Response to Reading – Elizabeth Frank

Heidorn’s article “The Emerging Role of Libraries in Data Curation and E-Science” was a nice balance between the straightforward guide to data management and the frivolous “How is a scarf like a dataset?” (which told me more about knitting than about data management).  Heidorn writes lucidly, and had me at “Getting to the original data is even more critical because of the observation that it appears that original front finding tend to get weaker if replicated later.”  I argued in a piece for another class about the importance of working from original data to the extent possible, even the maintenance of outmoded software (70 mm film, in that case) required the upkeep of outmoded software.

It was interesting to read about the National Science Foundation’s requirements of data management with grant proposals.  (Grant writing is a possible employment route I’ve long considered taking.)  I believe Heidorn when he argues that digital curation is more like a vegetable garden than a time capsule, but when he asserts “Digital data degrade more quickly than paper documents,” I would like to know why.  How can something inorganic degrade more quickly than organic matter?  This was something that was touched on briefly in my other class, and I hope to get to the bottom of it.  “The content must be constantly nurtured, used and refreshed.”  Again, why and how?

Heidorn writes that “the final regular step in the lifecycle is transformation.  Over time it may be necessary to transform data to different formats . . . ”  I hope he has written further on this idea, because during the course of this semester I have grown passionate about maintaining the integrity of the original format to the extent possible.  I believe that something is lost with each transfer to new media.


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