Digital Preservation Seeds

by Barbara Sierman

Welcome 2019 – digital preservation promises

Today, when people are starting to phrase good intentions for the New Year, it is a nice moment to draw the attention to a report that was published in October last year. Oya Y. Rieger from ITHAKA S+R wrote an “issue report” about the “The State of Digital Preservation in 2018. A Snapshot of Challenges and Gaps”. The purpose of the report was “ to survey the preservation landscape within the context of evolving research workflows and the scholarly and cultural record”. So looking back and looking forward. She interviewed 21 digital preservationists from all over the world and discussed with them 5 questions related to what is working well so far and which challenges we need to solve in the future. As was also the conclusion in the panel at iPRES 2018 we have achieved a lot since the last 20 years: more community building, better collaboration, shared standards, availability of preservation systems and a willingness to share experiences, to name just a few.

But there are still issues that need to be solved. Based on the interviews the report describes an overview of various issues, varying from the increasingly unclear role of research libraries in an university environment (I wonder, is that also the case in Europe where they have a role related to implementing the FAIR principles? ), the ambiguity of roles and preservation responsibilities in libraries, the impact of cloud storage both from a financial perspective as well as the facilities they offer, the interaction between preservation systems and digital asset management systems. But also the (limited) use of web archives by researchers and the concerns about the usability of research data are issues that are a risk for digital preservation in general. Reading these issues I was wondering, could one say that we think digital preservation is now mature, but that we still need to find the right role in the world in which we operate?

These and other similar interesting issues led to three potential research areas. These areas are not new and in various discussions people have talked about them. Although we have reached a lot and “awareness raising” is less necessary, we still need to find a general acknowledgement of the role of digital preservation. The increasingly complexity to preserve digital material in context requires us to collaborate more and in a structured way. “what seems to be missing is a cohesive and compelling roadmap to guide the international community in knitting together the advances made and addressing the gaps based on the characteristics of the new digital realm”. Two years ago Richard Whitt suggested a similar approach . But we also need to have a better insight in the roles and responsibilities related to preserving digital material of all the stakeholders involved in digitial preservation, both from the creators perspective as well as of the preserving organisations. And last but not least we need the “story”, or to cite the report a “strong set of value propositions (both from the public good and economic viability perspectives) and articulate the risks involved in potential loss”. Related to this last point I welcome your stories on the Atlas of Digital Damages.

We have another 365 days ahead of us to work on this! Happy New Year!

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