Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Introduction to the Digital Curation Blog

The Digital Curation Centre runs a Forum for its Associate Network community, based on bulletin board technology (see http://forum.dcc.ac.uk/). This exercise has been a limited success; although we have many Associates Network members, and some considerable traffic reading the Forum, there has not been a substantial and frequent posting, and overall most posts have been from DCC staff. The Forum has been comparatively successful compared with some other such ventures in the JISC community, but its success has not satisfied us. We have tried two approaches to improving things: the first was to simplify the structure of the Forum, and the second was to begin to treat it rather more like a blog.

The latter has some appeal, but (as usual) needs more sustained effort than we have been able to provide. It also became clear that despite a RSS feed, the “Forum as blog” did not integrate well into the blogosphere. Nevertheless we think a blog is the way to go, and so we have decided to trial two blogs. The first is the DCC Blawg, providing “snippet” information about relevant legal developments relating to data and curation. The second is this Curation Blog.

The aim here is to write a series of short pieces exploring aspects of curation and preservation, particularly some of the more puzzling issues, and also reflecting on events we have attended. Initially I will be the author, but we will decide whether to expand it to other DCC authors later.

Among the issues I am interested in writing about are:

- the lifecycle approach to digital curation, leading towards our curation white paper.

- a whole lot of stuff about repositories, and curation implications.

- interesting events, currently including one on preserving e-Journals (where associated data featured strongly), and one on publishing, where the same thing happened. We also had an interesting research workshop on preserving databases.

- The relationship between data and information is a current topic of some interest to me. Some of this relates to the relationship between models and reality, some to the social construction of data, some more concretely to what it means to publish data, some to the relationships between documents and databases. And these thoughts lead on to, or back from…

- OAIS (the Open Archival Information System) and its implications for curation are also interesting. Although it seems to me that OAIS has an “end of life” focus while curation has an “all of life” focus (both of those being shorthand for more complicated thoughts), nevertheless we are convinced that OAIS has value. Key to it is the idea of representation information, which is everything that connects data to information for a designated community. We’re still a bit short of concrete examples for these concepts, despite the wide acceptance in general terms of OAIS.

- I’m also very interested in data citation, and there are many issues to explore here.

- The National Library of Medicine Permanence Ratings are an interesting idea that could do with further exploration.

- Sustainability issues are of continuing concern: both economic (cost and value) and societal, as well as technical.

- And all this without yet mentioning annotation provenance, workflows, GRIDS, trusted digital repositories, etc, etc!

So there’s plenty to write about. Can we keep it up? So far my biggest concern has been the amount of time required to write a shortish piece with some value, making connections between resources and discussions elsewhere on the web, including a reasonable amount of checking. Half a day at a time can easily be consumed in one piece, and there aren’t enough of those spare. But nevertheless, I’m going to try. Feedback would be nice, from time to time!


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