Attending the International Digital Curation Conference (IDCC10)

Saturday 4th December – After a couple of movies, lunch and 40 winks, I touched down safely in Chicago. They call it the windy city, but as I exited the ‘L’ (Chicago’s equivalent to the tube) downtown, I was hit by minus degree temperatures and the realisation that my M&S gloves were not going to cut it…

This was my first  time to the International Digital Curation Conference (IDCC). The theme this year was ‘growing the curation community’, a theme very relevant to the aims of Incremental and I was keen to use this opportunity to, not only tell everyone about Incremental (my first victim had been the lady at immigration, when she asked why I was in the US…), but to hear what others are doing in the field both in the UK and US.

The programme promised some interesting speakers, and it didn’t disappoint. The two highlights for me were Chris Lintott, Astronomer and PI of Galaxy Zoo and MacKenzie Smith, Associate Director for Technology at MIT Libraries, who presented two different perspectives on digital curation.

Chris Lintott gave a fascinating talk describing a number of projects which use crowd sourcing,  such as Galaxy Zoo which gets the public to classify galaxies imaged as part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and Old Weather which uses the public to digitise weather observations recorded in ship’s logbooks.

MacKenzie Smith talked about how digital curation tends to be viewed through a technology lense but an alternative view is seeing curation from an organisational perspective. She described the various layers of digital curation such as storage, management, linking, discovery, delivery and management of data, and that rather than just one institution or group, it is a combination of research groups: professional societies, data centres, libraries and archives, businesses, universities and funding agencies all interoperating in digital curation. The question is how and what role they, should they play in digital curation?

Presentations given by other JISC funded research data management or training projects such as James Wilson of Oxford, Robin Rice from Edinburgh and Wendy White of Southampton, were also of great interest.

On the Wednesday afternoon, we got to present our paper ‘Making sense: talking data management with researchers’. We were given a slot in the ‘Digital Curation Education’ parallel session and were able to describe our approach and plans for support and training researchers in data management.

It was interesting to hear the other presentations in this session, particularly as these served to highlight the different approaches that the UK and the US are taking in digital curation education.   Whilst the UK is focusing on researchers’ data management practice, the US are focusing very much on educating the library community in digital curation. One issue, two different approaches.

I think hearing both data creators and data managers talk about the challenges of data curation, the clear message that I took away from the conference, was that researchers clearly have the expertise in creating and using their data, but that they do not need to manage their data alone. Data curation is clearly a collaborative effort and other services such as IT, Libraries can play a key role too, by support ing researchers to make informed decisions.

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