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Our Digital Future - Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Long Term Data Preservation and Access - Programme

Events_ODF_speakersAs the worldwide volume of digital data undergoes exponential growth, Big Data technology allows unexpected value to be derived from existing and new datasets, and increasingly huge datasets to be recorded across all areas of academic research. As data volumes grow, and electronic storage deteriorates, the recoverability of this data is dependent upon curation of electronic archives and replacement of storage media, along with the ability to discover and access the data stored using technologies that may soon be obsolete. Decisions will need to be made about which data is kept, how it is stored, and how it can be accessed, in order that the scientific and human record from the current digital age is appropriately preserved for the future.

With keynote speakers representing disciplines ranging from high energy physics to digital humanities, from bioinformatics to libraries, this two-day conference addressed perspectives from technology, policy and the social sciences on data as our human record.

A report on the conference may be downloaded here

View a Storify thread of all tweets from the event.



Download the abstracts

View all keynote talks

14 March 2016

Session 1: Digital data as the human record

Chair: Dr Suzanne Paul, Keeper of Manuscripts and University Archives, Cambridge University Library

Speaker Title
Dr Adam Farquhar (British Library)

Diamonds are forever. What about research data?

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Dr William Kilbride (Digital Preservation Coalition)

Past performance is no guide to the future value: remembering and forgetting in the digital age

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Professor Jane Winters (Institute for Historical Research) 

Making sense of the archived web

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Session 2: Systems, devices and infrastructures – storing, sharing and curating

Chair: Professor Richard McMahon, Institute of Astronomy

Speaker Title
Dr Jamie Shiers (CERN)

Data Preservation for Re-Use: from tens of TB to tens of EB

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Dr Niklas Blomberg (European Bioinformatics Institute/ELIXIR Europe) 

ELIXIR: Enabling European-wide sharing of data in the life sciences

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Professor Carole Goble (University of Manchester)

Method Preservation: workflows and models matter

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Dr Rip Sohan (Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge)

Guaranteed Computing

Session 3: Data Preservation Policy 

Chair: Dr Danny Kingsley, Head of Scholarly Communications, University of Cambridge

Speaker Title
Dr Fiona Reddington (Cancer Research UK) 

CRUK and Big Data – past, present and future

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Dr David Giaretta (Giaretta Associates) 

Data preservation Policies: from creation to exploitation 

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Victoria Tsoukala, PhD (National Documentation Centre/National Hellenic Research Foundation)

Policy Responses to Research Data Preservation Challenges 

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Tim Gollins - National Records Scotland

The parsimonious anthropologist OR How string figures and a friar from the 14th Century might inform the preservation of digital research data

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Public Panel Discussion

Our digital future: which data should we keep and how will we access it? - part of the Cambridge Science Festival


15 March 2016 Parallel sessions

What should we keep? Lessons from history for the shift to digital

Current and Future perspectives on technology for data preservation and sharing

In these sessions, researchers will discuss the key challenges and approaches to the issues of long term data preservation and access. During registration, participants are invited to select the workshop they wish to attend. The day will conclude with a plenary session where all conference participants will be invited to discuss the outcomes of the two day meeting and prospects for future research.


Workshop 1: What should we keep? Lessons from history for the shift to digital

Organiser Dr Anne Alexander, Cambridge Digital Humanities Network

Guest Speaker: Dr. Anthea Seles, Digital Transfer and Records Manager, The National Archives

Session 1: Finding, Using and Accessing

Speaker Title
Dr Anthea Seles, Digital Transfer and Records Manager, the National Archives Understanding our digital realities to plan for our digital future
Dr David Willcox and Lucie Jordan, The National Archives New challenges in finding and transferring digital government records for public access: Appraisal, selection and sensitivity review
Rachel MacGregor, Lancaster University

Blurring the Lines

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Session 2: Perspectives of other disciplines and considering the future

Speaker Title
Jenny Bunn, University College London

Preserving collections and samples in the era of Big Data

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Dr David Erdos, University of Cambridge

The Challenges for Long-Term Data Preservation and Use under the General Data Protection Regulation

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Workshop 1 Summary: What are the implications for human culture, science and memory of a generalised shift from paper to digital versions of record? Which lessons from the past should future archivists, historians, data managers and digital infrastructure engineers consider in order to build institutions and record-keeping systems fit for purpose in the digital age? How are the constraints imposed by different funding regimes, institutional policies and legal frameworks shaping the emergence of practices aimed at the long-term preservation of digital data? Are the challenges of preservation and access fundamentally different for digital media, or are the continuities with the challenges faced by previous generations of archivists and librarians more significant?

 The following presenters were unable to attend

Tim Evans, Department of Archaeology, University of York Twenty years of digital curation at the Archaeology Data Service: challenges for archive and access
A.R.E Taylor, Division of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge  Bunkering Data: Sowing the Seeds of the Digital Future?

Workshop 2: Current and Future perspectives on technology for data preservation and sharing

Organiser Professor Val Gibson, Cavendish Laboratory

Session 1: Disciplinary Perspectives

Speaker Title
Ana Trisovic, University of Cambridge

Data Preservation at CERN

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Marc O'Brien, Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute

We will keep it forever (from a tin perspective)

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Dr Tariq Masood, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge

Future-proofing [Big] Data – Infrastructure Assets Perspective

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Professor Richard McMahon, Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge

Data preservation issues in astronomy 

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Session 2: Tools, techniques and platforms

Speaker Title
Dr Ripduman Sohan, Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge OPUS - Keeping Track of Your Research Data
Dr Simon Waddington, King's College London

PERICLES - Management of Change to Enable Long Term Use

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Sven Schlarb, Austrian Institute of Technology

The Use of Big Data Techniques for Digital Archiving

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Professor Frank Krauss, University of Durham

HEPData - Long Term Data Preservation in High Energy Physics

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Workshop 2 Summary: From high-energy physics and astronomy to the social and biomedical sciences, storage and recoverability of digital data over long time periods presents many challenges, which are amplified as data volumes grow. Data preservation and access includes many levels of infrastructure, from the challenges of storing data and ensuring it is readable decades later, to allowing remote access to these very large datasets. The problem also extends into preservation of the software needed to read the data and the machines it runs on.

In parallel with the increasing volume data is the growing movement within research towards open publication of research data, and the recognition that datasets have a value which is not diminished (and often increases) over time. Ensuring that the data are stored, discoverable, retrievable and useable requires among other factors, sufficient metadata, stable storage media, as well as data collection and storage policies that properly address issues of future consent when the data subject can no longer be reached.

This workshop will discuss challenges, case studies and current solutions for long term data preservation and access, including technical infrastructures and standards. We aim to identify priorities for future research and sharing best practices and resources for data storage, sharing and curation.