The Digital Archiving Consultancy

Digital preservation, archiving and curation

Curation

In 2002 and 2003 the Digital Archiving Consultancy carried out a study [PDF of full report, 868KB] for JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee and the UK’s e-Science Core Programme in the preservation and curation of primary research data, specifically, in publically funded research.

For a summary setting out key curation issues discussed in this report, please contact us

Information technology has transformed and is continuing to transform our everyday lives, but also research and science. Huge increases in computer power and network bandwidth are accompanied by an explosion in data volumes and information. We can now work collaboratively across counties and continents. We have increasing access to collections of primary research data and information—a new knowledge base, with new opportunities and horizons for research and discovery.

Yet these technology changes put the data generated at risk. The data is extremely complex, not just in terms of structure, but in terms of ownership, responsibilities and role. We face serious and complex issues of strategy and policy regarding the creation, management and long-term care of data.

The term “curation” conjures up images of the museum curator, caring for the fragile and precious artefacts in his or her care. In the digital age the term “curation” has new and wider significance. As we say in a summary of our report for JISC:

Digital data is extraordinarily fragile, in particular over time. It depends on a hierarchy of constantly and rapidly shifting technologies and also to a significant degree on tacit knowledge external to the data. Without due care of the information coded as this insubstantial stream of bits, we will lose our heritage and our knowledge. It will become inaccessible, untrustworthy, or meaningless.

Conversely, the opportunities created not only by the data itself but by its creation are substantial—the ability to maintain links between data, materials and annotations, provenance information, and the existence of a semantic web, brokered by portals, will build a growing encyclopaedia of information and knowledge of extraordinary wealth. Examples of this can already be seen in data initiatives such as the human genome in biology or the virtual observatory in astronomy which are transforming their disciplines.”

One of the recommendations of our e-Science Curation report was the endorsement of the creation of the >Digital Curation Centre (DCC). This is a pioneering and important initiative. The DCC celebrated its launch on Friday, 5th November 2004 in Edinburgh. On its Website you can read a summary of its role and from this site you can download a PDF [62KB] of a joint paper, From Data Deluge to Data Curation, prepared by Philip Lord and Alison Macdonald of the DAC and Liz Lyon of UKOLN and the DCC and Dr. David Giaretta of CCLRC [now the STFC] and the DCC, for the e-Science 2004 All-Hands Meeting.

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