PrePARe Project Literature Review

Introduction

The PrePARe project is funded by JISC in the Strand: Enhancing Digital Preservation Capability Within HEIs. The aim of this strand is to "research, design implement and describe the incorporation of relevant and appropriate preservation training and advice into existing programmes (within UK HEI's) for staff skills development" (JISC, 2011).

This literature review for the project aims to establish current practices of preservation training in Cambridge and the UK HEI sector, and has three main areas of interest:

  1. Identify and review relevant existing preservation literature;
  2. Research and assess current engagement practices – benchmarking with other HEIs;
  3. Map existing training provision available in Cambridge.

The previous JISC-funded project Evaluating Plato in Cambridge (EPIC) carried out a literature review on Preservation Planning. The most up-to-date version is on the project website (Cambridge University Library, 2011a) and forms a starting point for this review, particularly on introductions to digital preservation and training.

Defining terms and concepts

Previous JISC projects in Cambridge and numerous other HEIs have shown that the use of language can have an impact in the efficacy and reach of training outputs; there is limited benefit in training and support material where the target audience does not understand, or is put off by, the jargon being employed. Therefore it is appropriate to define 'digital preservation' as a first step.

It is worth quoting the Wikipedia entry on Digital Preservation, which is referred to in the JISC call: "the set of processes, activities and management of digital information over time to ensure its long term accessibility". (Wikipedia, 2012a)

However, there is some inconsistency within the community, illustrated by the Wikipedia definition of 'sheer curation', which is given as "an approach to digital curation where curation activities are quietly integrated into the normal work flow of those creating and managing data and other digital assets." The entry ends: "Sheer curation … can be contrasted with post hoc digital preservation, where a project is initiated to preserve a collection of digital assets that have already been created and are beyond the period of their primary use" (Wikipedia, 2012b). Related to this is the concept of 'retention intention', active measures taken at the birth of a digital object which will help ensure that it can be preserved (Deegan & Tanner, 2006).

Introduction to Digital Preservation

In general, print publications suffer from quickly becoming dated; however, this is an acknowledged pitfall, and printed sources can provide good overviews of the digital preservation landscape, which also makes them valuable for identifying trends.

Digital curation: a how-to-do-it manual (Harvey, 2010) gives a comprehensive tour of the full digital curation process. It has a strong focus on organisation, staffing and costing and provides a good introduction, though most references date from before 2007.

Other useful published overviews on digital preservation, although now slightly dated in places, include Marilyn Deegan and Simon Tanner’s book Digital Preservation (Deegan & Tanner 2006), and Priscilla Caplan’s Preservation of Digital Materials (Caplan, 2008).

Alex Ball’s report Preservation and Curation in Institutional Repositories (Ball, 2010), produced for the Digital Curation Centre, is a recent overview focusing specifically on repositories and digital preservation. It includes introductions to repository software, the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) Reference Model, and sections on preservation architecture and planning, tools, techniques and metadata.

The JISC Beginner’s Guide to Digital Preservation (undated) is a web resource written for "people 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". Its particular benefit is that it provides detail on practical topics as well as to relevant research projects and resources.

In order for preservation planning to be successful, particularly on a national or international scale, it is important that there are effective standards in place. The OAIS reference model for repository and archive terminology and concepts was produced by the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS, 2002) and is the widely accepted standard (ISO 14721:2003). A revised edition has been prepared, but has not yet been finalised (CCSDS, 2009).

The Digital Preservation Handbook (Beagrie & Jones, 2001) provides an expert summary of preservation principles. It is now maintained by the Digital Preservation Coalition in collaboration with the National Library of Australia and the PADI Gateway. The Handbook appears to be undergoing some revision (Digital Preservation Coalition, 2009a).

The Curation Reference Manual (DCC, 2010) being developed by the Digital Curation Centre also provides accessible introductions to digital preservation topics such as metadata and email curation.

