Digital Curation Centre evaluation focus group refelctions
Posted by gazjjohnson on 2 March, 2009
On Friday I travelled down to London to take part in the DCC (Digital Curation Centre) Phase 2 Evaluation Focus Group. Digital curation and preservation is a topic that scares me when I try to address how it will work with the systems I work with, so I was very interested to see what I would learn from the day. That said in essence the day was perhaps more about what the DCC would learn from us about its future direction. I was rather delighted to discover that also in attendance were a few old friends and colleagues including William Kilbride (Digital Preservation Coalition Executive Director), Paul Ayris (Director UCL Libraries) and Neil Jacobs (JISC). Kevin Ashley, Terry Morrow & Julia Chruszcz introduced the day which was about looking forward to the remaining year of DCC Phase 2 (to Feb 2010), and potentially beyond. They noted that while the DCC has spent some time previously talking to DCC members, today was about talking to people outside of the service whom might have some insight to bring.
Following brief introductions from those present Neil Grindley (JISC Programme Manager) talked about the JISC’s objectives to evaluate the effectiveness, outputs, tools and value for money of the DCC’s activities throughout Phase 2, and potential for evolving into a Phase 3. He noted that from today JISC wanted the delegates to take part in the evaluation, and a longer look at what the community and stakeholders want from the DCC in the longer term future. He pointed out that the JISC had earmarked effectively £600-800k for the proposed work of the DCC in a Phase 3, but that nothing was certain. He added that the final Phase 2 report was expected by the end of April 09.
Next Terry gave an overview of the DCC. It was established in 2004 with three years of initial funding with a role to actively offer advice and expertise in digital archiving, preservation and curation research. Four partners were the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow (HATII) and Bath (UKOLN); along with and STFC (Science and Technology Facilities Council) at Rutherford Appleton Laboratories. The DCC had effectivly13.5 FTE staff for the Phase 1 period (many of whom are part time, so the warm body count was actually much higher – close to 22 actual people). In 2006 it performed an externally moderated, reflective self-evaluation and was funded for 3 more years as a Phase 2; with an increased focus on scientific and other forms of data. This phase effectively reduced the number of FTEs the DCC had available. Terry outlined the DCC’s vision of what their service offered; in essence the UK centre of excellence for all matters of digital curation and preservation; the minutiae of what they do was highlighted in a brochure that they made available to all delegates. He finished with outlining the major achievements of the DCC including their journal, conference and workshops.
He continued repeating that today’s focus groups were looking to review the purpose and role of the DCC, hopefully provide guidance for the next 12 months and establish priorities within the wider informational landscape. The assumption was that funding would continue beyond Feb 2010 and that the work of the DCC would continue in some form.
The session then broke into two groups to focus on the broader issues of how, why and where the DCC fit into the current informational landscape. In these the issues relating to data curation from the various delegate standpoints were discussed. I was concerned this might be at a high level, but actually we were discussing it at every level (with repositories and library view points coming from me in our group). It was a very interesting and illuminating discussion. The groups reported back, and it was notable that the other group focussed more closely on the questions of how and what the DCC should do; where as our group had focussed very much on the complexities and drivers stemming from the landscape within which the DCC provides support and advice. The general feeling is that the DCC was valued by a broad audience, though potentially too large an audience for them to directly interact with. One very interesting point was that the OA community has a lot of experience with outreach and interaction with a broad range of stakeholders that the DCC should be able to pull on. Or at least examine the models and experiences that exist in this community that could be usefully applied.
After lunch we went back to our focus groups this time to discuss the priorities for the last year of Phase 2 (my group) and 2010 onwards agenda. For the long term future the other group noticed that there was a mismatch between the various proposed Phase 3 activities, and the resources available to the DCC. To this end one of the first suggestions was that the DCC could potentially reduce their core staff and enable more activities to be supported and developed within the community itself. The group then outlined how they had divided the suggested activities into priorities and non-priorities.
The day ended with participants feeding back on what they had learned. For me it a much broader appreciation for the work of the DCC, the services they and advice they provide along with a desire to really feed this into my own networks and to advocate the use of the DCC more. I’ll certainly be reading through some of their briefing papers in the next few days when I get the chance. Data curation is a real challenging role for libraries and repositories, and I believe it is one that we’re not engaging with on a practical level to the extent that we should on a day to day basis. If that’s the one lesson I take away today, then it was a day well spent.