions must be created in accordance with accepted academic principles as these have been formed over a long tradition of (printed) source editions
-    these principles relate to: heuristics, selection, text processing, annotation, accesses, references and acknowledgement of sources
-    the digital source edition must contain an explanation of the academic significance of the edition, the intended target group, the academic practice followed in respect of the source edition, the conditions applicable to the research and the edition, and details of the people responsible for the edition

3. Presentation

-    the way in which digital data and text files are structured should be based on content-related decisions that form part of the academic processing
-    access to the data and text files should satisfy the academic questions that a user may raise
-    the search options should be explained clearly and concisely
-    each digital source edition should have citation instructions according to accepted standards
-    each digital source edition must contain a copyright clause with conditions for reuse and reproduction
-    an accounting must be given of the choices made regarding the presentation of the material and the selected search functionality
-    changes and additions to the content of a digital source edition should be accounted for
-    the date of the first and most recent processing should be given
-    it should be possible to put forward corrections or additions, for example via a reply button, discussion area or annotation

4. Openness and availability

-    the aim is to provide open access to the digital source edition
-    it should be possible to print parts of the text and data files
-    the possibility of downloading text and data files is recommended
-    interoperability with similar data files should be taken into account

5. Preservation and sustainability
-    information must be provided on how the text and data file will be managed and maintained in the long term and by which institution
-    the technical data in respect of the software, storage etc. must be documented.