Slave Biographies

Data Management Plan

Datasets contributed to Slave Biographies: Atlantic Database Network will be managed and maintained according to the following Data Management Plan,which covers intellectual property rights, data access and dissemination, data standards for upload, data storage, and institutional resources. This plan will be updated annually.

Roles and responsibilities

Slave Biographies is based on the cooperation between researchers and the project team. All datasets hosted by Slave Biographies are the product of researchers. The Advisory Board, Paul LaChance as lead advisor, Gwendolyn Hall and Walter Hawthorne as principal investigators, Catherine Foley as project manager, and Matrix IT share responsibility for Slave Biographies. The advisory board, principal investigators, and project director are responsible for long-term academic administration and strategic planning. Matrix is responsible for the long-term technical administration and support of the project.

Expected data

Slave Biographies publishes datasets assembled by scholars in the course of research on Atlantic slavery. The sources for these datasets include archives, courthouses, churches, government offices, museums, ports, and private collections. Datasets are transferred to Matrix in a wide variety of formats. A copy of the original file is preserved at ingest. Production copies of the data are normalized to a standard set of field names used throughout the project and transferred to a MySQL database for use on the project website running on Matrix's Kora backend. The database is also compatible with the Open Archive Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). Metadata regarding the description, contributor, format, and usage rights of each dataset is captured during ingest and stored with the original and production copies.

The current scope of Slave Biographies extends only through the 19th century; however, human trafficking and other forms of slavery continue to this day. If the project expands beyond the 19th century, it may begin to include data subject to the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subject, which will be reviewed and incorporated into the data management policy at that time.

Period of data retention

Data contributors hold varying levels of legal protections depending on their country of origin. Where the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty has been ratified, Article 5 grants copyright on the organizational structure of a database. Individual data of the dataset can be protected by terms of use (e.g. in the US), copyright (e.g. in Brazil), or database rights (e.g. in the EU). Contributors must agree to one of a limited number of Creative Commons licenses before Slave Biographies will include their data. Slave Biographies allows contributors to embargo datasets for a duration negotiated during the contribution agreement process. This allows them to publish research based on their data before the dataset is open to the general public. Because the purpose of Slave Biographies is to encourage data sharing, eventually all contributed datasets will be open to the public.

Data formats and dissemination

The Slave Biographies website will run on Matrix's Kora backend, which uses MySQL. MySQL is a widely-used open-source database software for web coding, but Matrix is exploring other options for software to make it database independent. Kora can export all data as XML. Users will be able to download data from the Slave Biographies website as in SPSS format, a ubiquitous statistical package.

Data storage and preservation of access

Matrix and MSU plan to maintain the Slave Biographies data and backend indefinitely. The original version of each dataset will be archived, but the production version will be updated with edits and additions. Matrix currently has a weekly schedule of full backups with daily incremental backups and stores one full backup at the MSU Cyclotron facility. Additionally, it maintains a weekly dark archive back up at ICPSR in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and 4 years of semi-annual full backups at the MSU Archives.

How to cite the databases

The Chicago Manual of Style’s “Quick Guide” has example of how to cite online databases. We suggest:

Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Louisiana Slave Database, Slave Biographies: Atlantic Database Network, (accessed October 10, 2013).

Walter Hawthorne, Maranhão Slave Database, Slave Biographies: Atlantic Database Network, (accessed October 10, 2013).

Brian Mitchell, Free Black Database, Slave Biographies: Atlantic Database Network, (accessed October 10, 2017).


Unless otherwise stated, all data is available under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial 3.0 Unported License.

Creative Commons