D-Lib Magazine
The Magazine of Digital Library Research
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D-Lib Magazine

May/June 2013
Volume 19, Number 5/6
Table of Contents


"Curate Thyself" and the DigCCurr Experts' Meeting: Communication, Collaboration, and Strategy in Digital Curation Education

Alex H. Poole
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill



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A three-day event combining "Curate Thyself", a day-long DigCCurr PhD Symposium led by the DigCCurr team of faculty and Ph.D. fellows, and a two-day DigCCurr Experts' Meeting, was held in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, March 17-19, 2013. The event marked the closing of almost 7 years of funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for DigCCurr (Digital Curation Curriculum) projects at the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) at UNC-Chapel Hill. The event drew nearly 60 attendees from the United States, Canada, and Europe. Nearly all of the attendees were affiliated with iSchools, primarily doctoral students and faculty members. Not merely a capstone for DigCCurr, however, the very successful event proved an ideal forum for discussing strategies, including developing future initiatives, seeking funding, refining teaching methods, implementing course materials, and developing programs and curricula.



Described by Helen Tibbo as the "culmination" of DigCCurr I and II, a three-day event was held at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at the Franklin Hotel in Chapel Hill, 17-19 March, 2013. Held under the auspices of Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Grant Award #RE-05-08-0060-08, it drew nearly 60 attendees from the United States, Canada, and Europe. Nearly all attendees were affiliated with iSchools and most were either doctoral students or faculty members. Not merely a capstone for DigCCurr, however, the event proved an ideal forum in which to develop pedagogical strategies for future initiatives, whether targeting master's, doctoral, or continuing education students. As Ciaran Trace of the University of Texas at Austin put it concisely, "to improve is to change."

Digital curation "involves the management of digital objects over their entire lifecycle, ranging from pre-creation activities wherein systems are designed, and file formats and other data creation standards are established, through ongoing capture of evolving contextual information for digital assets housed in archival repositories." [1] Digital curation ensures continuing access to and adds value to digital assets. Thus digital libraries and digital curation are "closely-related" fields with overlapping concerns, priorities, and stakeholders. [2] Both focus on the long term, on quality assurance, on serving a designated community of users, and on abiding by set policies. Indeed, many digital librarians are involved in digital curation initiatives simply by virtue of their daily roles and responsibilities. Their involvement with digital curation will only increase in the future.

Karen Gracy of Kent State University contended that, given the nature of their work, digital curation and preservation professionals must be at once specialists and boundary-crossers, polyglots and polymaths equally comfortable with analog and digital objects. Such professionals must understand the contextual aspects of knowledge creation, use, and reuse. They must bring together theory and practice from numerous disciplines and institutions while developing better IT skills, such as competency in data and systems structures, formats, and metadata schemes. They must not only understand community-based knowledge production, organization, and dissemination, but also develop the ability to represent them semantically. Educational programs must take responsibility for preparing such professionals to work in digital libraries, archives, and cultural heritage institutions.

The current state of education in digital/data curation remains checkered. Developing best practices; grappling with new scales and paradigms; creating incentives for institutions to be proactive; curriculum development in an evolving field — all represent central challenges. As the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign's Carole Palmer observed, a 2011 scan of data curation curricula revealed a total of 463 courses offered at 63 institutions. More specifically, approximately 35 data-centric courses and 50 data-inclusive courses were offered in the context of five data-centric programs and 50 digital-oriented programs. But these courses shared no terminology regarding key data curation concepts; what was more, no institution covered all relevant data concepts.

The three-day DigCCurr event, therefore, focused on strategies for bridging the current state of digital curation education, and the needs of future stakeholders. This report summarizes the presenters' remarks from the keynotes, panel discussions and sessions on each of the three days. More information about the "Curate Thyself" PHD Symposium can be found at http://www.ils.unc.edu/digccurr/curatethyself.html.