Resources on Digital Preservation

UK resources

UK organisations providing resources on digital preservation include:

The Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC)

The DPC was "established in 2001 to foster joint action to address the urgent challenges of securing the preservation of digital resources in the UK and to work with others internationally to secure our global digital memory and knowledge base" (Digital Preservation Coalition, 2009b). "[It] is a not-for-profit membership organisation whose primary objective is to raise awareness of the importance of the preservation of digital material and the attendant strategic, cultural and technological issues... Its vision is to make our digital memory accessible tomorrow" (Digital Preservation Coalition, 2009c).

Most publications, such as their Digital Preservation Handbook and Technology Watch Reports, are available as open access resources on their website.

The British Library Preservation Advisory Centre

The main focus of this Centre (formerly the National Preservation Office) is preservation of physical, rather than digital material; some information regarding digital resources is provided, and there is cross-over on issues such as the physical storage of digital material (eg CDs and DVDs). As part of their remit they provide advice on digitisation, which may be a step in digital preservation but should not be confused with digital preservation (The British Library Board, undated a).

The National Archives

The Digital Preservation section of the website provides a good overview of information on preservation, including a helpful set of FAQs which include links to more in-depth information (The National Archives, undated a). The website also includes the file formats registry PRONOM, which provides "impartial and definitive information about the file formats, software products and other technical components required to support long-term access to electronic records and other digital objects of cultural, historical or business value" (The National Archives, undated b). The PRONOM site links to DROID (Digital Record Object Identification).

International resources

Internationally, there are many other institutions and organisations providing guidance and information on digital preservation:

Europe: nestor

nestor is the national competence network for digital preservation in Germany. "Libraries, archives, museums and leading experts work together in nestor to ensure the long-term preservation and accessibility of digital sources. nestor is a cooperation association including partners from different fields, but all connected in some way with the subject of 'digital preservation'." (nestor, 2011)

USA: The Library of Congress

Within the Library of Congress, the "National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program is implementing a national strategy to collect, preserve and make available significant digital content, especially information that is created in digital form only [our emphasis], for current and future generations." (Library of Congress, undated a) The focus on born-digital material is relevant, as paper archiving is still considered more reliable in many quarters (see for example sections 2i and 2ii of British Library Board, undated b).

The Digital Preservation Outreach and Education (DPOE) initiative also "aims to foster national outreach and education to encourage individuals and organizations to actively preserve their digital content, building on a collaborative network of instructors, contributors, and institutional partners." As part of this remit, they are involved in reviewing existing curricula for digital preservation (Library of Congress, undated b). While it lists the five curricula that it looked into, it did does not give further details such as an overview of content, target audience, mode of delivery, assessment of any resources. The institutions involved were:

Australia: Preserving Access to Digital Information (PADI)

The National Library of Australia's PADI has four main objectives:

  • to facilitate the development of strategies and guidelines for the preservation of access to digital information;
  • to develop and maintain a web site for information and promotion purposes;
  • to actively identify and promote relevant activities; and
  • to provide a forum for cross-sectoral cooperation on activities promoting the preservation of access to digital information.

On a series of topics, the website provides a brief overview followed by a series of links to articles, books, websites, case studies and other relevant resources on that topic. To aid navigation and information discovery it offers digital preservation 'trails', including a beginners' trail which provides an overview and links to some of the main topics.

International Collaborations and Shared Resources

Additionally, there are several efforts underway to develop curricula for digital curation and preservation professionals. Many of the organisations listed above are actively involved in this work and are seeking to coordinate this internationally. This was most recently addressed by the JISC-supported International Curation Education (ICE) Forum.

SHERPA

Based at the University of Nottingham, this is an international collaboration to investigate issues in the future of scholarly communication. As part of this, its services include lists of open access repositories and guides to depositing material (University of Nottingham, 2006). A number of projects have involved looking at digital preservation models.

Repositories

In general, repositories, archives and data centres provide a good source of information, and for many researchers it will be advisable for them to contact a relevant data centre directly so that they can receive targeted advice around their particular research area and the data that it generates. This is especially relevant where specialist software will be used, such as GIS, or custom-written programmes, or when large quantities of data will be generated. Issues around preserving sensitive data, and sensitive personal data in particular, may also need to be discussed.

