Re-purposing Archival Theory in the Practice of Data Curation
Parham, Susan Wells
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The research data sharing imperative has produced an explosion of interest around institutional research data curation and archiving. For institutions seeking to capture their intellectual output and ensure compliance with funding agency requirements, data archiving and data curation are increasingly necessary. With some notable exceptions, data curation in academic institutions is still a fairly nascent field, lacking the theoretical underpinnings of disciplines like archival science. As has been previously noted elsewhere, the intersection between data curation and archival theory provides data curators and digital archivists alike with important theoretical and practical contributions that can challenge, contextualize, or reinforce past, present, and future theory. Archival theory has critical implications for defining the workflows that should be established for an institutional data curation program. The Georgia Institute of Technology Library and Archives has been developing the services and infrastructure to support trustworthy data curation and born-digital archives. As the need for archiving research data has increased, the intersection between data curation and digital archives has become progressively apparent; therefore, we sought to bring archival theory to bear on our data curation workflows, and to root the actions taken against research data collections in long-standing archival theory. By examining two different cases of digital archiving and by mapping core archival concepts to elements of data curation, we explored the junction of data curation and archival theory and are applying the resulting theoretical framework in our practice. In turn, this work also leads us to question long held archival assumptions and improve workflows for born-digital archival collections.