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Archive for March, 2012

On Thursday 22nd March, a beautiful spring day, three members of the PrePARe team headed to London for a knowledge exchange event with other projects in the Digital Preservation stand. The event was kindly hosted by folk at the LSE library (never knowingly undercatered it seems!) who work on the DICE project and there were also representatives from the SHARD and DataSafe projects.

We started off by outlining what progress we’d made in each of the projects, and it was immediately clear that, although we had used different evidence-gathering methods, we were coming up with similar findings. What’s good about this is that any training materials each project produces should find potential for re-use at other institutions, and even with different target audiences (the DataSafe project focuses on working with admin staff rather than academic researchers, but many of the fundamental issues remained the same). So there was a lot of useful discussions around the whys and wherefores, including the ever-important subject of choosing appropriate language to talk about digital preservation of research data (tip: don’t use ‘data’. Or ‘digital preservation’).

We also talked about potential ways to work together to produce meaningful training outputs, so we will stay in contact with each other to continue our discussions on that.

Following on from this meeting the other projects have been added to our blogroll, as there are a lot of interesting findings to read about.

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March update

We have now interviewed twenty researchers which concludes our fieldwork. We will blog on the interview process shortly.

Currently we are busy writing up our findings and debating the outcomes. We are looking forward to the Knowledge Exchange Event next week (22nd March at LSE). Our advisory group will review our recommendations on the 29th March after which we will circulate what tools and resources we have decided to develop.

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I’ve already blogged about how I started work on the project’s literature review.  Here, I’d like to highlight some of the areas covered by the review.

The way we think about what digital preservation – what it involves and who it is done by – will influence the information we are likely to find about it.  Particularly, if I were a researcher interested in digital preservation searching for how to go about doing it on my own research data, I might very easily think that actually it wasn’t anything to do with me and that ‘digital preservation’ was something done by information professionals.  This makes me wonder if over time, we’ll come to use a range of terms more widely used to reflect the different aspects of preservation and the roles of different practitioners (researchers, archivists, repository managers etc).  If you have any ideas on this, please let us know in the comments!

I was very interested in finding out more about Personal Digital Archiving (PDArc), as this was an area that had much more practical advice for the novice.  I think there’s a lot that can be repurposed for providing advice on research data preservation.  Another benefit that I think may be worth exploring is whether using PDArc in training/guidance materials can help avoid a lot of the issues with making discipline-specific materials.  Almost everyone will have reasonably extensive personal digital material in a range of data types (documents, images, videos, audio, spreadsheets, etc) and many of those also form part of research data.  Of course, such an approach will not be suitable for everyone, but it may provide a helpful starting point which can then be built upon in relation to more disciplinary-specific or individual needs.  I also wonder if it will be easier to get people’s attention on this area and so it might actually help dissemination.

It was also important to consider archiving digital records.  UK HEIs seem to produce more guidance on this area than on preserving digital research materials, but it also seems that some institutions include research data in their definition of digital records; this might not be an obvious link for researchers seeking information on long-term storage of their research data.

I was very conscious that most of the resources were available online, and realised that there were three main reasons for this.  One was the ease: I literally did not have to leave my desk.  A second was that this helped me find resources outside Cambridge University, and so gave a better idea of what was available to other academics, both in the UK and internationally.   But the third, and probably best, reason was that I wanted the most up-to-date information on what was available, and however recent a print publication, it is likely to refer to many sources that are several years old.

The literature review is available at the PrePARe project website:  http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/preservation/prepare/litreview.html.

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