It’s Open Access Week ( hashtag – #OAWeek2014 ) and around the world everyone is talking about the importance of sharing, of re-use and of people having free access to content. Although it started as a movement focused on scholarly publications, Open Access as a concept has made big waves. The move from paper to online has made the possibility of much greater openness attainable. Since the first Open Access Week took place in 2009, the movement has developed to promote the benefits of sharing in academia far beyond scholarly publications, to include research data and teaching and learning resources.
So what role, in all this excitement of sharing and re-use and collaboration, does digital preservation play? A very central one, we would say. Peter Subar’s definition is a good place to start –
“Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions
OA removes price barriers (subscriptions, licensing fees, pay-per-view fees) and permission barriers (most copyright and licensing restrictions)”
– but to keep something digital and online, that something needs to be part of a well-managed digital preservation programme. Putting it out there is only half of the job. Deciding what content stays available, and for how long, and how digital content will continue to be accessible over time is fundamental to the ongoing success of the OA movement.Without digital preservation taking place, content can become inaccessible over time as file formats change, as hardware needed to view the content becomes obsolete – for any number of reasons that can damage content or make it inaccessible over time. So, digital preservation has a role in keeping OA content in an open and accessible state after the initial publication.
Digital preservation also has an important role to play before content is published in an OA way. Content is created, and that content needs to be preserved so that it can become open and accessible. If a researcher, for example, has created research data as part of a research project, then written a research paper based upon that data, intending to share their entire research output under Open Access, there is usually a period of time before both are ‘live’ and publicly published. Making sure that all research outputs are managed well from a digital preservation perspective is crucial. Without digital preservation taking place, digital objects can and do become inaccessible. To be able to open up content as Open Access, that content needs, by definition, to be accessible. A desire to share will not overcome such issues as bit rot, file corruption, content that can only now be viewed on unavailable software or any of the other many ways that digital objects can become inaccessible and/or degenerate over time.
The theme of the OA Week for 2014 is Generation Open. So this seems like the perfect year to raise a awareness of digital preservation and how it supports and underpins the aspirations of the Open Access movement. If you’d like to know more about digital preservation, there are some useful resources out online. We’ve compiled a short list if some key resources, below, which you might find useful.
This blog is a good place to start, and we also run training courses in digital preservation, catering for the beginner with our ‘Introduction to Digital Preservation’ course and to the more experienced practitioner with our ‘Practice of Digital Preservation’ course, running in November and December 2014 respectively.
The Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC), is a membership organisation that supports digital preservation. Their site is a wealth of information on all things digital preservation, including Tech Watch Reports, news, training and even jobs (if you get carried away!), this is a great starting point. UK-based, they have members from all over the world.
The Open Preservation Foundation (OPF), is another international organisation. They support and open community around digital preservation and have useful information on tools, training and software and community events. Most useful when you have some basic knowledge of the subject.
The SPRUCE Project was a collaboration between the University of Leeds, the British Library, the Digital Preservation Coalition, the London School of Economics, and the Open Preservation Foundation, co-funded by Jisc. The aim was to bring together a community to support digital preservation in the UK. Although the project ended in November 2013, a live wiki brings together the top project outputs (all open, of course), including a Digital Preservation Business Case Toolkit and a community-owned Digital Preservation Tool Registry.
The Digital Curation Centre (DCC) is a centre of expertise in the curation of digital information. This is the go-to place for all your research data preservation needs, with useful case studies, how-to guides and training courses in this area.
For some tips and information on how the ‘big guys’ manage digital preservation, check out the British Library’s digital preservation strategy, which includes some useful links as well as the strategy itself, and ‘Preserving Digital Collections’ from The National Archives has lots of good information on digital preservation, including FAQs.
Enjoy Open Access Week 2014, and remember that sharing starts and ends with good digital preservation!