Collection policy


Issue Lab is a digital repository that collects and shares the knowledge assets published and funded by social sector organizations. The goal of the repository is to advance research and learning in and about the social sector. To this end, it facilitates discovery of and access to collected resources. It also contributes to the development of new knowledge through archiving and preserving digital resources.

Scope of content

Issue Lab was created to aggregate and preserve research outputs, evaluations, and practical resources such as organizational annual reports, from social sector organizations. While a small portion of the content collected is formally published, the vast majority of collected items are grey literature that is self-published through organizational websites. Resources are from organizations around the world.

Collection sources

Resource collection occurs in a number of ways:

  • Staff members add resources to Issue Lab’s main collection ( and Issue Lab special collections to support ongoing curation and preservation efforts.
  • Organizations request that Issue Lab staff archive their works.
  • Issue Lab site users who have created a free user account add resources at will.
  • Clients of Issue Lab’s knowledge center service add resources at will to their knowledge centers. Resources added to knowledge centers that meet Issue Lab’s collection criteria are also included in Issue Lab’s main collection and special collections.
  • Organizations that are ceasing or have ceased operation work with Issue Lab to permanently archive their organization’s collection.
  • Issue Lab ingests metadata and content from relevant archives, repositories, databases, and websites.

Inclusion criteria

Main public site

Issue Lab’s criteria for inclusion in the main collection available at

  • Work must be published or funded by a social sector organization or foundation.
  • Work must be free and accessible to the public.
  • Work must be data-driven, whether it is qualitative or quantitative. Opinion pieces, press releases, blog posts, brochures, etc., are not accepted.
  • Work must include complete citations and references.
  • We require that a copy of the resource be uploaded to Issue Lab’s system if it is published in a downloadable file format. A link to the resource on an external site can also be attached to the resource. This allows us to link users directly to the supplier’s preferred site while still maintaining a backup copy on Issue Lab’s servers in case the link provided stops working.
  • Sharing the work through Issue Lab’s system must not violate copyright.

Issue Lab special collections

Issue Lab creates and maintains special collections on topical issues. The criteria for inclusion in special collections follow the criteria for our main collection and add the issue-specific curatorial focus of the special collections as a criterium.

Acceptable materials

The types of resources Issue Lab collects include:

  • annual reports
  • articles
  • audio
  • books
  • case studies
  • conference reports
  • datasets
  • evaluations
  • fact sheets
  • infographics/still images
  • interactive resources
  • issue/policy briefs
  • legislative documents
  • literature/research reviews
  • moving Images/videos
  • presentations/slides
  • reports/whitepapers
  • surveys
  • toolkits

Acceptable file types

Issue Lab accepts all digital file types. Examples of currently archived file types include: data sets (.csv,.xls, .xlsx); portable document format files (.pdf); Microsoft word documents (.doc, .docx); image formats (.jpg, .png); Microsoft presentation files (.ppt, .pptm, .pptx); text documents (.rtf); and file archives (.zip).

Approval process

All resources added to Issue Lab are manually reviewed by staff to ensure that they meet our inclusion criteria, they are free of typographical and grammatical errors, that metadata applied is accurate, and that uploaded files are not corrupted and work as expected. Submitted resources are held in a pending-approval state; they are put through our approval process typically within 48 hours of receipt.


Access via website

Issue Lab’s main public site available at and special collections are available to access at no cost via the World Wide Web. Anyone can search, browse, and access metadata that describes resources. We supply full-text whenever possible, either by providing a link to the full-text document on a publishing organization’s website, and/or by providing the full-text document from Issue Lab’s archive.

Access via application programming interface (API)

Issue Lab operates an API that provides all of our collected metadata for free in XML or JSON format. Issue Lab’s metadata is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) (see “About Copyright” below for more on this). Anyone can request an API key at no cost and access the API anytime at

Access via Open Archives Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) data provider

Issue Lab operates an OAI-compliant data provider that provides our collected metadata in XML using Dublin Core. Anyone can use our data provider at no cost, and access it anytime at


Combined, the digital works archived with Issue Lab provide a historic record of social change issues and interventions as these have played out over the decades. Each work is an important part of the story of global philanthropic efforts. Therefore, once archived, works are considered permanent and not available to withdraw. However, resources that violate copyright by being shared through Issue Lab will be withdrawn upon request. In addition, we will consider withdrawal of resources for other reasons such as complaints of plagiarism. Please see our terms of service for more information about copyright infringement and withdrawals.

