The National Digital Stewardship Alliance has been awarded a special commendation in the Preservation Publication category for the 2015 National Agenda for Digital Stewardship from the Society of American Archivists. The award recognize outstanding published work related to archives preservation, and was presented as part of the 2015 SAA annual conference in Cleveland, Ohio.
“The amount of digital information being produced by science, government and society is now so great, and the risks to it so diverse, that no organization can effectively ensure durable access to all the information it needs. The 2015 National Agenda, produced through a collaborative effort of the stewardship community, provides a roadmap for collaboration to steward today’s knowledge and culture for future generations,” said Dr. Micah Altman, director of Research, MIT Libraries, who is currently serving as NDSA Coordinating Committee chair.
The National Agenda is an ongoing program of the NDSA Coordinating Committee, which seeks to highlight emerging challenges and offer possible collaborative solutions. It is based on the collective experiences of NDSA members, priorities expressed in NDSA Working Groups and overarching issues that are identified in NDSA member surveys. By integrating the perspectives of dozens of experts and hundreds of institutions the National Agenda provides funders and decision‐makers insight into emerging technological trends, gaps in digital stewardship capacity, and key areas for funding, research and development. The goal of the National Agenda is to help ensure that today’s valuable digital content remains accessible and comprehensible in the future, supporting a thriving economy, a robust democracy and a rich cultural heritage. These goals align with SAA Core Values.
In addition to providing high-level insight for executive decision-makers, the Agenda is meant to offer advice and guidance for practitioners. Recurring themes in the 2015 Agenda are issues around building digital collections, advocating for resources, continuing to support technical development and broadening the evidence base for digital preservation.
Building Digital Collections
Much of the investment and effort in the field of digital preservation has been focused on developing technical infrastructure, networks of partnerships, education and training and establishing standards and practices. Little has been invested in understanding how the stewardship community will coordinate the acquisition and management of born-digital materials in a systematic and public way. A gap is starting to emerge between the types of materials that are being created and used in our society and the types of materials that make their way into libraries and archives. The NDSA’s core recommendations in the 2015 National Agenda are:
- Build the evidence base for evaluating at-risk, large-scale digital content for acquisition. Develop contextual knowledge about born-digital content areas that characterizes the risks and efforts to ensure durable access to them.
- Understand the technical implications of acquiring large-scale digital content. Extend systematic surveys and environmental scans of organizational capacity and preservation storage practices to help guide selection decisions.
- Share information about what content is being collected and what level of access is provided. Communication and coordinate collection priority statements at national, regional and institutional levels.
- Support partnerships, donations and agreements with creators and owners of digital content and stewards. Connect with communities across commercial, nonprofit, private and public sectors that create digital content to leverage their incentives to preserve.
Advocating for Resources
Despite continued preservation mandates and over ten years of work and progress in building digital preservation programs, the community still struggles with advocating for resources, adequate staffing and articulating the shared responsibility for stewardship. The NDSA’s core recommendations in the 2015 National Agenda are:
- Advocate for resources. Share strategies and develop unified messages to advocate for funding and resources; share cost information and models; and develop tools and strategies that inform the evaluation and management of digital collection value and usage.
- Enhance staffing and training. Explore and expand models of support that provide interdisciplinary and practical experiences for emerging professionals and apply those models to programs for established professionals. Evaluate and articulate both the broad mix of roles and specialized set of skills in which digital stewardship professionals are involved.
- Foster multi-institutional collaboration. Foster collaboration through open sources software development; information sharing on staffing and resources; coordination on content selection and engagement with development of standards and practices; and identify understand and connect with stakeholders outside of the cultural heritage sector.
Broadly speaking, the infrastructure that enables digital preservation involves the staff, workflows, resources, equipment, and policies that ensure long-term access to digital information. The NDSA’s core recommendations in the 2015 National Agenda are:
- Coordinate and sustain an ecosystem of shared services. Better identify and implement processes to maintain key software platforms, tools and services; identify technologies which integrate well to form a sustainable digital workflow; and identify better models to support long-term sustainability for common goods are needed.
- Foster best practice development. Give priority to the development of standards and best practices, especially in the areas of format migrations and long-term data integrity.
Broadening the Evidence Base
Research is critical to the advancement of both basic understanding and the effective practice of digital preservation. Research in digital preservation is under-resourced, in part this is because the payoff from long-term access occurs primarily in the medium-long and tends to benefit broad and diverse communities. Investments in core research will yield large impacts. The NDSA’s core recommendations in the 2015 National Agenda are:
- Build the evidence base for digital preservation. Give priority to programs that systematically contribute to the overall cumulative evidence base for digital preservation practice and resulting outcomes–including supporting test beds for systematic comparison of preservation practices.
- Better integrate research and practices. Give priority to programs that rigorously integrate research and practice or that increase the scalability of digital stewardship.