At some point in your project you are going to ask yourself ‘What Exactly Do I Need to Preserve?‘ It is likely that your JISC project will have produced a large amount of digital objects and information. Their quality will vary significantly and you will want to be selective about what you keep and what you don’t. Selection means that you can filter your digital objects so that your resources are concentrated on those that are the most important to preserve.
“Preservation adds value through selection. Choice involves defining value, recognizing it in something, and then deciding to address preservation needs in the way most appropriate to that value“.
(Atkinson 1986, p. 345 from Preservation in the Digital World)
Appraisal and selection is a difficult process and involves weighing up the reasons for keeping certain digital objects or information against the preservation costs involved. It is hard to be objective when making selection choices but having a selection criteria can be beneficial.
The Digital Curation Centre (DCC) offers a list of criteria for appraisal and selection for digital data. Some questions you might want to consider are:
- Does the data or record fit into a repository’s selection policy? (Is there a selection policy in place at all?)
- Who will or might use the data or record in the future? (Is there a defined ‘designated community’?)
- Is it economically feasible to keep the data or record? (Can we afford to do so?)
- Can acceptable legal and intellectual property rights, to keep and re-use the data, be negotiated?
- Is there a legal requirement to keep the data (and make them accessible) for a certain period of time?
- Do the data constitute the ‘vital records’ of a project, organisation or consortium and therefore need to be retained indefinitely?
- Is it both technically feasible and worthwhile in cost/benefit terms to preserve the data or record? (What file formats are used, for example? Is their maintenance viable?)
- Do sufficient documentation and metadata exist to explain the character, and enable the discovery, of the data or record?
The Data Preservation Alliance for the Social Sciences (DataPASS) suggestions are:
- How significant are the data for research?
- How significant is the source and scientific progress and society?
- Is the information unique?
- How usable are the data?
- What is the timeframe covered by the information?
- Are the data related to other data in the archives?
- What are the cost considerations for long-term maintenance of the data?
- What is the volume of data?
This list of questions suggests that preservation should focus on resources with substantive functions (i.e. teaching, research, academic award administration) and substantive elements (e.g. strategy development, policy development) of facilitative operations (e.g. governance, estate management, public relations).
The JISC Preservation of Web Resources (PoWR) Project took looked at different ways in which Web resources can be appraised. One suggestion is to start off the process by considering what resources can be excluded. For example, Web-based resources that are already being managed elsewhere e.g. asset collections, objects that can be added to an institutional repository, objects which are duplicate copies, Web-based resources that have little or no value and services which do not generate any informational material of lasting value to the institution. Another approach is to prioritise using the MOSCOW approach: Must, Should, Could Or Won’t be preserved.
The three main selection approaches suggested for the Web are:
- Unselective approach – bulk/domain harvesting
- Selective approach – criteria-based selection e.g. looking at genres, subjects, funding, themes, etc.
- Selective approach – event-based – snapshots of Web resources
When some decisions have been reached you may want to consider extra elements such as which versions to preserve and give some thought to what can be deleted.
- DPE: Appraisal of Digital Resources in the Public Sector
- DPC: Selection section in Digital Preservation – Preservation Issues
- Wepreserve: Appraisal, selection and preservation planning
- UKOLN: Briefing Document: Selection for Web Resource Preservation
- JISC Infonet: Guidance on Archival Appraisal
- DPC: Decision Tree for Selection of Digital Materials for Long-term Retention
- ADS: Guides to Good Practice: Selection, Retention and Preservation Intervention Points
- Wikipedia: MoSCoW Method