"Curate Thyself": a PhD Student Symposium

The symposium on Sunday, March 17 featured two keynote speakers, two doctoral student-led panels, two informal mentoring sessions, and a judged poster session. In the first keynote, Costis Dallas of the University of Toronto provided an overview of digital curation research and its central challenges. Trained in archaeology and museum studies, Dallas first addressed digital curation as a focus for research, concentrating on its theoretical and epistemological aspects and on setting forth germane research agendas. In a wide-ranging talk, Dallas discussed the apotheosis of data — especially research data — and its implications for preservation, restoration, migration, emulation, risk management, prioritization, and automation. He underscored the importance of understanding the systematic and functional attributes of curation contexts and of focusing on curation processes as well as on curating data. Provisions for digital curation must ultimately be institutional, not just specialties or niche pursuits.

After Dallas tackled the overarching concerns of digital curation research, the day's first panel made a transition to concerns endemic to doctoral education. Moderated by Wendy Duff of the University of Toronto, the panel addressed not only the Ph.D. process as a whole, but also milestones such as settling upon a dissertation topic, identifying research questions, defending the dissertation proposal, and developing research methodologies, designs, and a broader research agenda. Though she encouraged students to follow their intellectual passion, Duff stressed the importance of choosing a theoretical framework that allows them to narrow their topic and also to justify the value of it to the field, and determine early in the process the amount of hands-on technological training they will need. Regarding the process of doctoral education as an apprenticeship, Duff noted that during this period, students have an unprecedented opportunity to focus intellectually.

Next, Elliot Wilczek of Simmons College talked about the overall PhD process. He encouraged students to profit from their previous interests and experiences, to begin planning their dissertation upon matriculation, to move from topics to questions and then to operationalize questions, to home in on a viable case study, and to remain flexible intellectually. Paradoxically, students must realize that their dissertation represents only the beginning of their professional scholarly work while accepting that it is all-encompassing.

Three other doctoral students spoke about more specific parts of the process. Ed Benoit of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's dissertation topic (tagging objects in digital collections) germinated in his early graduate work in history; through his coursework and literature reviews he whittled it down. The University of Michigan's Devan Donaldson traced the process of crafting and subsequently defending one's dissertation proposal. Donaldson urged doctoral students to work self-reflexively, methodically, and indefatigably and to exploit intellectual support systems on campus. Like Donaldson, Laura Wynholds of the University of California-Los Angeles detailed her proposal defense. She thought structuring one's work agenda and being socialized into the larger academic research community two key challenges of the transition from coursework to fulltime research. The experiences of the four doctoral students flowed into the day's second keynote.

Carolyn Hank of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville spoke about the challenges of managing one's own research commitments strategically and stressed the value of project management skills. Reflecting upon her research trajectory and funding since 2006, she described five major projects, highlighting her methods, her research questions, and her subjects. Hank encouraged attendees to develop elevator speeches tailored to different audiences, to identify funding sources early and often in one's career, to develop both a research plan and a publishing plan, to compose a research statement and profile, and to write several start-up budget requests for varying amounts.

Hank's talk presaged the day's second panel discussion, moderated by Cal Lee of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The panel dealt with making the transition from the dissertation process to developing a research trajectory and related career goals in a specific work environment. Furthermore, the panel tackled issues related to self-presentation and defining one's employment market.

Placing her intellectual development in the context of her personal narrative, Christa Hardy of Clayton State University encouraged doctoral students to build upon their background knowledge, to embrace their creativity and inquisitiveness, and to decide upon appropriate research tools early on in their doctoral work.

A software developer, librarian, and independent researcher, Derek Rodriguez spoke about his longtime intellectual interest: how libraries impact public life. Having earned his PhD (UNC) while working full time, Rodriguez suggested that doctoral students settle upon a broad research problem and narrow it subsequently. Rodriguez, for instance, narrowed his topic to address student learning outcomes. He emphasized the importance of theory, especially in creating extensible solutions, as well as the importance of research "translation" — helping faculty, librarians, and other stakeholders understand what LIS scholars do and why it is important.

Next, Kathy Wisser of Simmons College explained her strategy for balancing teaching, research, and service. Like Rodriguez, having earned her PhD (UNC) while working full time, Wisser detailed her career-long interest in metadata and how that interest channeled into her work with Encoded Archival Description (EAD) and Encoded Archival Context (EAC).

Finally, Kam Woods of UNC spoke about his eclectic research trajectory. A Computer Science PhD, Woods currently has a three-year postdoctoral appointment. Lacking service obligations, a postdoc can and should broaden his or her research interests during this period. Woods also stressed the need for aspiring faculty members to ensure that they can teach outside their main research interests. Last, he underlined the value of maintaining an up-to-date website.

