What is the Bit List

The Global Bit List of Endangered Digital Species (Bit List) is first and foremost an advocacy tool.

The Bit List describes a range of digital materials in varied organizational settings which, in the experience of the global digital preservation community, face distinct and imminent challenges. These challenges may be as much to do with accountability, policy or business process as technological obsolescence or media decay.

By identifying these challenges and by providing elementary recommendations about how the risks can be tackled, the DPC seeks to provide impartial evidence and international support to specific preservation actions and policies in any context.

How are the entries contributed and verified?

Entries to the Bit List are nominated by the community, who are at the forefront of digital preservation efforts, and reviewed by international organizations which represent global expertise in the preservation of the listed digital species.

Although all digital materials can fall within the scope of the list, the published editions of the Bit List are not a complete account of all digital materials at risk— only those items which members of the community recognize as being at risk are included.

Consequently, the absence of a digital material on the list should not be taken as evidence that it is not at risk, but instead simply that the community which has compiled the list has not encountered any explicit risks or has no experience with these materials.

Once nominations have been collected and collated, the Bit List Council—comprising experts which represent global expertise in the preservation of the listed digital species—evaluate the entries before recommending their final list. The new, updated list is published on World Digital Preservation Day, providing digital preservationists around the globe with an updated advocacy tool on a day designed to draw attention to this real and current challenge.

The Bit List offers a provisional commentary with the recognition that the extent of the digital domain, the complexity of the threats, and the sophistication of emerging solutions mean that no process could ever fully capture the risks and challenges faced by digital content around the world. It is published and reviewed with the understanding that new risks are continuously arising; every day and (inevitably) between editions of the Bit List.

How to read and use the Bit List

By providing real, illustrative examples of at-risk digital materials alongside their identified aggravating risk factors and recommendations for practical action, users of the Bit List may present the information to support their own advocacy activities and to make a strong independently verified case for digital preservation action.

Entries on the Bit List are presented in a published report and are also available online. Entries are grouped both by risk ‘classification’ and digital ‘species’, allowing users to approach and navigate the list either way.

Entry Descriptions and Examples

Each entry on the list is given a short title and a longer description. It is described in general terms, then a series of examples are provided. These examples are illustrative, not exhaustive; they can include cases where entries are broadly defined or offer specific instances or items.

Users of the Bit List are encouraged to identify and assess their own examples of digital materials at risk—to determine whether a digital object currently in their possession, or for which they have a current or imminent preservation responsibility, fits or aligns with the examples provided on the list.

Aggravating Conditions and Good Practice

Each item includes examples of Aggravating Conditions which amplify the risks a digital object faces, and Good Practice that would reduce the risk. These are also implied recommendations for addressing and reducing risks to be followed in the timescale indicated. In most cases, a fuller assessment is also suggested. By implication, the actions that would arise from such an assessment are not likely to be trivial.

Recognizing that entries are very broadly defined, digital materials can be at more or less risk depending on local circumstances. There is a greater risk, and therefore greater urgency to act, in the presence of aggravating conditions which can be delineated. So, while an entry may be classified as Vulnerable in generic terms, any example of that entry may reasonably be described as Endangered or Critically Endangered in the presence of aggravating conditions. Conversely, in the presence of good practice, specific digital materials may be designated as Endangered to Vulnerable or Lower Risk.

Contribute to the Bit List and support digital preservation globally

The greater the level of community input to the Bit List, the better our view of at-risk digital materials around the world, and the stronger our case for digital preservation.

The Bit List is designed to be collaborative, iterative and provisional and the current call for nominations to the 2023 Bit List is now open!

If readers of the Bit List are aware of significant digital collections that are at material risk but do not match up with any of the broad examples given, they are encouraged to draw these to the attention of the Bit List Council either through the current call for nominations, or directly through the DPC’s Head of Advocacy and Community Engagement. These will be reviewed in time for publication of the next scheduled comprehensive review and revision for November 2023.

Where digital materials face an imminent extinction event before that, their evaluation may be accelerated, and an addendum published to the Bit List in order to provide the timely, impartial and expert advocacy that may be required.

Corrections, comments and nominations are welcome now!


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