Literature on Digital Repository Policy Development

This week, I have been looking into the collections policies and other policy documents of digital repositories, specifically data repositories. The other day, I came across this First Monday (open access!) article, “A balancing act: The ideal and the realistic in developing Dryad’s preservation policy” which I thought was worth summarizing here.

The authors report on their process for developing the preservation policy for Dryad, a general purpose scientific data repository. A Preservation Working Group consulted peer repositories and selected four which directly informed their process. The working group identified work already taking place and considered what a Preservation Policy should contain in developing their final document. In the article, the authors highlight important lessons learned such as the need to maintain realistic expectations and consider the constraints of the technology currently in place at the repository.

I have found few articles reporting on policy development in this way and thought this was a good example to share. Often in digital curation contexts, policy development is an afterthought or individual process, rather than a collaborative effort with diverse inputs. While it can seem trite to go through the process of creating policy rather than “doing the work,” it is vitally important for the vitality of organizations to have meaningful and well-thought-out policies which can inform future practice and help introduce new members into ongoing work. Here’s to publishing articles like this in the future!


In which something I co-authored appears on the internet

Last week, an article I co-authored with Ixchel Faniel and my dissertation advisor Beth Yakel was finally published in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST).  The article reports on the results of a survey we conducted of 1,480 academic authors who cited ICPSR data in peer-reviewed publications, and is part of the larger DIPIR project which I was a part of for more than two years as a research assistant while in graduate school.

In the paper, we present a literature-based model to represent the relationship between data quality and user satisfaction with data in a reuse context. We tested this model with our survey data, using multiple regression analysis. The results of our survey indicate that data completeness, data accessibility, data ease of operation, data credibility, and documentation quality all correspond significantly with data reuser satisfaction. These findings suggest that repository managers should look to these areas when creating or updating guidelines or policies for data deposit and evaluation.

The paper is live on the JASIST website here. It’s not open access 🙁 but I’m really proud of this work! Email me if you want to talk about it or any of my other work.


Excellent Coverage on Wikipedia and Cultural Institutions

Let me start by saying that I love Wikipedia. I’m not just a consumer of information from the online encyclopedia but also an editor, having made my first contribution back in 2006. While I have not been a consistent Wikipedian throughout the years, I make an effort to edit regularly these days and maintain a deep belief in the importance of this website on today’s internet. In a world of corporate web systems and services, Wikipedia is a refreshing organization in which people come together in the service of creating new knowledge and increasing human understanding of complex topics. For me, it represents a possibly-naive ideal that if everyone works together on this project, in the end knowledge will meaningfully increase and contributors will learn something about each other and the process of creating a global resource for learning and enjoyment.

All of this is not to say that Wikipedia is without flaws. Perhaps chief among these is a deep gender bias and an under-representation of female editors as well as topics on prominent women across the encyclopedia. A brief and admittedly superficial comparison of the article length of Halo: First Strike, a novel based on the popular video game series, and Flight Behavior, a novel by Pulizter-nominated  author Barbara Kingsolver demonstrates the results of the gender gap articulated in recent coverage of Wikipedia editors (e.g. this NYTimes article). The large number of male editors of Wikipedia articles has resulted in increased attention to male-centered topics such as video games. This leaves articles on novels by famous female novelists to languish as stubs, wiki-speak for articles which are too short to be of much value on the encyclopedia even though they cover notable or important topics (for more on stubs, see here). This is a disappointing trend as I would like to see more equal coverage of women in Wikipedia articles and would encourage more women to edit the encyclopedia and have a hand in its direction.

Which brings me to an article in today’s New York Times that I found refreshing. Noam Cohen gives a great description of what a Wikipedian-in-residence does, and highlights how edit-a-thons focused on women scientists, authors, and academics are attempting to address the gender gap issue through engagement with existing library, archival, and museum resources. It is always good to see coverage of Wikipedia in the national media that moves beyond the “can we trust Wikipedia??” baseline. The activities described in the article are positive developments as I see things and can only help improve the overall quality and usefulness of the encyclopedia over time. I’m all for long, detailed articles about Halo novels, but also think that Wikipedia should be a place where often overlooked but demonstrably important people can be included. All while adhering to proper Wikipedia formatting, citation guidelines, and style of course…


A First in the Library

This week I encountered what I suppose could be considered a graduate school and library milestone. A book that I had checked out, The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups (WorldCat), had been renewed too many times and was being recalled despite the fact that no one else at the University of Michigan seems to want it.  It was a good book that laid the foundation for much of the subsequent work on public goods and helped me explore a new area of literature for my dissertation proposal. One of Olson’s main lessons in the book was that as groups increase in size, their ability to act collectively act in the service of common goals decreases because the logistics of organizing become increasingly difficult. It also becomes easier for people to become “free riders” and benefit from collective action without contributing to its acquisition.

In any case, the main point of this post is that I’ve never had a book recalled because I renewed it too many times. When I return to writing my literature review for my dissertation I’ll be back in library to get it once again.