Reflections on the 8th International Digital Curation Conference

With thanks to Emma Hancox, Assistant Archivist, University of the Arts London for this blog post.

From Tuesday 15th to Wednesday 16th January I attended the 8th International Digital Curation Centre Conference in Amsterdam entitled ‘Infrastructure, Intelligence, Innovation: driving the Data Science agenda.’ The conference was an invaluable opportunity to learn from the research data management experience of professionals from a range of different countries and backgrounds. Here I will draw on highlights of most relevance to the KAPTUR project, however an overview of the full conference including presentation slides is available on the Digital Curation Centre website as are videos of some of the talks.

View of Amsterdam. Photo: Emma Hancox.
Day One: Tuesday 15th January
‘Growing an Institution’s Research Data Management Capability through Strategic Investments in Infrastructure’, Anthony Beitz, Monash eResearch Centre.
The key message I took from this talk was Antony’s call to ‘adopt, adapt and develop’, in essence look at solutions that already exist and develop them. Anthony advocated going out into the research community to see what solutions researchers already use within their communities as they tend to be more loyal to their research community than their institution. He also emphasised that a lot of the work has already been done for us; we can use Facebook for marketing, Twitter for customer service and we can adapt a range of open source software to meet our needs.

‘Building Services, Building Communities, Supporting Data Intensive Research’ Patricia Cruse, Director, University of California Curation Centre.
Patricia Cruse emphasised the importance of researcher engagement as early as possible in the digital curation lifecycle. She gave two very useful pieces of advice; ‘start small’ with a simple solution that can be built upwards when more complex problems are met and employ flexible solutions that can be adapted to diverse situations. UCC has a number of tools to assist researchers such as UC3Merritt (for the management, archiving and sharing of digital content) and the Web Archiving Service which allows researchers to capture, analyse and archive websites used in the course of their research. More information is available on the UCC website.

Minute Madness
The minute madness session gave poster demonstrators one minute to encourage delegates to view them and vote for them! Many posters represented projects of interest to KAPTUR and I enjoyed wandering around and exploring the display later in the afternoon. Posters of interest included ‘Creating an Online Training Module on Research Data Management for the University of Bath’ (training in research data management is something that KAPTUR project partners will certainly need to consider in the future) and the poster for IMEJI an open source software tool from Germany providing free storage, sharing and metadata creation for audiovisual content which I can see being of use in a visual arts research data context.

Day Two: Wednesday 16th January
‘Institutional Research Data Management’
On the second day I chose from a programme of parallel sessions. In the morning I learnt about the journeys professionals from the Universities of Bath, Edinburgh, Nottingham and Oxford had been on to create, implement and improve research data management capabilities in their institutions. Amongst much useful information I learnt that The University of Edinburgh has created MANTRA, an online learning module available under an open license so it can be rebranded and used by others. Thomas Parsons from the University of Nottingham commented that researchers typically store their data in five places. This emphasised to me the need for research data management training and the value of training modules such as MANTRA. From surveying researchers James Wilson from the University of Oxford found that types of data he had expected to be in a minority, were actually used more frequently than expected. I wondered whether we could also expect this with visual arts research data.

‘Arts and Humanities Research Data’
In the afternoon there was a chance to hear about Arts and Humanities Research Data and an overview of KAPTUR was given by Carlos Silva from the University of the Creative Arts. Following this Marieke Guy gave a presentation entitled ‘Pinning it Down: towards a practical definition of ‘Research Data’ for Creative Arts Institutions.’ This talk discussed work done by the DCC in collaboration with UAL to explore the nature of visual arts research data. Marieke reflected on the fact that whilst there is much consensus on research data in the sciences, this is lacking in the visual arts. Research has suggested that arts researchers do not tend to find the term ‘research data’ useful and find ideas such as ‘documenting the research process’ more useful. She suggested that a definition would be useful, but adopting a scientific vocabulary for the arts can be problematic.

The talks about Arts and Humanities Research Data were the last I was able to attend before I left the conference and ending on this note proved useful for reflecting on the conference in terms of the KAPTUR project. What I felt I took away from IDCC 2013 was that there is much that can be gained from projects at other universities and also a range of existing tools that can be developed and adapted to make life easier. In the visual arts environment, however, we need to continue to think about how research data can be defined since it doesn’t necessarily fit into the same categories as data at other Universities I heard from at IDCC. We also need to tailor solutions to our own unique context.


What is visual arts research data? (revisited)

This blog post charts the KAPTUR journey in the search for an answer to the question What is visual arts research data?

From the original JISC bid (July 2011):

Research data in the arts mirrors the complexity of the outputs, taking many forms including logbooks, journals, workbooks, sample libraries and sketchbooks.

Examples of visual arts research data on the KAPTUR website (October 2011): The images include a fabric manipulation sample, different pages from sketchbooks, glaze sample pot, and a photographic contact sheet. These examples, as well as different examples, have been used throughout the project on posters and handouts.

The KAPTUR Environmental Assessment report (March 2012) (based upon a literature review, 24 interviews with visual arts researchers, and collaborative data analysis across four institutions) included the following statement in its concluding remarks:

There appears to be little consensus in the visual arts on what research data is and what it consists of. Variously described by the interviewees as tangible, intangible, digital, and physical; this confirms the view of the project team that visual arts research data is heterogeneous and infinite, complex and complicated.

This was followed up with a peer-reviewed journal article for the Electronic Visualisation and the Arts (EVA 2012) conference and a definition of What is visual arts research data? referencing the University of Edinburgh (April 2012):

Research data can be described as data which arises out of, and evidences, research. This can be classified as observational e.g. sensor data; experimental; simulation; derived or compiled data e.g. databases, 3D models; or reference or canonical e.g. a collection of smaller datasets gathered together (University of Edinburgh 2011a). Examples of visual arts research data may include sketchbooks, log books, sets of images, video recordings, trials, prototypes, ceramic glaze recipes, found objects, and correspondence.

