Dans le port d’Amsterdam
Y’a des marins qui chantent
And in the early days of 2013, the voices belonged to the 200 plus digital curation crowd, who came from around the world to the port of Amsterdam for the 8th International Digital Curation Conference, aka #IDCC13.
Les rêves qui les hantent
Au large d’Amsterdam
Jacques Brel, “Amsterdam”, 1964
No doubt those haunting dreams were of digital data preservation and reuse, all that data out there that could be lost due to a failing infrastructure or lack of awareness of research data management. After all, as one stand-out quote stated: “Infrastructures are noticed only when they go wrong”.
Our focus was on developments in the training and delivery of training for digital preservation and research data management. For this reason, I am going to talk more about this rather than attempt a full and fair recap – which will be done better elsewhere. Judging by all the#IDCC13 tweets on our timeline (@archivetraining), others will have their own say and share their thoughts in time.
The rewarding experiences for us came in two sessions and one workshop. Sessions on Institutional Research Data Management and Education & Training, and a workshop on Designing Data Management Training Resources: Tools for the provision of interactive research data management. It seems the projects presenting in these sessions/workshops consciously or not, have the balance about right. There is no single answer, no single solution.
The impression I took from this bundle of presentations (mostly funded by the excellent JISC Managing Research Data programme) was that projects doing data management training or support have to effectively design a campaign strategy, as one would for an election. Digital curation is akin to a valence issue – we all like sharable, long-term secure data – but how we get there needs to be thought about. The message is sound (public data equals a public good), nonetheless the framing varies according to your constituency (researcher and type of researcher, institutional position, funder) and these constituencies need to be tied together for things to happen. The medium may change between online training, presentations, workshops, or one-to-one support as might the framing message. After all, one of the oldest questions in political science is “is it better to be feared than loved?”. A good RDM strategy brings a bit of both. A change in instigating cultural awareness of RDM requires strong signals from the top (…or the fear bit: “if you don’t…”) to drive change, but actual transformation comes from inclusive community involvement (activism, or the bringing the “love”), not just to implement RDM but to continue embedding RDM practice long-term. Therefore any policy needs to be realistic, built on analysis of researchers current practices and requirements, based on extensive stakeholder consultation on the workability of solutions, and met with resource commitments from training to storage that allow change to happen. After all, what we are trying to do is tricky – trying produce a normative shift though (mostly) incremental measures. The impacts may not be immediately apparent because cultural change is slow as it is about giving people the tools to do the job themselves, and that takes time even if it is rewarding in the long-run.
Anyway, now I am getting ahead of myself. In sum, #IDCC13 was a stimulating couple of days with the best from around the world in digital preservation and data management present, and the organisation was superb. My only suggestion to improve next year’s conference was to pick somewhere that won’t snow but then it was announced that #IDCC14 will be in California. See, these people are seriously ahead of the game. Anyway, plenty of time to tap into the Laurel Canyon songbook for a suitable lyric to start next year’s blog.