Lets talk about…policy

Last week I was invited to speak at the Digital Preservation Coalition event, ‘Making Progress in Digital Preservation’ on digital preservation policy (follow the Twitter chat).

Not being one to turn down a free trip and a cracking lunch (courtesy of the host, HSBC), I accepted gratefully and then realised I’d better put something together to speak about…

It has long been my opinion that the foundation of a good project is solid governance and stewardship. For a project of this nature a policy and strategy are the key elements – the policy as the statement of intent and the strategy as the explanation of how to achieve that intent. At this point I should put my cards on the table and say that Edinburgh University does not have a digital preservation policy or strategy…yet!!

Since I started in this role it has been my policy (or my statement of intent) to write a policy, and this I have now begun. Last week I presented to an eager audience of ‘preservationists’ on where I am to date on writing our policy and tried not to make it too boring.

Having never written a policy I found myself in unfamiliar territory. There is a bewildering array of information online on the subject, which can become confusing at times, but a lot of useful guidance and analysis to help the budding policy writer. I concentrated on three key resources to guide me: the JISC report written in 2008, Adrian Brown’s wonderful book ‘Practical Digital Preservation‘ and the Library of Congress report written last year. These helped me distil down the  elements that typically appear in digital preservation policies. From that list I was able to identify those of relevance to our institution and why they should be represented.

So with an outline structure in place it needed meat on the bones! For this I’m using the SCAPE project’s Catalogue of Policy Elements. This is a great source of guidance on the importance of each element (such as authenticity, bit preservation, metadata) and the associated risks, the stage of the DCC life-cycle model to which it relates and how to phrase them taking examples from published policies.

As I mentioned in my ‘Writing a Preservation Policy’ presentation to the attendees, I’m hopeful of getting our policy through the necessary approvals and to have it in place in early 2015. I shall be sure, however, to publicise its publication on my blog and help others along the winding road to creating their own digital preservation policy. Watch this space…

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