This was disseminated to the Steering Group, project team, and via SlideShare (April 2012)

A further attempt was made to define What is visual arts research data? at a peer-reviewed presentation made to the Digital Humanities Congress, University of Sheffield, 8th September.

Marieke Guy, through her work with the DCC and Institutional Engagement at University of the Arts London, gave a presentation on defining visual arts research data at the Managing the Material: Tackling Visual Arts as Research Data workshop, 14th September 2012. From debate with speakers and the audience at the workshop, Leigh Garrett wrote the following statement for discussion (September 2012):

Anything which is used or created to generate new knowledge and interpretations.  Anything maybe objective or subjective; physical or emotional; persistent or ephemeral; personal or public; explicit or tacit; and is consciously or unconsciously referenced by the researcher at some point during the course of their research.  Research data may or may not  led to a research output, which regardless of method of presentation, is a planned public statement of new knowledge or interpretation.

Leigh’s statement was on the KAPTUR poster for the JISCMRD programme meeting (October 2012), available via SlideShare:

At the January Steering Group meeting the question What is visual arts research data? was again debated, although there was only one small amendment suggested to Leigh’s statement.

Finally we seem to be closer to resolving this; discussion continued last week at the University for the Creative Arts RDM training workshop. The UCA Project Officer, Anne Spalding, designed an exercise which encouraged debate from staff from the Research Office, IT, and Library & Student Services departments around the question What is visual arts research data? This has resulted in an amended definition (January 2013) written by Leigh. Discussion and feedback are still welcome:

Evidence which is used or created to generate new knowledge and interpretations. ‘Evidence’ may be intersubjective or subjective; physical or emotional; persistent or ephemeral; personal or public; explicit or tacit; and is consciously or unconsciously referenced by the researcher at some point during the course of their research. As part of the research process, research data maybe collated in a structured way to create a dataset to substantiate a particular interpretation, analysis or argument. A dataset may or may not lead to a research output, which regardless of method of presentation, is a planned public statement of new knowledge or interpretation.

KAPTUR – commencing countdown…

This is our update for KAPTUR for December and January with just over two months of the project left to go!

WP1: Project Management

  • The project team met on the 11th December at Goldsmiths, University of London. This was the first team meeting with the new-in-post UAL Project Officer, Sarah Mahurter, Manager of the University Archives and Special Collections Centre.
  • Just before Christmas the KAPTUR project team were delighted to officially welcome Andrew Gray as the new Goldsmiths Project Officer. Andrew had been able to attend the meeting on 11th December as this was scheduled with his interview for the post. Andrew was previously Project Officer at the University of the Arts London working on the JISC Kultur (2007-09) project.
  • The KAPTUR Steering Group meeting was held on Tuesday 8th January and included interactive sessions on sustainability and benefits arising from the project. Presentations and the worksheets are available from:
  • The project team will be meeting in London next week to review the development of the KAPTUR toolkits.

WP3: Technical Infrastructure

  • The Technical Manager has been in contact with Joss Winn, Project Manager of the University of Lincoln’s Orbital project about their work with CKAN. A meeting is scheduled for this month in Lincoln but may now have to be ‘virtual’ due to adverse weather conditions.
  • The Technical Manager has also been in contact with Mark Wainwright from the Open Knowledge Foundation regarding CKAN and a meeting was held in London on Tuesday 8th January.
  • The Technical Manager has received feedback from all the Project Officers regarding CKAN and along with previous feedback this will inform a case study on the technical aspects of the KAPTUR project.
  • The IT Costs document produced by Carlos is now publicly available (following testing at the four institutions):
  • The Project Officers are currently in the process of uploading visual arts research data to the EPrints pilot system.

WP4: Modelling

  • As previously mentioned, the University of the Arts London policy is available here:
  • Goldsmiths, University of London have had their policy approved; as senior management advised during the working group discussions, it is an amendment to their existing Records Management policy and is available from:
  • The University for the Creative Arts policy requires academic board approval, however it has been made available to all staff via the following link:
  • The Glasgow School of Art is expected to be approved at their Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee meeting in February.
  • The four policies will be made available through DCC in due course and will also be linked to from the KAPTUR Outputs page.

WP5: Training and Support

  • As mentioned previously, the UAL workshop has been completed – further details and a list of attendees is available here: Presentations are available online here:
  • The University for the Creative Arts held their workshop last week, including a session looking at definitions of visual arts research data and another session on creating an AHRC Technical Plan. The presentations are available from:
  • The Glasgow School of Art training workshop will take place next week on 31st January with the assistance of Laura Molloy, JISCMRD Evidence Gatherer.
  • In late November, before the previous Goldsmiths Project Officer left, a session was held focusing on the Library’s role in Research, however the official training workshop has been rescheduled. The new Goldsmiths Project Officer, in post from January, will arrange this to take place in early February.
  • Benchmarking feedback is being gathered from participants to each workshop as well as from the Project Officers themselves, this will then lead to refinements of the KAPTUR training plan and also an online training version in the form of the KAPTUR toolkits.

WP6: Evaluation and Sustainability

  • The four case studies from the Project Officers are in draft stage.
  • Following feedback on the KAPTUR Benefit’s slide [produced for the JISCMRD Benefits programme event in Bristol, 29th-30th November] an additional case study will be completed by the Technical Manager. The project team commented that this had been a real benefit to the partner institutions as they wouldn’t have had the resources to do this work themselves without the KAPTUR project.

WP7: Dissemination