1 Jul 2015

Developing Curation Ready Projects Workshop

Last week I attended a very interesting one-day workshop that covered the topical theme of digital curation and adjacent considerations. What I actually liked most about this session was the presence of a diverse audience: the room was not just filled with curious librarians, but also included artists concerned with how to best preserve their creative outputs in the digital realm (one facet of the digital curation process), as well as researchers interested in the holistic nature of curation within the digital humanities context.

The day started off with Debra F. Laefer who spoke about the higher-order rationale of open access within the digital realm (presentation entitled The euros and cents of open access data). This may include the need to fulfil institutional and research sponsorship requirements, but also public expectations, which essentially relate to the establishment of equitable access to taxpayer sponsored research outputs. Laefer also noted the immediate researcher benefits of openly sharing research data and adjoining journal publications. They include, for example, ownership validation, attraction of potential collaborators for joint publications, provision of new insights and their timely usage in a variety of academic and non-academic contexts.

Kalpana Shankar provided a brief introduction to digital curation by demarcating its boundaries (what it is and isn't). In a nutshell, digital curation represents a set of activities including the selection, preservation, maintenance, collection and archiving of digital assets. It covers the entire lifecycle of the digital item and not just an isolated activity, such as digitisation for example. Kalpana pointed out the various threats to digital material (from software rot to sociopolitical issues) and offered cogent motivations for carrying out digtial curation efforts. Pertinent examples were provided to this end and the digital curation lifecyle model was discussed. The OAIS framework was also introduced for the purpose of illustrating the considerations behind the design of archival systems.

Amber Cushing focused in her presentation on the specific activities involved in the creation of a digital preservation plan: 1) Identify your interest or activity, 2) Describe the interest or activity, 3) Select a subset using appraisal, 4) Select and plan a preservation strategy. Appraisal refers to the tricky process of determining material significance and enduring value. Depending on context and scope, this can (is) cognitively taxing: what represents value to me might not represent value to you. This task is especially difficult when arguing for project funding support...

Jenny O'Neill reiterated the importance of digital file preservation and then drilled into the conceptual and practical considerations around metadata that attach to digital objects. Rights management was discussed (Creative Commons) as well as various DRI guides.

From a librarian (my) perspective, digital curation is of critical importance. Considering Chris Alen Sula's conceptual model very much highlights the intricacies involved here.

Finally, I'd like to point to Charles W. Bailey's recently published Research Data Curation Bibliography, which might be of interest to some of you. This selective bibliography includes over 350 English-language articles, books, and technical reports that are useful in understanding the curation of digital research data in academic and other research institutions.


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