DataRescue Workflow

This document describes DataRescue activities both at in-person events and remotely, as developed by the DataRefuge project and EDGI. It explains the process that a URL/dataset goes through from the time it has been identified, either by a Seeder as difficult to preserve, or "uncrawlable," until it is made available as a record in the data catalog. The process involves several stages and is designed to maximize smooth hand-offs. At each step the data is with someone with distinct expertise and the data is always being tracked for security.

Note: This workflow is no longer supported as of May 21, 2017

Event Organizers

Learn about what you need to do to before and after an event.

Event Attendees

  • Join the event Slack team recommended by event organizers, this is often the DataRefuge Slack. During the event people share expertise and answer each other's questions here.
  • Pick your role from the paths below, get account credentials, and make sure you have access to the key documents and tools you need to work. Organizers will instruct you on these steps.
  • Review the relevant sections(s) of this workflow.

Path I. Surveying


Surveyors identify key programs, datasets, and documents on Federal Agency websites that are vulnerable to change and loss. Using templates and how-to guides, they create Main Agency Primers in order to introduce a particular agency, and Sub-Agency Primers in order to guide web archiving efforts by laying out a list of URLs that cover the breadth of an office.

Path II. Website Archiving


Seeders canvass the resources of a given government agency, identifying important URLs. They identify whether those URLs can be crawled by the Internet Archive's web crawler. Using the EDGI Nomination Chrome extension, Seeders nominate crawlable URLs to the Internet Archive or add them to the Archivers app if they require manual archiving.

Path III. Archiving More Complex Datasets

A. Researching

Researchers inspect the "uncrawlable" list to confirm that Seeders' assessments were correct (that is, that the URL/dataset is indeed uncrawlable), and investigate how the dataset could be best harvested. describes this process in more detail.

We recommend that Researchers and Harvesters (see below) work together in pairs, as much communication is needed between the two roles. In some cases, one person will fulfill both roles.

B. Harvesting

Harvesters take the "uncrawlable" data and try to figure out how to actually capture it based on the recommendations of the Researchers. This is a complex task which can require substantial technical expertise and different techniques for different tasks. Harvesters should also review the Harvesting Toolkit for tools.

C. Checking/Bagging

Checkers inspect a harvested dataset and make sure that it is complete. The main question the checkers need to answer is "will the bag make sense to a scientist"? Checkers need to have an in-depth understanding of harvesting goals and potential content variations for datasets.
Note: Checking is currently performed by Baggers and does not exist as a separate stage in the Archivers app.

Baggers perform some quality assurance on the dataset to make sure the content is correct and corresponds to the original URL. Then they package the data into a bagit file (or "bag"), which includes basic technical metadata, and upload it to the final DataRefuge destination.

D. Describing

Describers create a descriptive record in the DataRefuge CKAN repository for each bag. Then they link the record to the bag and make the record public.


DataRescue is a broad, grassroots effort with support from numerous local and nationwide networks. DataRefuge and EDGI partner with local organizers in supporting these events. See more of our institutional partners on the DataRefuge home page.