Key topics in digital preservation

General awareness of digital preservation issues:

The newspaper article When Data Disappears (Kraus, 2011) discusses issues in digital preservation for the general public; in particular she raises the question of how much of the data we generate need to be kept. This question of selection and evaluation is fraught as the concept of the 'designated community' can be unhelpful in the long term, during which time the designated community may change.

Complex digital objects

A lot of current focus in the digital preservation world appears to be on complex digital objects. Preserving web content is high on the agenda. The International Internet Preservation Consortium consists of the Library of Congress, the Internet Archive in the USA, The British Library, and the national libraries of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Italy, Norway, and Sweden. International collaboration is recognised as important to be able to preserve web content for the future.

Pandora (Preserving and Accessing Networked Documentary Resources of Australia) is the National Library of Australia's initiative to preserve web content (National Library of Australia, undated). It includes the PANDORA Digital Archiving System (PANDAS). This was developed to support the acquisition and management of data. Issues around copyright, and therefore the right to preserve web content, are important to national bodies. Some of these challenges are mentioned on the British Library Jobs section on web archiving: "The first challenge we face is actually getting permission to preserve the site. Sometimes the site is taken down before we can contact the owner, and even if we do speak to the owner, only around 25% of owners we contact grant permission. This means that, at the moment, we're only collecting about 0.05% of the 6 million or so websites in the UK domain each year." (The British Library Board, undated c)

Training Providers and Resources

Training provision can be considered as two broad types: theoretical and practical. Many training courses on digital preservation are heavily focused on institution issues, policy and theoretical implementation. It is harder to find resources which deal explicitly with how to go about preserving digital objects. Many of the most up-to-date sources can be found at specialised seminars and workshops. In some cases, the presentations are available online as slides (often in PDF format). Where practical advice for people involved in research is available it tends to form part of the provision for research data management advice in general.

Digital Preservation Training Programme (DPTP)

The DPTP is run by the University of London Computing Centre and:
"…is designed for all those working in institutional information management who are grappling with fundamental issues of digital preservation. It provides the skills and knowledge necessary for institutions to combine organisational and technological perspectives, and devise an appropriate response to the challenges that digital preservation needs present." (University of London Computing Centre, 2011)
A key feature of this resource is that its target audience are archivists and repository staff rather than researchers; the amount of information regarding day-to-day practicalities of digital preservation (or those on-going as part of the research process) gain limited coverage, and do not go directly to researchers but must be mediated. It is one of the key sources of preservation training within the UK, but it is limited in reach (through the number of participants who can attend each course, the frequency of the course, and cost of attending if not on a scholarship). This course is theoretical rather than practical; as the theory principally revolves around processes from ingest onwards, it is less suitable for researchers (and other members of university staff) who would require more practical advice on pre-ingest processes, than it is for archivists, repository staff, for example.

Digital Preservation Europe (DPE)

The DPE (Digital Preservation Europe, 2010) provides many resources that are good starting points, for example suggested background reading, list of resources and video training (Digital Preservation Europe, 2009). The training programme makes effective use of examples. These help to provide context and illustrate the contemporaneous state of digital preservation. Watching the modules has the disadvantage that participants (understandably) did not wear microphones and so questions cannot be heard; only in some cases does the reply involve sufficient context.

Digital Preservation Management

Produced by Cornell University, the site offers information about face-to-face workshops which formed the basis of the DPTP, as well as online tutorials (Cornell University Library, 2007). Whilst the tutorials are designed to be used in conjunction with attending a workshop, they do provide a well-presented source of information about digital preservation and are a useful resource for people interested in preservation but who cannot attend the face-to-face sessions (for example because of cost - around US$900 - and that they are only held in the USA). Interesting features of the tutorials were the 'Chamber of Horrors' and Timeline. These provide context and examples which promote the relevancy of the information in the tutorials. The timeline also highlights that changes in digital technology can have a rapid, and dramatic, effect on the ability to preserve digital data.

