by Dieter Van Uytvanck

An ice cold morning, somewhere at the begin of January 2013. Sea gulls are circling around the IJ lake in Amsterdam. Meanwhile, in one of the snow-covered tall buildings nearby, people have gathered to discuss issues in data preservation and curation.

A look on the IJ from the conference location

A look on the IJ from the conference location

During the first morning session a wide variety of plenary presentations are given, on subjects ranging from bio-informatics (ELIXIR) over marine sciences to the British Library.

After lunch, the air started being filled with static electricity. Not due to the dry air, but rather because of the poster minute madness: each of the about 40 poster contributor gets a slot of 1 minute to inform the audience. Some well-known names pass by: Radieschen (presenting some preliminary results of interviews with data-intensive science projects), The Language Archive (on curation of DOBES
annotations), EUDAT (European data infrastructure) and CLARIN-NL (with its data curation projects).

Henk van den Heuvel at the minute madness

Henk van den Heuvel at the minute madness

After a lively poster session the discussion turns more towards the semantic side: can one talk about a Data Scientist? And if so, what exactly does it mean? Are terms like data concierge, data librarian, data steward better suited? This debate ends rather inconclusive.

The second conference day starts promising with an enthusiastic keynote from OAI-PMH’s spiritual father Herbert Van de Sompel. He presented Memento: an HTTP-extension that makes it possible to refer versioned web-accessible resource by timestamps. Especially in combination with a module that archives web pages on-the-fly when they are accessed, called SiteStory, this seems to be an interesting solution for otherwise volatile but important information.

When the subsequent parallel sessions start, I end up at the Repositories and Data Archives room. That turns out to be a good choice. First some exploratory work on new impact metrics is brought forward, then the
outcomes of an interview-based study on Trust in digital Repositories (that later on will win the best paper prize) is presented. The outcomes are not shocking, but it is always good to see quantitative support for intuitions: most important factors in repository trust are transparency (15%), preservation guarantees (15%) and reputation (41%).

Another hot issue track follows – combing open access with participant confidentiality. It’s soon clear to all participants that there is no golden bullet solution, but exchanging information and experiences is exactly what makes a conference like this worthwhile.

In the afternoon, the winner of the best poster competition is revealed. Remarkable fact: 2 of the top 3 posters are about archiving spreadsheet-alike data structures. Clearly something that deserves attention.

At then end of the day most of the participants fly back to their safe home repositories, taking with them some fresh food for thought on digital preservation. It’s been a rewarding voyage.

All the presentations are available for download at the IDCC website, including a twitter archive, a photo gallery and a storified view on the first day.