The BitList is first and foremost an advocacy tool.  It describes a range of digital materials in a range of 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 about technological obsolescence. By identifying them, and by presenting and providing elementary recommendations about how the risks can be tackled, the DPC seeks to provide generic, impartial and international support to specific preservation actions and policies in any context.

Although all digital materials fall within the scope of the BitList, it is not a complete account of digital materials at risk: only those items which members of the community recognize as being at risk have been included.  Consequently the fact that a data set is not listed should not be taken as evidence that it is not at risk: simply that the community which has compiled the list has not encountered any explicit risks or has no experience with these particular materials. Equally, the fact that an item has been identified as being at risk is some small proof of effort, however weak, to secure long term viability.  In most cases, items on the list are very broadly defined, summarizing significant variability in specific cases.  Often items on the list will overlap, amplifying or lessening the urgency for action as appropriate. 

Each item on the list is given a short title and a slightly longer description. It is described in general terms, then a series of examples are given.  By and large these examples are the specific recommendations that were received from the digital preservation community when the initial call for proposals was made in 2017.  The examples are illustrative not exhaustive, and although they provide a bit more detail, they are also in many cases very broadly defined classes of digital content which in turn have many different instances and examples. 

Users of The BitList are encouraged to assess whether any digital object in their possession, or which they intend to create, or for which they have a current or imminent preservation responsibility, is a specific example of the item described and whether it aligns with one of the examples given. 

A simple recommendation for action is associated with each item on the list along with an indicative  timescale for implementation. In most cases the recommendation is for a fuller assessment to be undertaken: by implication however the recommendations of such an assessment are not trivial and should also be acted upon.  Therefore the time frame indicated includes delivering the outcomes of that assessment.  In some cases the recommendation for action is also given an explicit timescale.  As the risk increases so the urgency of assessment and action increase.

Each item has been placed in a risk classification. However, recognizing that the items are very broadly defined, individual instances of that item can be at more or less risk depending on local circumstances. There is greater risk and therefore greater urgency to act in the presence of one or more aggravating conditions.  So while an item may be classified as ‘Vulnerable’ in generic terms, any example of that item 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 move from ‘Endangered’ to ‘Vulnerable’ or ‘Lower Risk’.  A list of typical aggravating conditions is provided, though these are indicative not exhaustive.  Good practice has not been described and for balance efforts will be made to include this as an addition to the BitList in 2019.

The BitList is designed to be collaborative, iterative and provisional. Thus, if readers are aware of significant digital collections that do not match up with any of the broad examples given but are at material risk, then they are encouraged to draw these to the attention of The BitList jury through the DPC’s Head of Advocacy and Community Engagement. These will be reviewed in time for publication in November 2019. Where significant digital collections face an imminent extinction event before publication in November, their evaluation may be accelerated and an addendum published to The Bitlist in order to provide the timely, impartial and expert advocacy that may be required.

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