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Digital archiving research challenges present the type of problem that requires national leadership and government investment. Despite awareness of the digital archiving problem, market forces alone have proven inadequate to develop and provide solutions. In some cases market forces work against long-term preservation by locking customers into propriety formats and systems, adding new features to encourage or force upgrades, and phasing out useful but unprofitable hardware, software, and services.
Workshop participants urged the NSF (National Science Foundation), the LoC (Library of Congress), and other government agencies to support a substantial research program that will enhance the state of knowledge and practice for long-term preservation of digital information. The research agenda is organized around four main themes: 1) Technical architectures for archival repositories; 2) Attributes of archival collections; 3) Digital archiving tools and technologies; and 4) Organizational, economic, and policy issues.
Decision models are needed to support many aspects of digital preservation including selection, choice of preservation formats and standards, and choice of preservation strategies (such as normalization, migration, and emulation) for different types of collections and user communities.
Even if a repository transforms its collections into a small set of standard formats, time will change formats, standards, data models, and semantic representations. Needed tools include automatic format converters, emulators, and tools to support lossless and reversible transformations. Research is needed to develop conceptual models and methodologies for tracking data provenance and for managing the evolution of metadata schemas and ontologies.
Digital preservation resembles public goods because the primary beneficiaries of current investments may be future generations. Repositories are also vulnerable to interruptions in funding that would threaten basic storage and data management, prevent ingest of new data and collections, and reduce or eliminate user access. In order to create an economy for digital preservation, economic models and funding mechanisms are needed that provide economic viability over very long periods of time; that create incentives for developing digital archives across different types of organizations; that stimulate private research and development of digital preservation tools, technologies, and services; and that provide incentives for content owners to deposit content in digital archives. Business models that drive down the costs of digital preservation would help to incentivize preservation activities. Research in this area is critical for the development of affordable technologies and services as well as deployment of a scalable infrastructure consisting of technical solutions, practical standards, and trusted institutions.
It's about time to launch a new research initiative. This initiative will advance computer and information science, archival and library methods, and social and organizational models in connection with digital information. This initiative will address a critical need for reliable, sustainable, and cost effective means to manage digital information essential for discovery of new knowledge. Perhaps most signifi cantly, this initiative will build a foundation for digital preservation practices that government agencies, cultural institutions, businesses, and others urgently require.
- "It's About Time: Research Challenges in Digital Archiving and Long-Term Preservation," Final Report of the Workshop on Research Challenges in Digital Archiving: Towards a National Infrastructure for Long-Term Preservation of Digital Information, April 12-13, 2002 http://www.si.umich.edu/digarch/, August 2003.
File URL (PDF) here http://www.si.umich.edu/digarch/NSF%200915031.pdf
This workshop was sponsored by The National Science Foundation Digital Government Program and Digital Libraries Program Directorate for Computing and Information Sciences and Engineering and The Library of Congress National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program.
Post Date: May 10, 2005 at 7:15 AM CDT; 1215 GMT