A reception and PhD student poster session rounded out Sunday evening. Poster honorees included Patricia Condon of Simmons College (first place), Bedrich Vychodil of Charles University, Prague (Second Place), Heather Barnes of UNC (Third Place), Frances Nichols of UTK (Honorable Mention), Thu Mai Christian of UNC (Honorable Mention), and Heather Ryan of UNC (Honorable Mention).


Experts Meeting I: Digital Curation Graduate and Professional Education

In her introductory remarks on Monday, March 18, Helen Tibbo pondered open questions for graduate education in digital curation. First, she discussed the challenges of determining the content faculty should teach students. Programs range from Master's degrees to interdisciplinary or dual degrees to Post-Master's Certificates. Broad curricular concerns, core content, range of content, mode of delivery (face to face vs. remote) — all must be integrated into a limited number of course hours which in turn must be integrated into a program's overall duration. Second, Tibbo explored potential audiences: students, disciplinary researchers, or the general public. Specifically she discussed the possibilities for educating PhD students in digital curation, for example in departments of Library Science, Information Science, or Computer Science. Finally, Tibbo described the "patchwork quilt" of professional education. In the end, for academic and professional education alike, stakeholders must decide upon the appropriate length of training, where to hold it, how to fund it, who should instruct it, and how to sustain it.

Following Tibbo's overview, Monday's sessions centered on institution-specific digital curation educational initiatives (Master's, doctoral, certificates, continuing education, or some combination thereof), their core priorities, and their deliverables. Faculty members from sixteen institutions spoke about their past and current efforts.

Cal Lee talked about Master's degree education at UNC. IMLS has awarded SILS five digital curation curriculum grants since 2006: Preserving Access to Our Digital Future: Building an International Digital Curation Curriculum (DigCCurr); Extending an International Digital Curation Curriculum to Doctoral Students and Practitioners (DigCCurr II); Educating Stewards of Public Information for the 21st Century (ESOPI-21); Closing the Digital Curation Gap (CDCG); and Educating Stewards of the Public Information Infrastructure (ESOPI2). The projects generated a curriculum framework, course modules, graduate courses, week-long continuing education institutes, and hands-on opportunities through paid fellowships. The DigCCurr Matrix of Digital Curation Knowledge and Skills underpinned these endeavors. The Matrix includes mandates, values, and principles; functions and skills; professional, disciplinary, or institutional/organizational context; type of resource; prerequisite knowledge; and transition point in the information continuum. Next, Lee detailed SILS's Graduate Certificate in Digital Curation (established in 2010); he also reported on hands-on lab development at SILS. Overall, Lee argued that new curricular initiatives must be incorporated into existing ones — educators cannot afford to start from a tabula rasa.

Addressing Master's and doctoral level education, Helen Tibbo reviewed the DigCCurr I (2006-2009) and II (2009-2012) projects. They funded and provided enrichment experiences for the Fellows, brought together a knowledgeable team and a tailored curriculum for professional workshops, and underwrote an international network of students and faculty through the Digital Curation Exchange, the International Data curation Education Action (IDEA) Working Group and International Curation Education (ICE) Forum meetings, and Curate Thyself. However, challenges persisted: choosing students, stretching funds, writing about digital curation education, developing strategies to teach digital curation at the doctoral level, and working with time zones to incorporate international speakers into class schedules.

Lee and Tibbo also dealt with continuing education. Lee spoke about UNC's Post-Master's Certificate (PMC) in Data Curation, a program that seeks to educate information professionals who manage and preserve data assets for libraries, archives, government agencies, and businesses. The PMC will prepare students to serve as organizational and institutional leaders and to participate actively in delineating curation standards and practices. Courses will ready students to engage with crucial statutory, economic, and technical issues related to data creation, dissemination, use and reuse, and preservation.

