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.


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