While the course material seems to have been released in 2003, the site does list clearly the nature of updates made, including major revisions to some sections later in 2003, and again in 2005, and includes the date of the last update (May 2010); however there are some broken links so it is not clear if maintenance is on-going.

The terms of use of this site do not make it ideal for re-use ("No part of this tutorial may be reproduced or transcribed in any form excepting for personal research use without prior written permission of ICPSR acting for Cornell University Library") but a contact link for requests for reproduction is given on the site.

Digital Preservation Outreach and Education (DPOE) Baseline Workshop

The site offers a link to their podcasts on digital preservation issues that are available through iTunesU and offers short videos through YouTube. The website contains an interesting quotation from the Program Manager on the target audience and mode of engagement:

"What’s unique about this workshop," said George Coulbourne, Executive Program Manager, "is that we designed it for people who are going to be actual practitioners of digital preservation. This is not for administrators or managers, but for the novice practitioner. It’s also intended to be as open-source and low-cost as possible. There aren’t many―if any―other educational offerings we know of out there that meet this description and are this thorough. We hope this event accelerates a new national movement in open, accessible digital-preservation training." (quoted in LeFurgy & O'Donnell, 2011)

This raises some interesting points:

  • The needs of practitioners are different from the needs of managers; much current advice is theoretical and policy-based, rather than hands-on how to information (sometimes even the case for 'why' is not made effectively).
  • While it is focused on the practitioner, this is in a professional context, ie the novice preservation service practitioner managing the (post hoc) preservation actions of digital material rather than for the professional researcher (or data creator) undertaking preservation actions as an integral part of their working practice., However, some researchers, particularly among researchers who have been involved in research over the past 10-20 years, will be actively involved in the digital preservation of their own research, for example because they do not, or did not, have access to a suitable institutional, national or subject repository for their data and other digital material.
  • 'There aren't many – if any – other educational offerings...' This is a telling statement; not only are the needs of preservation practitioners different from the needs of managers, they are not currently being addressed effectively with (publicly available) educational resources.
  • These resources are US-based. Some adaptation and customisation for the UK is likely to be necessary, for example because of legal considerations, cultural differences in the uptake and use of emerging digital technologies, etc.

Personal Digital Archives

There are resources which focus on personal digital archives (PDArc), and this is an area which seems to be expanding.

Studies that focus on Personal Digital Archives include:

Digital Lives

The British Library Digital Lives project (British Library Board, undated d has produced a number of resources. It is:

"...a major research project focussing on personal digital archives and their relationship with research repositories...

"The project is considering not only how archives currently being deposited are changing but also the fate of the research collections of the future being created now and implications for collection development and practice."

Amongst the outputs is a discussion of the legal and ethical issues involved (Charlesworth, 2009); as well as in PDArc, these may also be relevant to research data on social networking sites, for example. Additionally, many of the conclusions and recommendations are applicable more generally, for example on the development of tools and standards, and standardised deposit agreements to archives.

Paradigm

This provides advice on preservation though comes across as rather technical. It contains large blocks of text, rather than concise 'recipes'. Its target audience appears to be digital archivists, rather than the individual to whom the archive belongs (Paradigm, 2008a).

The Paradigm website explains clearly some of the challenges involved in digital preservation, and in particular the difference between preserving the bitstream and ensuring that the content is both accessible and meaningful:

"Simply preserving the bitstream therefore does not guarantee ongoing access to a digital object. The digital object has an existence separate from the medium on which the bitstream is inscribed, and successful preservation is only complete when all the significant properties are maintained and the digital object can be displayed in a meaningful and understandable form. In some cases, this might mean that only the intellectual content (e.g. the text of a word-processed document) is preserved, and that original formatting and layout is not retained in the preserved object. However, in other cases (notably, but not exclusively, complex objects such as interactive resources) it may be important that the 'look and feel' of the original object, and its functionality, is retained or recreated as part of the preservation process.

