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AIDA and repositories


The AIDA project (Assessing Institutional Digital Assets) has completed its official, funded phase, but it’s gratifying to see interest emerging in the toolkit. We possibly could have done more at ULCC to publicise and sell our work, but our ongoing partnership with the DCC on the current Research Data Management project for the JISC gives us an opportunity to make up for that. One of the planned outcomes of the RDMP work will be an integrated planning tool for use by data owners or repository managers (or indeed anyone who has a digital collection to curate) that will offer the best of DAF, DRAMBORA, LIFE2 and AIDA without requiring an Institution to compile the same profile information four times over. We have already massaged the toolkit into a proof-of-concept online version of AIDA, using MediaWiki, and this clearly signals the way forward for this kind of assessment tool.

I was recently invited to contribute a module about AIDA to Steve Hitchcock’s Keep-It programme in Southampton – encouragingly, he is someone looking into the detail of how repositories could be used to manage digital preservation, and wants input from as many current toolkits as he could get his hands on. My experiences of the day have already been blogged. I thought I would add two other little incidents from the day that I found interesting.

The first was the repository manager whose perception was that assessment of the Institution’s workings at the highest level (for example, its technology infrastructure, business management planning process and implementation of centralised policies) was not really part of her job. So why work with AIDA at all? The main purpose of AIDA is largely to assess the Institution’s overall preparedness to do asset management, and the task of assessment can take an individual staff member (repository manager, records manager, librarian) to parts of the organisation they didn’t know about before. I try and make this sound positive when I encouragingly suggest that an AIDA assessment has to be a collaborative team effort within an organisation. But our friend at Southampton reminded me that people do have these sensitivities and that very often, merely having a repository in place at all represents a hard-won struggle.

The second incident relates to my AIDA exercise, where I asked teams to apply sections of the toolkit to their own organisation. The response fed back by Miggie Pickton was memorable – her team had elected to analyse three separate organisations, applying one AIDA leg (Organisation, Technology and Resource) to each. My initial feeling was that this makes a complete mockery of AIDA, subjective and unvalidated as it might be; what better way to cheat a good score than by cherry-picking the best results across three institutions? However, Miggie’s observations were in fact very useful – and the scores still resulted in a wobbly three-legged stool. It seems that even if they collaborated, HFE Institutions still would not be able to achieve that stability that is the foundation for good asset management.

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