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Seminar of Digital Preservation, Summary

Dear All,

Attached please find a summary of the above.

As stated in the first paragraph of the document, those who were present
and others who feel they have additional information are asked to
communicate with me at icsti@icsti.org

Barry Mahon

Summary Report of the ICSTI/CODATA/ICSU Seminar on Preserving the Record
of Science, UNESCO, Paris, Feb 14/15 2002

Barry Mahon, Executive Director, ICSTI


I was asked to prepare as quickly as possible a short summary of the
discussions and outcomes of the above. This is the result. I would ask
anybody who feels they can contribute additional information to do so by
mailing icsti@icsti.org and I will forward it to the participants. 


In January 2000 ICSTI held a seminar on the subject of digital
preservation, prompted by the opinion of some Members that,  with the
move to electronic production of more and more of the publications of
science,  there was a risk that the material would not be archived. The
seminar was attended by a wide ranging group of interested parties and
they discussed a broad range of subjects surrounding the issue. 

In 2001 ICSTI reviewed the progress since the 2000 Seminar and felt
there was need of a further discussion on the topic. Hence, UNESCO was
asked to provide the facilities for  a meeting which they kindly did and
ICSTI undertook the arrangements in collaboration with CODATA and ICSU,
bodies who had expressed an interest in being associated with the work. 

The Seminar took place in the UNESCO building in Paris on February 14
and 15 2002 and was attended by over 80 individuals from a wide range of
organisations, representing many interests in the field of Science. 

The programme of the meeting is annexed to this document.

In the interests of speeding the process of dissemination and in view of
the fact that IOS Press will publish proceedings, it is not intended to
report here on the actual presentations and discussion but to
concentrate on the outcomes as discussed and agreed. 

The Outcomes

1.	Advocacy

A recurring theme in the meeting was the need to encourage scientists to
be conscious of the need to record their work and to realise the value
of the archive thus created. It was pointed out, for example, that the
archive of data from the Hubble telescope was more used than the
database of current results. Whilst this phenomenon may be specific to
astronomy it was nonetheless felt that some scientists were unwilling to
take archiving seriously, and even unaware of archives as a valuable

There were also a number of discussions on the different roles in
preservation, and what types of persons and bodies should take
responsibility. There were differing opinions on the selection of data
for preservation. The distinction between retention and preservation, as
applied to output of scientific activities, was blurred and needed

In addition there was evidence that digital archiving was an expensive
activity and funding bodies might well ask for justification of the
The EU will launch a significant programme of work on digital
preservation in their next Framework Programme of research. Their
representative at the Seminar raised many questions concerning the
justification of archiving which were likely to be raised at the policy
level by EU Member States before agreeing to provide funding. Creating
justification would become a much more significant activity in the

Consequently it was agreed that efforts should be started to create
material which could be used by scientists and scientific bodies to
argue the case for archiving, particularly digital archiving. ICSTI
undertook to take the lead in this area.

2.	Metadata

In the Seminar the subject of metadata, the data extracted from
"documents" to aid their identification and subsequent access, came up
in a number of areas. In many of the projects underway in digital
archiving the Dublin Core - a metadata set agreed by, broadly speaking,
the text library community, was being used as an ad-hoc standard. Whilst
many organisations could and did accept Dublin Core as a valid base
there were other considerations and possible schemas. In addition there
was a working group on preservation metadata consisting mostly of
representatives of organisations with responsibility  for archiving  who
have been discussing the issues in using metadata for their needs. 

In particular, the data community, represented by CODATA, felt that many
metadata initiatives were oriented to text and not data, as understood
in their community.  

Consequently, it was agreed that a joint group of ICSTI and CODATA
representatives, with support from the proposed CODATA Task Group on
preservation and archiving of Scientific and Technical data in
developing countries, would look at the activities of the Working Group
on preservation metadata (representatives of which were present at the
Seminar), with a view to identifying common issues and in particular
additional matters which might be discussed in the Working Group or, if
thought necessary, might be the subject of new discussions. 

It was pointed out that the forthcoming  CODATA conference in Montreal
would have a track on the subject of digital preservation and that this
would present a further opportunity to raise any concerns about this

In the course of the Seminar it was pointed out that, since the
wholesale changeover to digital origination and  dissemination of the
output of scientific activity, the historical distinction between text
and data was disappearing. "Born digital" material was bits and bytes
and could be treated in exactly the same way regardless of the
underlying meaning. 

It was agreed that the discussion on metadata in general should be
broadened to take account of archiving needs. This might apply
particularly to discussions on the context of the Open Archive
Initiative, which, although it contained the work archive was not
directly concerned with archiving but was involved in detailed
discussions on metadata. 