"This point is usefully illustrated by the definition of digital records propounded by the National Archives of Australia: digital records are viewed as 'performances' - the result of interplay between technology and data. A digital archivist is not primarily interested in preserving the physical bitstream, though without this nothing else is possible. [our emphasis] The aim is to capture an acceptable representation of the fleeting and temporary performance of the record on screen as it was originally created, viewed and edited by the individual whose archive is being preserved." (Paradigm,2008b

The importance of preserving 'look and feel' is an important one; it may be relevant to ensure that this is factored into any guidance about preserving a digital object.

'Digital archiving', particularly when it relates to the personal archives of prominent individual, can be newsworthy, in a way that 'digital preservation' is unlikely to be. The BBC Radio 4 Today programme has included a feature on digital archives (BBC, 2011), which is noteworthy for the way in which it illustrates some of the prevailing, attitudes around the validity, use and worth of digital archives. See also this blog post about the feature (Beagrie, 2011).

Also aimed at a general audience is a blog post on what happens to an individual's digital legacy after their death (Ashenfelder, 2011). This highlights some issues related to long term access to digital data, for example passwords allowing access to information.

The Library of Congress has a section on PDArc (Library of Congress, undated c) as part of its digital preservation webpages, which provide helpful guidance for non-specialists on some aspects of digital preservation, eg on scanning documents which is distributed as a print-friendly pdf file.

Preservation of Digital Records

Similarly to PDArc, there is more information available about digital records management, within government and other organisations including HEIs. Research data may be covered by the term research records. When considering resource discovery, it is worth considering how many researchers would think of their data in those terms, particularly those who do not even consider much of their research data as 'data'. Thus valuable and important may not seem relevant.

For HEI staff in general, there seems to be more information available about the proper management of records (physical and digital) than about research data. The former will generally be more targeted towards support staff (though of course many academic staff deal with administrative records as part of their roles in their institutions, eg Health and Safety, information about members of staff). However, it is also worth noting that the advice on how to go about preserving the digital research records is harder to find than the paper counterpart, and often focuses on storage.

Digital Preservation at UK HEIs

Much of the impetus within UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) comes from JISC, "UK’s expert on information and digital technologies for education and research". JISC has 12 Programmes which deal with some aspect of Digital Curation and Preservation. Several projects undertaken by UK HEIs in the Managing Research Data Programme have included elements on digital preservation.

The JISC Digital Preservation and Records Management programme ran from June 2000 to July 2009 and funded 48 projects on various aspects of digital preservation. Early projects had an emphasis on records management (and see above) with later projects on exemplars and tools (the DPTP was initially funded through this programme).

The Research data management training materials (RDMTrain) Strand led to production of training materials for post-graduate students. Most of the materials take the form of slides for presentations, with accompanying notes and in some cases associated webpages. The notable exception is MANTRA, which is an online course. All of the resources were all designed for specific disciplines:

Project Name Institution Discipline areas covered Website
CAiRO University of Bristol Performing and Visual Arts http://www.projectcairo.org/
DataTrain University of Cambridge Archaeology and Social Anthropology http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/preservation/datatrain/
DATUM for Health University of Northumbria Health Studies http://www.northumbria.ac.uk/sd/academic/ceis/re/isrc/themes/rmarea/datum/health/?view=Standard
DMTpsych University of York Psychological Studies http://www.dmtpsych.york.ac.uk/
MANTRA University of Edinburgh Geosciences, Social and Political Sciences and Clinical Psychology http://datalib.edina.ac.uk/mantra/


Institutions involved in the Research data management infrastructure projects (RDMI) Strand were KCL, the Universities of Manchester, Southampton, Cambridge and Bristol, though several of the projects were multi-institutional and the project team included members from other institutions including Bath, Leeds, Glasgow (through HATII and the DCC) and the International Biodeterioration Research Group (IBRG). These projects were related to the building of infrastructure around Research Data Management.

