JISC Beginner's Guide to Digital Preservation

…creating a pragmatic guide to digital preservation for those working on JISC projects

Archive for November, 2010

Launch of the JISC Beginner’s Guide to Digital Preservation

Posted by Marieke Guy on 19th November 2010

We have now been given the go-ahead for a soft launch of the JISC Beginner’s Guide to Digital Preservation.

Just to reitereate this is the guide that the writing of this blog has documented and contributed to.

It has been written for those working on JISC projects who would like help with preserving their outputs. It is aimed at those who are new to digital preservation but can also serve as a resource for those who have specific requirements or wish to find further resources in certain areas.

The Guide is available at: http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/jisc-beg-dig-pres/

The site can be navigated in the following ways:

You can comment on any page on the site, so please do let us know what you think and if there are any resources we’ve missed.

We will promoting the guide over the forthcoming months.

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Wikipedia Terminal Event Management policy

Posted by Marieke Guy on 15th November 2010

A representation of the primer section of the Wikipedia message

Have you ever taken a look at Wikipedia’s Terminal Event Management policy? It details the “procedures to be followed to safeguard the content of the encylopedia in the event of a non-localized event that would render the continuation of Wikipedia in its current form untenable“.

The policy is designed to facilitate the preservation of the encyclopedia by a transition to non-electronic media in an orderly, time-sensitive manner or, if events dictate otherwise, the preservation of the encyclopedia by other means.

It starts off by saying when the policy will be implemented – imminent societal collapse e.g. limited nuclear exchange, pandemic, hypercane, supervolcano, the rapid onset of a climatic change or other global ecological disaster. Or an imminent extinction level event e.g. global thermonuclear war, asteroid impact, global revenant epidemic, stellar gamma ray burst, etc.

OK so now you are starting to wonder if this is a serious thing….It sounds like the content of a blockbuster movie!

So it’s a bit of a joke and filed under Wikipedia humor. Nevertheless the data preservation techniques and procedures are definitely of interest.

It is suggested that editors print as many articles as possible, with due regard to any personal safety concerns that may be faced in these extraordinary events. However laborious this approach may seem, editors are asked to bear in mind that transfer to electronic media, such as CD, DVD or memory stick, while quicker, would defeat the purpose of this policy.

Once again we are back to the more secure preservation format – paper!

The policy goes on to discuss the type of articles to save given that there are currently 3 million in Wikipedia:

While articles that would be of immediate utility in the changed world circumstances, such as animal husbandry and carpentry, should be amongst those articles that every editor should have in their archives, consideration should be given to the preservation of articles of high cultural significance or of a more esoteric nature.

The proposed plan is that editors and archivist all print off and store as many random articles as they can and then later on they pool their resources in an attempt to recreate Wikipedia.

What a relief to hear that an “alternative strategy will be undertaken at the Wikimedia server facility. On the implementation of the TEMP protocol, a laser etched version of Wikipedia will be created using plates of a resillient alloy to store minaturized versions of every page“.

The policy goes into more detail over the preservation approaches that can be taken if exstinction is nigh – “data shall be transmitted from the world’s radio telescopes to the 300 nearest stars and to the centre of the galaxy for as long as possible”.

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, leaves us with a final thought.

While the light of humanity may flicker and die, we go gently into this dark night, comforted in the knowledge that someday Wikipedia shall take its rightful place as part of a consensus-built Galactic Encyclopedia, editable by all sentient beings.

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Preserving the Internet using….paper?

Posted by Marieke Guy on 11th November 2010

Maybe digital preservation is just a black hole and the best way to preserve the Internet is using paper?

The Paper Internet Project takes the stance that you could do worse than “preserve important bits of our civilization for future centuries using a bundle of paper sealed in plastic“.

Saving the web, one page at a time

They are building a series of time capsules containing photos, music, technical journals, and descriptions of everyday life in Right Now, A.D. The time capsules are buried by volunteers at specific locations all over the world. Each node contains the locations of all the others, forming a network.

So far they have built 3 nodes and have curated the data for dozens more. The work is being funded by donations. Each time capsule of 2,000-4,000 pages costs $40-$60 for printing and $20-$30 for the epoxy. They become more cost-effective as they scale up.

Good idea? What do people think?

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New Principles for Access to Digital Materials

Posted by Marieke Guy on 9th November 2010

Last week the Collections Trust announced a new set of Principles for Supporting Long-term Access to Digital Material, commissioned by MLA and produced by the Collections Trust with the support of a range of organisations including The National Archives, Heritage Lottery Fund, Archaeology Data Service, British Library, Digital Preservation Coalition, Museums Galleries Scotland, Joint Information Systems Committee and UKOLN.

The Principles form the first part of a programme of work during 2010-11 to develop guidance to support both funders and cultural institutions in developing digital resources that are more sustainable, both through Digital Preservation and more generally through the management of the Digital Content Supply Chain. The Principles Paper is available to download from Collections Link.

To keep in touch with the development of this work, and the related standards and guidelines, join the Digitisation Standards network.

