World Digital Preservation Day 2019 / / by Jaana Pinnick

Jaana Pinnick is the research data and digital preservation manager at the British Geological Survey and the National Geoscience Data Centre. She is also a member of the Digital Preservation Coalition Workforce Planning Subcommittee. Jaana has organised the annual World Digital Preservation Day event at BGS since 2017.

BGS took part in the World Digital Preservation Day on 7 November 2019 to celebrate the efforts of people across the globe to preserve our digital assets and heritage for future generations. There was something on offer for everyone: digital preservation board games and a quiz about the many aspects of preserving materials. There were also posters from near and far, including a BGS example on the reuse of BGS legacy data from the UK Continental Shelf, and another on a joint Digital Preservation Coalition, and a UNESCO funded project to engage with decision-makers about the importance of digital preservation, which I contributed to on behalf of BGS. There were even vintage PC cupcakes and Finnish gingerbread floppy discs!

Staff playing one of the digital preservation board games

World Digital Preservation Day was organised to raise awareness of the role we all play in keeping our digital data alive and accessible in the long term, with a focus on BGS's geoscientific data. Based on the conversations which took place on the day, the plan seems to have worked. The topics covered anything from applying best practice in research data management, to clearing and archiving your data when you retire, and the time and effort it takes to manage your data properly. We also discussed open and FAIR data (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) and what benefits having an ORCID - a digital identifier for researchers - may have for your professional career.

We all agreed that if you set out your data management strategies early at the start of your research project and follow a plan, it is much easier than trying to sort your data out at the end, when you are busy getting started with your next project and really haven’t got the time to tidy your data up. The National Geosicence Data Centre (NGDC) is looking at streamlining its processes and automating as much as it can to make archiving data as easy as possible. Remember: handing a copy of your data over to the NGDC ensures it is made available to others and enables the NGDC to take care of the digital bits (1s and 0s), while also giving you a security copy in case anything happens to your original files.

Staff take part in the data preservation quiz

Digital preservation is not just a technological or technical issue but as much a matter about us, the people, having the right skills to handle our data files correctly to ensure their long-term continuity and reusability. What we do at data creation and capture has a real impact to users in the future, be it in five, ten, fifty or even a hundred years. We may be able to read books and reports which are decades old but we are still learning about how to maintain digital assets for more than ten years.

Everyone loved the data preservation board games!

The work on the BGS digital preservation strategy will continue with an analysis of the recent internal digital research data survey and implementation of some of its findings in our data management workflows. We will share the findings with BGS staff in the new year and will continue to have data discussions with both those staff who participated in the survey and others who have an interest in good quality research data and data sharing.

If you have any thoughts or concerns about the longevity of your research data, about sharing and archiving your digital assets, or any questions about best practice in naming your files or selecting the best formats for long-term access, please contact me.

World Digital Preservation Day website.