Apropos of "digital denial" in the archives profession, Helen Tibbo described the Society of American Archivist's Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) Curriculum and Certificate. The program gestated in 2011 under her leadership as SAA president and provides education and training, information and tools, to ensure that archivists adopt appropriate current practices for appraising, capturing, preserving, and providing access to born-digital records. Continually refreshed by experts, the initiative features tiers of study, delivers content face-to-face or via webinar, and targets archives practitioners, managers, and administrators. The PMC foregrounds seven competencies, and graduates will: understand the nature of electronic records; define requirements, roles, and responsibilities related to digital archives and develop strategies for appraising, describing, managing, organizing, and preserving them; integrate technologies, tools, software, and media with existing mechanisms for appraising, capturing, preserving, and providing access to digital collections; prepare for new tools or for successive generations of emerging technologies, software, and media; curate, store, and retrieve original masters or access copies of digital materials or both; and provide dependable service to designated communities.

Another groundbreaking professional education effort Tibbo has helped, Digital Curator Vocational Education Europe (DigCurv), was funded by the European Commission's Leonardo da Vinci programme in 2010 to establish a curriculum framework for vocational training in digital curation. To this end, a network of partners will determine the availability of vocational training for digital curators in the library, archive, museum, and cultural heritage sectors. They will also help professionals develop new skills essential for the long term management of digital objects.

Just as UNC has broken new ground in digital curation education on multiple fronts, so too has the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Carole Palmer discussed its specialization, Data Curation Education Program (DCEP), including Data Curation in the Sciences (2006-2011), Data Curation in the Humanities (2008-2012), and Data Curation Education in Research Centers (2010-2014). Grounded in "purposeful work with data," the specialization grapples with the ways in which this work affects user, collection, and representation dimensions in addition to infrastructure, policy, and regulatory issues. The DCEP specialization has led students to a wide range of internships and practicum placements, ranging from the National Center for Atmospheric Research to the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. Forty-nine of 55 graduates of the specialization secured jobs: 33% in research libraries and museums, 20% in research and data centers, and 20% industry. Palmer also discussed GSLIS's Data Curation Education in Research Centers (DCERC) model aimed at both Master's and doctoral students. The model revolves around a shared core Master's curriculum, an intensive workshop, and a field experience in a science data center. Through DCEP and DCERC, students have participated in continuing education initiatives such as the Summer Institutes on Data Curation and the Research Data Workforce Summit (2010), provided community support, assisted in teaching and in course development, disseminated journal papers and meeting reports, helped with program evaluation, and engaged in mentoring.

Similar to UNC and UIUC, the University of North Texas seeks to address the needs of Master's, doctoral, and continuing education students, albeit through an initiative of more recent vintage. A collaborative effort between the College of Information and the University of North Texas libraries funded by IMLS, iCAMP (Curate, Archive, Manage, Preserve) is a three-year (2011-2014) capacity-building project. As Bill Moen described, iCAMP will develop four web-based courses in digital curation and data management. These courses will turn on seven competency groups: Communication and Interpersonal; Curating an Preserving Content; Curation Technologies; Environmental Scanning; Management, Planning, and Evaluation; Services; and Systems, Models, and Modeling. iCAMP will also build a technological infrastructure to bolster student learning, practical engagement, and training and will implement a virtual teaching environment for students' experimentation and discovery learning. Potential constituents include LIS graduate students, post-master's professionals retraining, and non-LIS, discipline-specific graduate students responsible for managing data. iCAMP's goals include achieving consensus on core competencies, developing robust virtual labs and training environments for instruction and hands-on experience, focusing on credentialing mechanisms such as digital badges, and recruiting non-LIS students into iCAMP without pigeonholing them as LIS professionals.

The efforts of UNT, UIUC, and UNC aside, the University of Toronto (Master's and doctoral) and Simmons College (Master's and continuing) have focused on two stakeholder groups instead of three in their digital curation education work. Seamus Ross of the University of Toronto emphasized incoming students' burgeoning interest in digital curation. Responding to this momentum, Toronto's Faculty of Information recently established a doctoral program. Ross deemed digital curation a "huge, huge growth area" for research and stressed the importance of doctoral and master's students in pushing faculty research as well as participating in events such as Toronto's Digital Curation Institute (inaugurated in 2010). Additionally, Ross spoke about digital curation pedagogy, noting that doctoral, continuing, and Master's education demand different teaching approaches. Ross also unpacked the challenges of certification and accreditation, experimentation and empirical learning. What do digital curation professionals need to know? In what ways do they need to know it? How can educators ensure that students know what they claim to know? Such questions remained key points of discussion throughout the event.