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Addressing the Research Data Challenge

Posted by Marieke Guy on 8th November 2010

Last week the Digital Curation Centre (DCC) ran a series of inter-linked workshops aimed at supporting institutional data management, planning and training. The roadshow will travel round the UK but the first one was held in central Bath. The event ran over 3 days and provided Institutions with advice and guidance tailored to a range of different roles and responsibilities.

Day one (Tuesday 2nd November) looked the Research Data Landscape and offered a selection of case studies highlighting different models, approaches and working practice. Day two (Wednesday 3rd November) considered the research data challenge and how we can develop an institutional response. Day three (Thursday 4th November) comprised of 2 half-day training workshops: Train the Trainer and Digital Curation 101.

Unfortunately due to other commitments I could only make the second day of the roadshow, but found it really useful and would thoroughly recommend anyone interested in institutional curation of research data to attend the next workshop (to be held in Sheffield early next year – watch this space!).

The Research Data Challenge: Developing an Institutional Response

Liz Lyon Presenting

Day two of the roadshow was aimed at high-level managers and researchers with the intention of getting them to work together to identify first steps in developing an institutional strategic plan for research data management support and service delivery. Although there was a huge amount of useful information to take in (if only I’d come across more of it when writing the Beginner’s Guide! Currently waiting for the go ahead for release.) it was very much a ‘working day’. We were to get our hands dirty looking at real research curation and preservation situations in our own institutions.

After coffee and enjoying some of the biggest biscuits I’ve seen we were introduced to the DCC and given a quick overview by Kevin Ashley, Director DCC, University of Edinburgh. The majority of the day was facilitated by Dr Liz Lyon, Associate Director, DCC and Director of UKOLN, University of Bath. Liz reiterated the research data challenge we face but pointed out that there are both excellent case-studies and excellent tools now available for our use. Two that are worth highlighting here are DMP Online (DCC’s data management planning tool) and University of Southampton’s IDMB: Institutional data management blueprint. The slides Liz used during the day were excellent, they are available from the DCC Web site in PPT format and can be downloaded as a PDF from here.

During the day we worked in groups on a number of exercises. The idea is that we would start fairly high level and then drill down into more specific actions. In the first exercise my group took a look at motivations and benefits for research data management and the barriers that are currently in place. Naturally the economic climate was mentioned a fair amount during the day but some of the long-standing issues still remain: where responsibility lies, lack of skills, lack of a coherent framework, taking data out of context, storage issues and so on. After our feedback Liz gave another plenary on Reviewing Data Support Services: Analysis, Assessment, Priorities. The key DCC key tool in this area is the Data Asset Framework (formerly the Data Audit Framework) which provides organisations with the means to identify, locate, describe and assess how they are managing their research data assets – very useful for prioritising work. Useful reports include those from the Supporting Data Management Infrastructure for the Humanities (Sudamih) project. There was a feeling that looking into this area was becoming easier, people tend to be more open than they were a few years back, there is definitely groundswell.

Group Exercises

In exercise 2 we carried out a SWOT analysis of current research data. In the feedback there were a few mentions of the excellent Review of the State of the Art of the Digital Curation of Research Data by Alex Ball. Liz also provided us with a useful resources list (in her slides).

After an excellent lunch and a very brief break (no time to rest when sorting out HE’s data problems!) we returned to another plenary by Liz on Building Capacity and Capability in your Institution: Skills, Roles, Resources whih laid the groundwork for exercise 3 –
a skills and services Audit. This exercise required us to think about the various skills needed for data curation and align them with people in our institutions. There was a recognition that librarians do ‘a lot’ and are more than likely to become the hub for activity in the future. There was also a realisation that there is a fair number of gaps (for example around provenance) and that there can be a bit of a hole between the creation of data by researchers and the passing on of curated data to librarians. Another reason why we need to create more links with our researchers. Again lots of excellent resources that I hope to return to including Appraise & Select Research Data for Curation by Angus Whyte, Digital Curaton Centre, and Andrew Wilson, Australian National Data Service.

Liz then gave her final plenary on Developing a Strategic Plan for Research Data Management: Position, Policy, Structure and Service Delivery. The suggestions on optimising organisational support and looking at quick wins put us in the right frame of mind for the final exercise – Planning Actions and Timeframe. We were required to lay down our ‘real’ and aspirational actions for the short-term (0-12 months), medium-term (1-36 months) and long term (over 3 years). A seriously tricky task! The feedback reflected on the situation we are currently in economically and how it offers us as many opportunities as clallenges. Now is a better time than ever for reform and for information services to take on a leadership role. Kevin Ashley concluded the day with some thoughts on the big who, how and why issues. He stressed that training is so important at the moment. Many skills are in short supply and employing new staff is not an option so reskilling your staff is essential.

Flickr photos from the day (include photos of the flip chart pages created) are available from the UKOLN Flickr page and brief feedback videos are available from the UKOLN Vimeo page. There is also a Lanyard entry for the roadshow. The event tag was #dccsw10.

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