In this context the question of how to deal with the creation and
maintenance of permanent interoperable identifiers and their
relationship with access to archives is an important topic. The work of
the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) group was critical and needed to be
considered in any future policies and plans.  

3.	Economic Models

Throughout the discussions there were a number of matters raised
concerning the economic structure of digital preservation activities. It
was felt by some that many of the actions under way did not have a valid
economic model or business model and if that was the case then they
might fail, with consequences for the continuity of the archive. 

There was the view that the projects underway would provide answers to
some questions about the economics but it was equally felt that
projects, especially those that would create significant archives of the
output current work, should not be commenced without a rigorous economic
justification of their value, to ensure their continuity. 

In the course of the Seminar there was input from a newly started EU
sponsored project on digital preservation - ERPANET - European
Consortium for Digital Preservation. The project intended to undertake
case studies of preservation actions with a view to extracting knowledge
of value to other projects. It was felt this activity could provide
valuable insights in the area of economics. In the wider context it was
felt that experience in the development of new digital based actions
such as the development of PubliMed would also provide pointers and
would bring together the views of the scientists, publishers and
libraries, all of who had interest in the economics of the action as
well as the general value and the archiving needs. 

STM, the association representing Scientific, Technical and Medical
publishers and ALPSP the Association of Learned & Professional Society
Publishers undertook to examine in detail the economics of digital
preservation. This would start with an attempt to collect data from
amongst their members on ongoing actions as well as views on the
elements needed to develop valid business models and the results of
actions already undertaken. The ERPANET project undertook to bear in
mind economic issues in selecting their case studies and would welcome
input and suggestions in this regard.

It was also felt that the outcome of actions in this area could provide
material for the advocacy actions mentioned earlier. 

4.	Technology migration

Digital archivists will be faced with the need to ensure future access
to the archive regardless of the intervening changes in technology.
There are apocryphal accounts of material  having already been
effectively lost because the devices to read it are no longer available.
This is probably already true and likely to accelerate as technology
changes proliferate. There are a number of actions underway to deal with
the effects and allow for technology migration but there are questions
on the validity of such actions and the range of options being

There was a general feeling that the organisations with interests in the
wider fields of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) needed
to be approached regarding this matter, in order to identify common
themes. In particular it was mentioned that under new laws manufacturers
of ICT equipment were required to keep track of its whereabouts for
recycling purposes, digital asset management was a developing activity,
storage technologies for digital objects was a rapidly expanding field. 

Although no specific action was agreed it was felt that organisations
with specific functions in archiving, such as national libraries and
scientific data centres would be concerned to keep a watching brief in
this area, since they were directly affected. The possibility of
developing test beds for undertaking evaluations was considered an
important priority. 

5.	Relations with the archivist community

Throughout the proceedings it was recognised that the professional
archivists had already faced and dealt with many of the issues of
concern to those involved in digital preservation. In particular actions
surrounding selection and appraisal of materials for archiving, matters
of privacy and confidentiality, of particular  importance in the social
sciences, and technology migration, were well know to archivists. 
Representatives of the archivist community present at the meeting
undertook to pass on to ICSTI, for further circulation as appropriate,
the outcomes of various discussions, lists, working groups, of relevance
to scientific digital preservation interests. It was pointed out that
the ICA the International Council of Archivists already had working
groups and other bodies concerned with the preservation of the records
of science and technology  and they worked closely with the community of
the historians of science. 

Overall, a move closer to the community of professional archivists  was
considered as important and relevant. Individual scientific bodies were
encouraged to identify representatives of that community dealing with
their particular field and to set up collaboration. 

6.	Standards

Standards was a subject which arose repeatedly. Formal actions such as
voting at ISO on the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) Reference
Model was likely to be underway shortly as well as much activity in the
OAI community concerning metadata harvesting. There was, as discussed
above, much activity surrounding ad-hoc standards and agreements to
follow particular schemas. Although it was clear that different
communities were working on their own particular problems concerning
standards it was considered unlikely and even unhelpful to try to force
co-ordination and wholesale adherence to a common set of norms. However,
information flows on the activities of various  working groups and other
bodies dealing with standards or standards-like activities were
important and efforts should be undertaken to improve the circulation of
information. It was felt that information exchange between the different
historical interests in scientific data, archivists and the text
community should be encouraged. 

Participants were encouraged to ensure their particular community was
aware of the discussions that had taken place at the meeting, as a
starting point, in some cases, for the improvement of information
flows.  There were already significant actions which were disseminating
knowledge, such as the UK JISC supported Digital Preservation Coalition,
and a valuable EU supporting action in the area, but these needed to be
supplemented in other communities and regions.  

