22 February 2019

Conference report: International Digital Curation Conference 2019

On 5-7 February I attended the International Digital Curation Conference in Melbourne. ​​

The conference consisted of two days of presentations, panels, lightning talks, and posters. This was followed by an unconference day designed to promote informal discussion and networking on topics suggested by the participants on the day. 


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This was the first time this conference had been held in the Global South and it attracted an audience of over 250 participants from a wide range of countries. I have reviewed abstracts for this conference for quite a few years so I was really chuffed to finally get to experience it! The conference was very friendly and it was a chance to reconnect with many former colleagues as well as to meet some people face-to-face that I only know from Twitter. 

One of the things that I enjoyed the most about the conference was the large number of archivists attending and the many archives-related presentations. I started my career as an information professional in archives and have written previously about the value for librarians of developing a deeper understanding of archival theories and practices, particularly when working in areas such as research data management. The conference brought home to me my own need to refresh and update my professional knowledge of what is happening in the broader world of digital preservation and cultural collections in organisations other than universities and libraries (i.e. I need to get out more!)

My top three papers (though it is really hard to choose just three – I encourage you to explore the full program) were:

Developing Culturally Competent Data Publication Resources
Ryan Stoker and Jen McLean, University of Sydney

This paper received the top paper award from the program committee based on reviewer feedback.

Ryan and Jen talked about the process they are going through to revise their library guide on data publication in light of frameworks emerging from the National Centre for Cultural Competence at USyd. This has involved so far self-assessment by library staff of their own perspectives and biases, addition of indigenous cultural & intellectual property rights (including links to AIATSIS ethics guidelines), and inclusion of indigenous community considerations in sections on sensitive data.

The lessons learned are feeding into other projects including the institutional repository redevelopment and a university digital asset management system (DAMS). They are reviewing digital collections priorities, exploring new kinds of metadata (such as traditional knowledge labels) and ensuring licensing / access information is captured appropriately.

Progress in Research Data Service development: An international survey of university libraries  Slides 
Mary Anne Kennan, Charles Sturt University

Mary Anne presented on the results of the latest round of international surveys conducted from 2014 onwards across a range of countries including the UK, Ireland, Australia, NZ, Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands. The results will be published in a journal article soon.

This presentation helped me to see where my place of work is currently sitting compared to peers in terms of our service provision, organisational structures, drivers, skills gaps and other challenges. Mary Anne and her co-investigators have also come up with a really interesting maturity model for research data management services.

Human Security Informatics, Global Grand Challenges and Digital Curation
Anne Gilliland, University of North Carolina

This was a very thought-provoking paper on emerging work in Human Security Informatics (HSI). HSI is focused on how current digital infrastructures fail to meet the needs of many vulnerable communities due to systemic inequities and inaccessibilities, and lack of institutional will, coordination and capacity.

There are many cases when records and archives are used as mechanisms of oppression and appropriation, and where vulnerable communities (e.g. refugees, abuse survivors, those affected by natural disasters) must interact with records but may have no “bureaucratic literacy” or the relevant language skills to do this.

The case study presented related to the needs of displaced populations that are being explored through the Refugee Rights in Records Project. Given the current tone of political discussions in Australia right now this was very timely (but also really depressing). ​

​Three practical things I plan to do as a result of attending this conference are:
  1. Develop a digital preservation strategy for my institution's repository by end of 2020
  2. Explore connections between our repository and the Analysis and Policy Observatory to enable our research to be more accessible to public policy audiences outside of academia
  3. Explore the role that data packaging transfer tools (such as the Cloudstor Collections service from AARNet) might have in new data repository workflows. ​

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