Data Curation from Down Under: the 14th International Digital Curation Conference

img_5196.jpgIt was a long journey from Chapel Hill, NC to Melbourne, Australia, but it was definitely worth it to attend the 14th International Digital Curation Conference (IDCC). The IDCC is always a great event for people involved in digital curation and preservation, especially when it is in a beautiful city like Melbourne. I was excited to attend this year and to take part in a 10-minute lightning talk on the Data Curation Network (DCN) entitled “The Data Curation Network: A Curator Perspective”. (More on this later in this post.) I’d like to take this opportunity to share some highlights from the conference.

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This theme of this year’s IDCC, “Collaborations and Partnerships: addressing the big digital challenges together”, fits perfectly with what the Data Curation Network is all about. The Data Curation Network puts into place a cross-institutional staffing model connecting a network of expert data curators to increase local curation capacity, strengthen collaboration and support the sharing of research data. (To read more about the DCN and Dryad’s participation in the network, see Elizabeth Hull’s previous blog post announcing Dryad’s participation in the DCN launch.)

40235616193_c930f23f41_mThe main conference was kicked off with a “Welcome to Country Ceremony” conducted by a Wurundjeri Community Elder, along with a welcome to the University of Melbourne from Gwenda Thomas, Directory Scholarly Services and University Librarian. Kevin Ashley, Director, Digital Curation Centre, also gave a welcome to IDCC19 that included a challenge to conference participants: “listen, talk, interact and be inspired to do something”.

40235541493_9b52a0d5ba_zThe opening keynote, which was presented by independent journalist Christine Kenneally and was entitled “Data, the creation of history and its impact on real lives“, related the compelling story of millions of orphans from around the world (including Australia and the US) searching for information about themselves. The orphans’ story highlighted the importance and direct impact of data on both a societal and an individual level, a theme that would emerge throughout  the conference.

After the keynote, the various presentations in the form of parallel sessions, posters and lightning talks began. Throughout the conference, these presentations were organized into broad topics such as:

  • Grand curation challenges across disciplines
  • Metadata
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  • Data quality
  • Digital humanities
  • Examples and models / Models and tools
  • Research disciplines & data services
  • Research data management / Research data services
  • Digital curation & preservation
  • Building diverse and Inclusive Communities
  • Curating indigenous data
  • Skills

As a representative of the DCN, I took part in a lightning talk session with a presentation put together by Erin Clary (Dryad Senior Curator), Lisa Johnston (Principal Investigator for the DCN and Director of the Data Repository for the University of Minnesota) and myself. The presentation focused on the experiences Erin and I have had so far as curators with the DCN pilot. After Lisa gave a brief overview of the DCN, I described the training and preparation all participating curators undertook and what it was like for Erin and me to actually begin curating DCN submissions.

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John Chodacki (Director, University of California Curation Center) gave a great presentation about the “Community Led Open Data Infrastructure: CDL & Dryad Partnership” in which he shared how and why the partnership came about and what it means going forward. John followed up immediately with another presentation about “The Research Organization Registry“. As an added bonus after the conference, John led the workshop “Accelerating Data Publication: new models for research institutions”. (For a summary of the workshop, see the blog post from the perspective of workshop attendee Dr. Richard Ferrers.)

The thought-provoking final keynote was presented remotely (in light of the recent US Government shutdown) by Dr. Patricia Brennan, Director, US National Library of Medicine. Her presentation, “Jumping into the stream of data curation“, highlighted the enormous amount of data curated each day by the National Library of Medicine. Dr. screen-shot-2019-02-28-at-2.47.44-pm.pngBrennan spoke of an “information tsunami”, the challenges inherent in curating all that data and what those challenges may mean for the future of data curation. Her presentation highlighted the shift in focus by data curation professionals over the years from pushing efforts to encourage data curation to figuring out how we move forward now that those efforts are paying off with a torrent of data given the limited resources available.

The conference came to an end all too soon with closing remarks by Kevin Ashley and Donna McRostie and an IDCC 2019 theme song that put a smile on everyone’s face. Next year, curators will do it all again at the 15th International Digital Curation Conference in (drum roll, please) … Dublin, Ireland!

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