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Theory and practice of digital preservation education – #iPRES2012 (1)

1 oktober 2012 Gepubliceerd door Laat uw gedicht achter

The most, what shall I say, dedicated digital preservation conference, iPRES2012, has come to Toronto, Canada. Five days of workshops, tutorials, presentations and panels – we have our work cut out for us. Let me reiterate how much I hate parallel sessions, because I have to forego the one about practical emulation tools to attend one about an equally important subject: digital preservation education (website includes all of the slides). Let’s just hope the OPF and or KEEP colleagues will blog about the emulation workshop. I’ll concentrate on education – by Inge Angevaare

Some of the workshop experts, from the left Helen Tibbo (U. of North Carolina), Joy Davidson (UK Digital Curation Centre), Cal Lee (U. North Carolina), Neil Grindley (UK JISC)

Unsurprisingly, there is a big need for digital preservation/digital curation training …

I need only remind you of one of Liz Lyon’s slides from the May LIBER curation workshop:

George Coulbourne of the Library of Congress (LoC) presented equally distressing data from a US survey:

… but your needs are not mine, and finding the right course if you want to learn something is not easy …

Joy Davidson (UK Digital Curation Centre or DCC): “There is a huge body of courses and trainings out there, but there is little guidance for prospective participants for making informed choices on where to go.” [As for the “huge body”, I am not sure every country has the same level of offerings as the US and the UK, but that is another story.]

so there is a lot of work being done on structuring the marketplace, both the needs for training and the supply

A first, very useful and simple structure came from George Coulbourne of the US Digital Preservation Outreach and Education program (DPOE, pronounce “depot”, or Dutch: diepoo):

The DPOE pyramid

This one is pretty obvious. At the managerial level you need different bodies of knowledge/competences than at the practical level.

Other modelling efforts go a lot deeper. The intention is, of course, to define the needs as precisely as possible in order to design training that meets those needs. The UK Digital Curation Centre’s target audience is the sciences and the humanities. In the UK, “Vitae” has designed a “Researcher Development Framework” (or RDF – not the handiest of acronyms for those involved in data management …) listing all the competences and skills a researcher must have. That is a good starting point for defining researchers learning needs.

From another angle, the DCC’s Andrew McHugh highlighted “PORRO”, a Risk Relationship Ontology for digital preservation. That sounds (and is) a lot more complicated. PORRO is derived from DRAMBORA, a more well-known tool for risk management. From what I understand, PORRO is about defining your goals, defining the threats to those goals, and defining the measures which you can take to mitigate those risks. Joy Davidson explained why this tool was presented at the workshop: because it is important for the education community to be aware of the work going on in the audit community. And the tool can also help to define training needs. (I haven’s found a url for this work, so for more information, send an email to andrew.mchugh@glasgow.ac.uk).

Among the workshop attendees were Erik Moore (U. of New Brunswick), Barbara Sierman (Dutch National Library), Annemieke de Jong (Dutch Sound & Vision archive) and Jill Sexton (U. of North Carolina Library).

Joy Davidson presented the DCC’s work on criteria for Researcher Information Literacy Skills. She explained: “These are things to think about when you start developing a course”. And, of course, to evaluate courses. And the DCC’s lifecycle model was included in the workshop as a teaching tool.

The European DigCurV project is also working on a structure to define educational needs, this time at the vocational rather than the academic level (click on image to enlarge) (see website for more details):

Before you get tired of all this theory, I might mention that Joy Davidson stressed that all of these models are, in fact, feeding into each other, which no doubt is the result of lots of international networking, e.g., at the 2011 ANADP conference (see my blog post from the educational panel).

What about hands-on experience? 

“There is far too little of it,” was George Coulbourne’s simple summary. Coulbourne leads the US Library of Congress’s DPOE Program which also includes a “National Digital Stewardship Residency” initiative which is now in its beta phase.

Coulbourne: “Graduating students typically lack hands-on experience and the ability to work with others.”

As we all know how trainees are often simply dropped in organizations to fend for themselves, with little learned at the end of their internship, it was refreshing to hear of the NDSR approach: a two-week-long “immersion workshop” for post-graduates followed by “nine months of residency with well-defined, comprehensive hands-on projects with concrete deliverables.” In order to motivate the host institutions, they are involved in the very serious selection process. Good stuff, ambitious too.

The Library of Congress DPOE program also has a calendar of mostly practical courses which is very informative. In North Carolina, another platform for sharing curriculum materials and information has been developed, the Digital Curation Exchange (DCE). Someone suggested that all of this information should be brought together, but perhaps that is too much to ask. Maintaining a structured registry would probably be too large a task for any single institution to take on. Cal Lee of the University of North Carolina advocated rather a spontaneous approach to such tools.

So, where is the rest of the world?

All of the above came from the US and the UK. Both are very active in digital curation education, but in a next workshop I would also like to hear what is happening in other countries, like Germany (nestor?), France, etc. As for the Netherlands, I was very happy with this workshop because it offered inspiration for things we might do in the Netherlands.

Shigeo Sugimoto: “Our culture is very different.”

When questioned about the situation in Japan, Shigeo Sugimoto reported that there are not many specialists in Japan. “My first job”, he said, “is to create awareness”. Sugimoto also suggested that digital curation for the sciences and humanities is quite different from digital preservation for (cultural) heritage institutions. Perhaps the curricula should be different also.

At the end of the day …

All of the above is very encouraging, as was emphasized by Neil Grindley (JISC) in his summing up. However, I did learn that there are two time bombs ticking underneath all of this wonderful work. One is budget cuts, everybody is feeling them. The other is the pace at which the world of digital preservation is changing. Curriculum development can hardly keep up. Obsolescence of the teaching tools themselves is just around the corner.

Other blog reports from iPRES 2012:

Sarah Jones on the same education workshop at http://www.dcc.ac.uk/blog/dcc-training-workshop-ipres-2012

David Anderson of the KEEP emulation project chastizing yours truly during lunch for not attending the emulation workshop …

Toronto from the CN Tower 450 meter above sea level – going up the tower seemed like the most efficient way to see the “whole city” in a couple of hours leisure time on Sunday

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