About copyright

(Please also see our terms of service for complete information regarding copyright.)

The goal of Issue Lab is to make the content we collect as widely available as possible to support ongoing learning and research in and about the social sector. Issue Lab includes resources that are in the public domain and copyrighted resources. Copyright owners retain copyright over items deposited with Issue Lab. We honor the copyright of works shared through Issue Lab’s platform:

  • content submitters (people who have a free user account; knowledge center clients) who add content to Issue Lab certify that they have the right/permission to share a work at time of upload;
  • submitters define and supply the copyright for a work;
  • the copyright applied to a resource is displayed on the detail page that describes and provides full-text access to that resource;
  • the copyright is provided along with all other metadata attached to a resource in our data output methods (eg., application programming interface and open archives-compliant data provider).

As an open access advocate, Issue Lab promotes the use of open licenses such as Creative Commons licenses. When describing copyright for a resource, content submitters are provided with information about open licenses and have the option to append an open license to their resource to make explicit permitted uses of their work.

While the resources shared through Issue Lab carry their own copyrights, the metadata created during the resource submission process is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). This means that the resource metadata available throughout Issue Lab’s public site and special collections, and provided through our application programming interface and open archives-compliant data provider is free for anyone to use under the terms of the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.

Preservation policy

Issue Lab is committed to providing open access to the resources it collects and makes available through online channels. We perform consistent checks on all digital content to ensure that resources archived with Issue Lab remain accessible and in a usable state. Direct access to resources is created by assigning every resource a unique, permanent identifier and every uploaded file is backed up as part of our secure storage process.

Issue Lab stores and serves up digital content in the format in which it was submitted. We currently make no effort to change the file format of supplied files. We advocate for the use of open and supported file formats for archival purposes in an effort to ensure that end users are provided usable content. We cannot guarantee that a file downloaded from the Issue Lab archive will be usable on every system.

Metadata policy

Issue Lab captures the following descriptive metadata for every resource during the submission process:

  • title
  • publishing organization(s)
  • external URL (where full-text can be accessed; optional)
  • uploaded file label
  • summary/abstract
  • author(s) (optional)
  • funder(s) (optional)
  • copyright
  • language
  • publication date (YYYY, YYYY-MM, or YYYY-MM-DD)
  • universal identifier(s) (ISBN, ISSN, DOI) (optional)
  • geographic area of focus (optional)
  • issue area(s)
  • document type

Issue Lab’s system generates and attaches the following metadata to resources once they are approved for sharing through Issue Lab:

  • unique ID number
  • unique identifier string (based on title)
  • unique filename
  • file checksum
  • sort-ready title
  • machine-readable publication date
  • date added to Issue Lab (YYYY-MM-DD)
  • machine-readable version – date added to Issue Lab
  • date last modified (YYYY-MM-DD)
  • machine-readable version – date last modified
  • user ID of submitter
  • approver ID
  • graphic images of file first page (when possible)

Issue Lab’s system also generates enriched metadata when possible which takes the form of keywords and topical matching to Wikipedia’s list of categories.

Issue Lab staff reviews all metadata and modifies/normalizes it as needed to ensure it is free of typographical and grammatical errors and conforms to established metadata standards and to enhance discoverability of resources.

Metadata is used in Issue Lab’s main website, special collections, knowledge centers, application programming interface, open archives-compliant data provider. It is also available to external services such as search engines and indexes, web crawlers, social media platforms, open archives initiative data harvesters, and other data ingesters.

As noted under “About copyright”, the metadata created during the resource submission process is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).


Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with questions and/or comments about these policies. Feel free to contact us.