No conferences, no progress?

Now that several digital preservation related conferences have been cancelled or postponed to later this year of even to next year, we are faced with a problem. It is not the problem of the missed conference dinner, or the poster award ceremony. It is partly the problem of the lack of social interaction between international colleagues. But the main problem is that we don’t know whether we are making progress in digital preservation. There is a lack of events where everyone interested is updated about progress. Talks about new insights, results of proofs of concepts, pleas for new initiatives or collaborations. In a friendly environment and within a few days.

Almost certainly a large group of digital preservationists were starting to write an article for iPRES 2020, or PASIG, or PV2020 or the IIPC conference etc.  But this year there is no change to get this published. Should those people put their drafts back in their virtual drawer? Are we creating our own digital dark year?

Lack of evidence of progress in digital preservation in 2020 would set us all back with at least one year. The risks are big of re-inventing the wheel, neglected tools or services or duplicating work that was done elsewhere without you knowing it.

Of course, your communication skills might be brilliant and your news might have reached the whole iPRES community and even more interested people via social media. But if this is not the case, your article might get less attention than it deserves. And your potential audience might not be able to find you (a large part of the iPRES 2019 attendees were there for the first time, will they be able to find you “in the wild”?).

And if the conferences do not change their rules, you won’t have a second change. Take for example iPRES, that has the rule that “All papers must be novel, reporting on previously unpublished work.”. So if your research is finished and you’ll find a way to publish it somewhere this year, you might not be able to submit the same article next year at iPRES 2021.

It is unclear to me why the conferences are not more creative in finding alternatives. For example the celebration of 10 year Open Preservation Foundation will be an online event, some other conferences do the same. But our main conference iPRES, an important resource to inform each other, has now a dead website (ipres2020.cn). Some speak of an “iPRES community”, but without any initiative to do something for this supposed community in these days, I feel left alone. Amsterdam might have been the last iPRES conference where people thought they were part of a community, while discussing “the Future of iPRES“.

Can we ourselves do better in an attempt to support the community of preservationists? By showing to our colleagues that we are making progress and that there are new insights, tools, reflections etc.?  I think we can. By putting our draft articles in Zenodo or OSF, with a keyword “digital preservation” and perhaps something like “noconference-ipres-2020”.

And by persuading the conference organizers of next year to be less strict with their rules for accepting papers related to whether it was previously published or not. Different times ask for different measures. But we should not be stopped in updating each other of progress in digital preservation.

© 2020 Barbara Sierman

b-s-i-e-r-m-a-n-@-d-i-g-i-t-a-l-p-r-e-s-e-r-v-a-t-i-o-n-.-n-l