Most universities which provide information on Data Management make at least some of this available online. There is generally a component related to preservation, principally how it relates to data sharing or depositing a doctoral thesis into an institutional repository.

Using 'digital preservation' as a search term is relatively unsuccessful in yielding appropriate web sources, and 'data management' is a better phrase to find relevant resources for researchers.

Training, support and guidance at the University of Cambridge

Due to the University's multi-faceted structure, there are facilities and opportunities at three main levels:

Colleges

For most undergraduates, this is likely to be their main source of advice, through informal networks (eg the Junior Combination Room, which relates to the undergraduate student body of a college) and formalised structures, such as relationships with Directors of Studies (who have responsibilities around a student's academic progress) and Tutors (who have a pastoral role). Each college has a library, which may also be a source of advice. The college tends to play a lesser role in providing academic and pastoral support for graduate students, though there is likely to be considerable variation in the amount of contact a graduate student has with their college. Anecdotally at least, the Senior Combination Room (SCR, comprising the academics of the college) has an important role in promoting research serendipity (Nobis, 2011) and recommendations and suggestions from peer are likely to be important for many academics.

Departments

For members of the University involved in research, their department is likely to be the main source of advice and guidance, and this may come from a variety of sources including, academic support staff such as departmental librarians and computing officers, as well as from colleagues and research supervisors. The amount of provision offered by departments on information literacy, data management and digital preservation varies widely from department to department and is dependent on a number of factors including the skills and knowledge of the faculty staff, librarians and computing officers in these areas, and the perceived needs of researchers in the discipline. Access to support will also depend on the stage in someone's career; post-graduate and early career researchers tend to have greater training provision, often as part of induction (though this will not necessarily be focussed on digital data preservation issues), and tend to be more able to attend training sessions. Within the University of Cambridge, the departments of Archaeology and Social Anthropology (now joined into a larger department, along with Biological Anthropology) were active in the JISC-funded DataTrain project (CUL, 2011b). This project was carried out with the support of the Archaeology Data Service, who also host the resources produced for the Archaeology module. Data management, with a component on digital preservation, is part of their compulsory courses for post-doctoral students. Students in Archaeology are required to produce a data management plan as part of their first year report.

Central University Services

There are three main sources of information around information literacy, data management and digital preservation offered centrally.

The University Library and dependent libraries

The CUL's Research Skills programme includes courses on information literacy (with similar provision in the dependent libraries), and as of 2011, this includes a short course on data management. However, the focus of this course is day-to-day handling rather than preservation. These are all offered as face-to-face training for both staff and students. The CUL has also been involved in various JISC-funded projects on data management which cover some aspects of digital preservation. Incremental (in collaboration with the University of Glasgow) produced the 'dataman' website, of which the section most relevant to digital preservation is Looking after your data. The CUL was the lead institution on the DataTrain project.

University Computing Service

This has an important role, because as well as offering some advice on managing files, emails, etc, (through both face-to-face training and some online resources) the UCS allocates a certain amount of networked file space to each member of the university (currently 500MB as standard).

Personal and Professional Development

This offers a variety of training and development courses, many of which are face-to-face, but some are delivered online through the university's virtual learning environment (VLE) CamTools. It includes modules on FOI, and managing research projects (specifically for research staff). There is a specific Graduate Development Programme, geared at post-graduate students, and a separate Graduate School of Life Sciences (GSLS) looking after "the educational and career needs of graduate students and early career researchers in the Faculties of Biology, Clinical Medicine and Veterinary Medicine and in their affiliated institutions". In conjunction with the GSLS, the University Library offered a 2-hour course on data management, with some discussion of digital preservation, in Michaelmas term 2011; this will be repeated in Easter term 2012. Information about the courses that are available can be found at http://www.biomed.cam.ac.uk/gradschool/skills.html.

Issues, thoughts and reflections

The process of writing this literature review has thrown up many areas of ambiguity, interest and debate. Some key issues are discussed in greater depth here.

Providing up-to-date information

With many of the online resources, it can be difficult to know how up-to-date they are, for example when they were originally written, how often they are reviewed, etc.