Simmons College also targets two stakeholder groups: Master's and continuing education students. As Kathy Wisser observed, the Digital Stewardship specialization requires nine (of 39 total) credits. Simmons premises integrating new efforts such as the specialization into its existing curriculum, i.e., building upon the school's intellectual foundations, including its core curriculum. Ross Harvey elaborated upon Simmons's related Digital Stewardship Certificate, launched in 2012. Fully online and mostly asynchronous, the Certificate requires a previously earned Master's degree and stresses training for the long term and a focus on the "total" curation environment.

While programs at Simmons and Toronto focus on two stakeholder groups, other digital curation experts dealt with initiatives targeting one stakeholder group, whether Master's, doctoral, or continuing education students. Four experts spoke about Master's education, one about doctoral education, and two about continuing education.

Paul Conway of the University of Michigan sketched the School of Information's Preservation of Information specialization (established in 2007 under the auspices of IMLS). Conway framed the specialization, which focuses on cultural heritage broadly construed, on all media, and on skills as well as pedagogy, as a response to a current "massive transitional era" (analog to digital). Conway discerned an increasing need for curriculum support materials, especially those developed collaboratively and synthetically. He also wondered how best to propagate pedagogical models to inform similar courses at SI and at other institutions.

Unlike Michigan, the School of Information at the University of Texas offers no separate "tracks." But students may specialize, i.e. "tailor your education for your career," via Certificates of Advanced Study. As Ciaran Trace noted, the SI adopts an interdisciplinary model in its courses, which include topics such as scientific and technical data collections, audio preservation and reformatting, and digital humanities. The school grounds courses in an internal integration/immersion model that links research and education. The specializations allow students to nurture their creativity and technical knowledge by assuming real responsibility for real materials; standards and theory alone are insufficient. Graduates have started institutional repositories and have worked as digital records managers and digital archivists. Lessons learned from the SI's experience include taking a holistic approach, focusing on the "big picture," and on the long term.

Lessons learned by programs such as those at Texas provide useful roadmaps for new ones. In this vein, the University of Maryland's Richardo Punzalan spoke about the recent development of the Curation and Management of Digital Assets, a specialization for two degree programs, the MLS and the Master of Information Management (MIM). Digital curation courses focus on principles, policy, and implementation. Maryland plans to implement its first course in the fall of 2013 and will embark on a data curation faculty search in the upcoming year. Both are auspicious developments.

Finally, Richard Pearce-Moses discussed the Master of Archival Studies program at Clayton State University. CSU's MAS seeks pedagogical innovation through an amalgam of theory and practice. Oriented toward teaching practitioners (most students work full time), the program is available only online but also provides a heavy live/synchronous dimension. It instills in students archival and technical competencies and builds on basic curation tasks such as web markup and setting policy.

Digital curation education initiatives have also focused on doctoral students. Suzie Allard of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville stressed the need for LIS professionals capable of working proactively as scientists' partners and of addressing these scientists' unique needs. Inaugurated in 2009, the Science Links2 initiative has funded doctoral students and has forged relationships with NASA and the United States Geological Survey. Increased engagement with the outside community, a maturing mentoring culture, an increased sense of scholarly community, a greater number of interdisciplinary relationships, a positive impact on student research outputs, a national lab student blueprint, the creation of an undergraduate course on environmental Information Science ready for course catalog and cross-listing — all are important achievements of SL2.

Two other experts talked not about graduate education, but rather about continuing education. Funded by IMLS since 2006, the fully online Digital Information Management (DigIn) graduate certificate program at the University of Arizona's School of Information Resources and Library Science lays a foundation for continuous learning among aspiring information professionals. As Peter Botticelli noted, the program encourages students to specialize in particular curation functions while retaining a more holistic understanding of the information and publishing lifecycle, preparing them for interdisciplinary work. Hands-on and case-based, the program instills in students the confidence and self-efficacy that comes with advanced technical literacy and flexible problem-solving skills. DigIn prioritizes non-traditional instructional tools such as blogs and a digital laboratory (created with additional IMLS funding in 2008). Students' capstone projects, semester-long practical field experiences in institutional settings supervised by practitioners, represent the apex of DigIn.

