Karen Hanson

Karen Hanson

Last updated on 3 November 2021

Karen Hanson is Senior Research Developer at Portico.

The scholarly community continues to experiment with new ways to present research. Today’s publications may include features such as interactive visualizations, data-driven experiences, extensive multimedia integrations (often with media hosted on third party platforms), user annotations or comments, non-linear navigation, and more. Meanwhile, keeping pace with preserving this increasingly complex network of born-digital materials is ever more challenging. To preserve these forms of scholarship effectively and at scale, one path forward is for preservation experts, platform developers, and publishers to work together to break down technical barriers for preservation.

To study this challenge, NYU Libraries initiated a project, in partnership with Portico, CLOCKSS, and five university presses that aimed to better understand the limits of current preservation approaches when applied to new forms of scholarly publication. The project, which I described in a previous blog post, focused on a diverse selection of open access monograph-like publications with features that made them more complex to preserve than traditional text-and-image publications. The team evaluated what aspects of the publications could be preserved using current methods (export and migration, website harvesting, and emulation) and to what degree these approaches might be applied at scale. The findings of this analysis have already begun to inform the Portico roadmap and will continue to do so in the years to come as we strive to offer better support for more complex publications. Some aspects of these works presented preservation challenges that could result in loss of content. Where these challenges were found they were documented and became the basis of a list of preservation guidelines for publishers to aid them during the creation process and help them to avoid loss of content in the long term.

The guidelines that were formed from this project have now been shared as a dynamic website that will evolve to reflect any new findings, and also as a static guidelines document. A report that describes the features of the publications and the preservation approaches tested will follow shortly. These guidelines are still a work in progress, and as we iterate on them, we would love to hear feedback from the larger preservation community - what did we miss? Are there new technologies or laws that make any of the guidelines unnecessary? Is there a way to present these that would make them more useful? We are also happy to engage with others doing similar work.

Incorporating your feedback is one way we aim to iterate on this work. At the same time we will continue to partner with publishers to put these guidelines into practice while simultaneously implementing changes to preservation workflows to improve support for these works. In a new project, called Embedding Preservability - also led by NYU Libraries and funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation - preservation experts will embed in the workflow of a broader selection of open access publishers that are creating enhanced and innovative forms of scholarship. The team will work closely with publishers and their platform developers to identify opportunities for implementing changes that favor preservation during the creation process. Through this work we aim to measure how effective the guidelines are for improving preservability, how much effort is involved to implement them, and whether new or modified guidelines are required. Our ultimate goal is to encourage those involved in the creation of scholarly publications to participate in preservation and work with preservation services during the creation process so that future scholars will continue to have access to the most innovative publications produced today.

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