Providing targeted information

As the focus of the PrePARe project is providing preservation advice for people 'at the coal face' (that is, the people generating and working on the data content), one of the key questions is what aspects of digital preservation are important for them to understand. A lot of the material available on digital preservation concerns the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) Reference Model (CCSDS, 2002) but how much of this do researchers need to know about? The model largely assumes that the Submission Information Package (from the producer) will be put into a managed repository or archive, but it may not be appropriate to assume that this is the case. Funding body requirements that data be kept for extended periods (10-20 years, though potentially for much longer).

The relationship between Personal Digital Archiving and Digital Preservation of Research material

Because of the relative prevalence of Personal Digital Archiving compared to the digital preservation of research material, it is worth considering how PDArc resources can be utilised and expanded to generate guidance and support for research data preservation.

Advantages include:

  • The information can engage individuals on a personal level without the need to provide subject-specific information.
  • Thus, it allows the basics of digital preservation (and data management more generally) to be introduced without the increased overheads (in terms on people, resources, and expertise) in providing tailored training resources for large numbers of people who research in different areas with different techniques.

In this way, awareness of some of the issues of digital preservation can be raised; most researchers will have the nous to apply relevant aspects to their research (to which they are also likely to have a strong emotional link), and be better equipped to seek out further, more specific, advice.

However, providing advice on personal digital archiving cannot entirely substitute for advice specific to research data:

  • The scope of personal digital archives is likely to be different to those for research data; while both are likely to contain text documents, spreadsheets and images, within personal digital archives, images, with significant (and probably increasing) contributions of audio and visual media, are likely to predominate. While this will also be the case for some areas of research (and again, may increasingly be the case, as data collection and research methods change in response to changing technology), it may result in inadequate advice on key areas which relate more specifically to research data such as complex relational databases, custom-written software and encoded data.
  • Legal issues such as copyright and ethical issues around the intended use of data will affect personal and research data differently.
  • The levels of, or access to, technical expertise and infrastructure will be different; in particular even if a researcher's own technical competency is limited, within the university they will (or at least, should) be able to access high-level technical advice when necessary, while this is unlikely to be the case regarding personal archives (exceptions may include individuals whose personal archives are considered important). This may affect both the way in which advice is provided, as well as the solutions that are offered (eg PDArc advice puts more emphasis on external hard drives, while for research data there is a greater emphasis on institutional repositories or national data centres; PDArc aimed at the general public advice may need to assume a lower level of technical ability).
  • There are different risks involved in the potential loss of data; this will affect which solutions are most appropriate.

Despite this, PDArc resources are valuable in several ways:

  • They provide insights into good ways of presenting digital preservation advice.
  • They provide a starting point from which to build further guidance and resources.
  • They serve as a reminder that personal investment into material is a driving force for looking after it effectively.

Bibliography

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Ashenfelder, M. 2011. 'When I Go Away: Getting Your Digital Affairs in Order' The Signal, weblog post, 1 July. Available at http://blogs.loc.gov/digitalpreservation/2011/07/when-i-go-away-getting-your-digital-affairs-in-order

Ball, A., 2010. Preservation and Curation in Institutional Repositories (version 1.3). Edinburgh, UK: Digital Curation Centre. Available at http://www.dcc.ac.uk/sites/default/files/documents/reports/irpc-report-v1.3.pdf

BBC, 2011. 'Emails key to 'digital memory for the future'' on BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, 21 April. Available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9464000/9464240.stm

Beagrie, N. 2011. 'Digital Preservation and Personal Digital Archives on BBC Radio 4' on Neil Beagrie's Blog, weblog post, 21 April. Available at http://blog.beagrie.com/2011/04/21/digital-preservation-and-personal-digital-archives-on-bbc-radio-4/

Beagrie, N. and Jones, M., 2001. Preservation Management of Digital Materials: A Handbook, British Library, London. Available online at: http://www.dpconline.org/advice/preservationhandbook

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