Nancy McGovern of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also focused on continuing education. She spoke about her work with Digital Preservation Outreach and Education (DPOE) under the auspices of the Library of Congress, specifically its mission to effect outreach and education to individuals and organizations through collaborative initiatives. She also emphasized the important work of the E-Science Institute (ESI). Through a dynamic, interactive, experiential, and community-building process, the ESI helps library professionals craft a specific contextualized strategy for their institutions regarding e-Science research support. Finally, McGovern covered the Digital Preservation Management Workshops (DPMW), first offered in 2003. Aimed at digital preservation managers in archives, libraries, and cultural institutions, the workshops promote pragmatic and responsible stewardship of digital objects. Initiatives such as DPOE, ESI, and DPMW inculcate what McGovern calls "durable skills" for digital curation and preservation that fit into a broader "ecosystem" of professional skills development.

Broader digital curation education programs aside, a considerable portion of Monday's work addressed the specific educational needs of digital curation professionals working in cultural heritage institutions (CHIs). Five experts spoke about CHI programs catering to various stakeholder groups: three from the United States, one from Canada, and one from the United Kingdom.

To prepare digital curation and preservation professionals for CHI work, Karen Gracy noted Kent State offers an MLIS area of specialization, a Certificate of Advanced Study, and a PhD. Gracy also spoke generally about pedagogy, covering strategies for various audiences as well as current models or prototypes being tried at various institutions, their level of effectiveness, and the resources necessary either to sustain them or to implement them in new environments. She called for a holistic strategy: digital curation education must teach critical thinking and research skills applicable in multiple contexts while also ensuring equitable access to knowledge, skill sets, and professional development venues.

Tula Giannini of the Pratt Institute described Project CHART (Cultural Heritage, Access, Research & Technology), funded by a Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian grant in 2009. Collaborating with the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Brooklyn Historical Society, Pratt offers the Digital Management for Cultural Heritage (DMCH) program within the MSLIS. Students may enroll in new courses such as Cultural Heritage Description and Access and engage in semester-long internships at partner institutions. By May of 2013, eighteen students (50% minority) will have finished the DMCH program and 90% of them have secured professional positions in libraries, archives, museums, non-profits, or IT.

Jane Zhang spoke about the Cultural Heritage Information Management (CHIM) course of study at Catholic University, funded by a 2012 IMLS grant. Incorporating digital curation into SLIS's robust cultural heritage curriculum, the CHIM program addresses market needs engendered by the ongoing convergence of libraries, archives, and museums. Such institutions must at once preserve cultural heritage resources and exploit digital technology to promote greater access to such resources. Aside from four required courses, the student and her advisor work together to devise a course of study that jibes with the student's personal and professional needs and bridges theory and practice. Experiential learning occurs through a 120-hour structured practicum at a partner institution such as the Library of Congress or the National Agriculture Library.

The discussion of digital curation education reached beyond the United States to Canada and the United Kingdom. Costis Dallas profiled the Master of Museum Studies (MMSt) at the University of Toronto. An academic and a professional program, the MMSt imbues students with an understanding of the broader social and cultural contexts (origins, philosophies, and current practices) of museum functions. Moreover, it instills in students a sound grasp of theoretical issues, key research questions, and methods elemental to museology. The program foregrounds an integrated learning model; aside from their coursework, students cultivate practical skills and pursue special interests through internships and exhibition projects. Apropos of digital curation, the MMSt adopts a mainstreaming approach that unites the principles and practices of digital curation with cultural heritage synergies in other parts of the iSchool. Plans for a digital heritage specialization are underway.

Finally, the University of Glasgow's Ian Anderson explained the 3D COFORM Knowledge Exchange. On one hand, many digital curation tools are too complex for those in industry to use unassisted; on the other hand, many of those tools are not sophisticated enough to grapple with complex digital objects. Anderson noted: "We see digital assets, they see digital junk. We see digital liability, they say delete it We see digital heritage, they say not our problem." He looked to a future of born curatable digital objects, self-identifying, self-describing, and self-healing objects, and the evolution of networks into de facto repositories. Joint programs would bring computer science and business and management into the digital curation fold and diverse communities of practice (physical sciences, geomatics, health sciences, and public administration, for example) would contribute as well. An appropriate digital curation curriculum would include project management, software engineering, interdisciplinary teamwork, digital curation economics and business models, and public policy and advocacy. Reflecting on these ambitions, Anderson rightly insisted, "we need power looms — no more hand weaving."


