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Proposal for Session (deadline April 30th 2012)

Digital Humanities Congress

Sheffield, 6 – 9 September 2012

Title: Digital Preservation for Digital Humanities. Trust and the APARSEN Network of Excellence.

Organiser: René van Horik, Data Archiving & Networked Services (DANS), the Netherlands

The following APARSEN project partners contribute to the session:

  • Barbara Sierman, National Library of the Netherlands (KB), the Netherlands
  • David Giaretta, Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), United Kingdom
  • Maria Guercio, Consorzio Interuniversitario Nazionale pe l'Informatica (CINI), Italy
  • René van Horik, Data Archiving and Networked Sevices (DANS), the Netherlands
  • William Killbride, Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC), United Kingdom
  • Maurizio Lunghi, Fondazione Rinascimento Digitale (FRD), Italy
  • Hervé L'hours, UK Data Archive (UKDA), United Kingdom
  • Olivier Rouchon, Centre Informatique National de l’Enseignement Supérieur (CINES), France


The goal of the EU funded APARSEN project that runs from 2011 till 2014 is to establish a Virtual Network of Excellence (VNoE) on digital preservation. The more than 30 partners in the project represent the cultural heritage sector, the corporate sector, and the research community of which the digital humanities form an important group of stakeholders. The aim of this session is to present some of the current results of the project, grouped around the topic of “trust”, to gain feedback from and drive future engagement with the digital humanities community. The concept of trust is related to issues such as the reliability and quality of research data, the reputation of data repositories and digital preservation standards. The session consists of the following 5 parts:

1. Introduction (15 minutes)

2. Assessment, Audit and Certification of repositories (15 minutes)

3. Reputation and Trust: datasets, publications and people (15 minutes)

4. Authenticity (15 minutes)

5. Questions and feedback (30 minutes)

1 Introduction (15 minutes)

The APARSEN project (“Alliance Permanent Access to the Records of Science in Europe Network”) builds on the already established Alliance for Permanent Access (APA), a membership organisation of major European stakeholders in digital data and digital preservation. These stakeholders have come together to create a shared vision and framework for a sustainable digital information infrastructure providing permanent access. The three main streams of the APARSEN project are (1) integration of ideas and approaches on digital preservation (2) research related to technical, economic and legal issues related to digital preservation, and (3) the spreading of excellence through training events, awareness raising and liaison activities; each of the work packages is grouped into topics. . Besides the “trust” topic, that is the main subject of this session and that was the main project focus for the first year of the APARSEN project, the following topics can be distinguished: “sustainability”, “usability” and “access”. These topics are covered by work packages that are currently active or will be active during the remainder of the APARSEN project. The outcomes of each topic area are integrated in the overall vision concerning the realisation of a Virtual Network of Excellence for digital preservation. The current state of the art concerning this common vision on digital preservation will be presented. Within the APARSEN project the “Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System” (OAIS) is the basic point of origin for all activities.

2 Assessment, Audit and Certification of repositories (15 minutes)

Data repositories store, manage and disseminate research data sets. Within the APARSEN project the activities undertaken to assess the quality of repositories are evaluated. A number of parties have taken the initiative to create a European Framework for Audit and Certification of digital repositories (see: The framework consists of a sequence of three levels, in increasing trustworthiness. Basic Certification is granted to repositories that obtain “Data Seal of Approval” (DSA) certification. Extended Certification is granted to Basic Certification repositories, which in addition perform a structured, externally reviewed, and publicly available self-audit based on the ISO 16363 or DIN 31644 trust standards. Formal Certification is granted to repositories, which in addition to Basic Certification obtain full external audit and certification based on DIN 31644or ISO16363 . Within the APARSEN project a number of test audits were carried out. This presentation will cover the three audit and certification procedures and present the test-audit activities. The aim is to create an infrastructurewhere data objects relevant to digital humanities research and other sectors is curated to a visible standard by trusted digital repositories.

3 Reputation and Trust (15 minutes)

A second group of “trust” activities carried out in the APARSEN project concern the reputation and “trustability” of datasets, publications and people. In this paper two types of activities are presented. The first activity describes a technological approach towards evaluating the reputation of digital preservation tools and techniques. In order to prevent the obsolescence of digital objects, such as databases and software, a number of tools and techniques have been developed. Within the APARSEN project a framework was developed to assess the quality of these digital preservation tools and techniques. This framework provides a classification of digital objects and a number of applicable test bed techniques. Secondly, we examine annotations; that is information added to data. The function of these annotations is to enable the evaluation of the quality of the data objects. Various annotation-types can be distinguished, such as descriptive and provenance metadata or evaluation remarks in a peer-review system. An examination of tools, techniques and annotations supports the evaluation of reputation and quality in data objects and preservation practices.

4 Authenticity (15 minutes)

A third cluster of work packages related to “trust” in the APARSEN project is grouped around authenticity. Authenticity can be defined as the degree to which a person or system regards an object as what it is purported to be. Authenticity is judged on the basis of evidence. Two authenticity topics are covered in the presentation. First we examine the role of persistent identifiers with respect to authenticity of digital objects. The second topic concerns a “digital object lifecycle model”, aimed at managing authenticity and provenance of digital objects. The persistent identification of objects (both digital and non-digital) is increasingly critical to citation, retrieval and preservation. Persistent identifiers are crucial for preserving, managing, accessing and re-using huge amounts of data over time. A number of solutions for identifying objects have been proposed in different domains and several standards are currently at a mature stage of development. The presentation aims to investigate interoperability issues between several persistent identifier systems and proposes a general Interoperability Framework (IF) as a starting point to design new solutions to support interoperability. The IF considers persistent identifiers in terms of the technology, policies and decisions implemented by a user community.

In order to identify the main events that impact on authenticity and provenance a model of the digital object lifecycle is presented. For each of these events evidence has to be gathered in order to conveniently document the history of the digital object. This evidence consists both of technical and non-technical elements. The technical elements include controls on the integrity of the digital object (such as checking the bit sequences of the digital object over time). The non-technical elements vary from the identity of the author and set of custodians to the elements able to provide evidence of the reliability of the creation system and of the trustworthiness of the custodian. In short, “authenticity evidence” must support the capture of the transformations the digital object has undergone and that may have affected its authenticity and provenance throughout its lifecycle. The model for managing authenticity and provenance through the digital resource lifecycle consists of the two phases: pre-ingest and long term digital preservation phase (LTDP). The pre-ingest phase comprises the following core set of events, capture, integrate, aggregate, delete, migrate, transfer and submit. The LTDP-phase phase consists of the following events: ingest, aggregate, extract, migrate, delete and transfer. The presentation will elaborate on the model concentrating on its relevance for the digital humanities community.

5. Questions and feedback (30 minutes)

The ideas and requirements concerning digital preservation within the digital humanities are of great value to the APARSEN project, as they will guide evaluation of results and guide the next steps in the creation of the APARSEN project. The question and feedback session will facilitate the exchange of ideas and questions concerning the role of digital preservation in digital and will hopefully be the first step in wider engagement between Digital Humanities practitioners and the future Virtual Centre of Excellence.

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