7.	Developing Countries

The problems of dealing with digital preservation are not confined to
the developed nations. Developing countries, particularly in South and
South East Asia and in Latin America were significant producers of
scientific information. Their needs to preserve digitally produced
material were the same as those of the developed nations. 

The CODATA Task Group referred to above intends to hold a workshop in
South Africa in May 2002 at which the countries of the Southern African
Development Council would be present. The CODATA Group intended to
repeat the workshop in other developing regions. UNESCO at the meeting
of the Governing Body in November 2001 added an action to its programme
to include digital preservation in its existing actions on the
preservation of cultural heritage. 

Anna Maria Cetto the representative of Latindex, an action amongst
scientific publishers and libraries in Latin America, present at the
seminar, undertook to identify organisations and individuals, in
developing nations and regions, with an interest in digital preservation
and acquaint them with the outcomes of the Seminar and encourage them to
participate in actions relevant to their needs. 

8.	Training

Training on specific aspects of the procedures for digital preservation
as well as education on the value of creating archives arose as a topic
in the meeting. The advocacy action was considered as a valuable input
here as was the experience of the archivist community. A specific action
was included in the UNESCO programmes for developing nations and regions
on training. It was felt that experience gained in the ongoing actions
by some publishers in digital preservation could be shared with those
who had not yet faced the issues. Again, the case studies of the ERPANET
project should prove valuable here. 

Overall Considerations

The general feeling was that the preservation of born digital scientific
information was recognised as a significant activity. There was,
compared to the situation at the time of the previous ICSTI meeting in
2000, a considerable number of actions and involvement from a large
number of organisations. 

The different branches of science were now using a common medium,
digital content, for the production and dissemination of their outputs,
which meant that the problems facing them in preserving the output were

Therefore there were advantages in pooling experience and developing
common approaches. There was a significant amount of work to be done in
bringing some groups up to date with what was happening and serious
opportunities to learn from those outside the formal area of scientific
and technological research such as the archivists community, the
archaeology and social science communities and ICT companies, on digital

The Seminar provided a good meeting place for the different interests
and an opportunity to create communications and common actions. A number
of other meetings would take place in the coming months which would
enlarge the information flow and ICSTI will continue, with CODATA and
ICSU to monitor developments on behalf of science and scientists.  
Appendix: The Final Programme of the Seminar


Seminar on Digital Preservation of the record of Science- state of the

Room XI, UNESCO, Paris

Feb 14 - 15  2002


Thursday Feb 14 2002

09.00 	Registration

09.30 	Welcome 						ABDUL Waheed Khan; Assistant 
								Director General for Communication & 
								Information, UNESCO

09.45	Introduction 						Kurt Molholm, President ICSTI

10.15	The CODATA interest, CODATA activities and developments
William Anderson, US Representative, CODATA Data Archiving Working Group
10.45	Questions/Clarifications
10.50 	Coffee

11.15	ICSU activities and developments			Sir Roger Elliot, Chairman,
ICSU Press

11.45	Digital Preservation; overview of current developments
Gail Hodge, Information International Associates
12.30	IUPAP Initiatives, report from the Lyon Workshop
Claus Montonen, European Physical Society
13.00	Lunch

14.00	STM Members; viewpoint and developments	Karen Hunter, Elsevier

14.30	Developments in related fields
Metadata and pre-print archives		Leona Carpenter, UKOLN, UK.
Deposit Libraries	Johan Steenbakkers, National Library, The Netherlands
Digital Object Identifiers			Norman Paskin, DOI Foundation.
15.30	Tea
16.00	Specific Examples and Issues

		JSTOR						Bruce Heterick, JSTOR, New York

Preserving our Cultural Heritage	Yola de Lusenet, Royal Netherlands
Academy of Arts and Sciences / Abdelaziz Abid, UNESCO

17.00 Discussion and Close of day 1

Friday Feb 15 2002

10.00	Review of Day 1

10.30	Research Projects underway and planned		Neil Beagrie, UK JISC
								Preservation Focus
11.00 	Coffee

11.30	Next steps - 
Standardisation activities 			Gail Hodge
Metadata and preservation                  	Deborah Woodyard, 
British Library
Liaison between different interest groups 	Sally Morris, APLSP

Guidelines for digital preservation actions;
The requirements for guidelines:	Bernard Smith, Head of Unit, Cultural
Heritage Applications, Information Society DG, European Commission

12.30	Lunch

14.00	Proposed Actions
Establishing Working parties:
	Guidelines development
	Liaison between different interests

16.00	Tea

16.30	Timetable for further actions and wrap-up

17.30	Close
  Executive Director: Barry Mahon; Email: icsti@icsti.org URL:

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