Experts Meeting II: Digital Curation Graduate and Professional Education

The discussion on Tuesday, March 19 focused on research and publication in digital curation, and on pedagogical strategies and content. The experts discussed the nature of digital curation as a field or a discipline, and how that classification impacts research efforts. A formidable challenge involves defining the scope of digital curation research, determining a core literature, and identifying who is currently engaged in research. Naturally, researchers must bridge theory and practice. But researchers must fix upon a theory to apply. Thus another outstanding question is whether the field needs a new theory and if so, of what sort. Certainly such a theory would be interdisciplinary, and predicated upon an understanding of the diverse connections among stakeholder communities.

In keeping with their focus on research, the experts also deliberated the publication process. Carole Palmer called the selection of a publication venue a "constant dilemma"; for instance, are the best outlets North American or are they international? The experts also discussed how best to convey digital curation ideas to outside communities such as computer scientists. A book of digital curation case studies holds out promise.

The experts dialogued about digital educational content. They reflected upon a decade of formative pedagogical work and agreed that something of a core had been established. Conversely, assessment of learning outcomes in digital curation education remains very difficult indeed. In this vein, experts suggested learning more about what employers want from aspiring digital curation professionals. For example, how can educators determine the proper balance between reading and doing or making? To address this concern, programs must track graduates' careers more closely and check in with them periodically.

The experts agreed on the imperative of teaching collaboratively ("cross-teaching" or "baton-passing"). Such collaboration must center on core competencies. But it remains unclear whether theoretical frameworks can be shared effectively and if so, which frameworks would be the best to share. Another collaborative possibility involves guest lecturers or short videos by virtual instructors that would demonstrate key concept(s) to students. More pragmatically, the experts discussed sharing syllabi and possibly other materials such as slides, assignments, exercises and activities (e.g. case studies), and grading rubrics, perhaps using the Digital Curation Exchange or a designated repository — or even making these materials publicly accessible online. Virtual labs may prove useful as well. But to effect collaboration, materials must be sufficiently standardized, instructors must trust one other, and incentives must be evident.

The experts addressed the needs not only of students, but also of future faculty members. Proposed measures included establishing postdocs in digital curation and mentoring of junior faculty by senior faculty. The experts also deliberated over how assistant professors might best leverage their digital curation work for tenure. In short, should curriculum development tools count as teaching or research?

Finally, the experts discussed continuing education credentialing mechanisms that involve meeting certain standards. Such mechanisms as digital badges and certifications represent a potent message to the general public about what digital curation professionals do and why it is crucial work. But again, questions remain. For instance, should certifications target individuals or programs or both?



The three-day DigCCurr event demonstrated that a symbiotic relationship between education preparing students to serve as digital curation professionals, and continuing education in the area, must be established. To this end, educators must find more options for sustaining existing programs and for seeking new funding to develop new ones. Moving forward, experts will collaboratively address urgent priorities such as certification and competencies, virtual labs that facilitate sharing tools and platforms, and graduate-level digital curation education, particularly curriculum development and evaluation of courses and models. Digital librarians among other stakeholders will play an important role in such discussions — and in subsequent action.


[1] Lee, C.A., & Tibbo, H.R. (2007). Digital curation and trusted repositories: steps toward success. Journal of Digital Information 8(2).

[2] Pomerantz, Jeffrey, et al. (2009). "Comparing Curricula for Digital Lbrary and Digital Curation Education." Proceedings of DigCCurr2009: Practice, Promise, and Prospects. Chapel Hill, NC: School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2009.2.


About the Author

Photo of Alex Poole

Alex H. Poole is a third-year doctoral student at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A Fellow on the DigCCurr II Project: Extending an International Digital Curation Curriculum to Doctoral Students and Practitioners, he focuses on digital curation, the digital humanities, and all things archival.

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