Essential Elements for Effective DPA

In addition to persuading the profession of the importance of DPA, certain major issues have to be addressed to have effective AnthroDataDPA. If these issues are not resolved, plans have to be in place for how to address those issues. Breakout groups addressed the following topics:

Data Preservation Issues

• Access Issues


Digitization Issues

Storage/Backup and Long-Term Preservation

Depositors to Archives

Privacy and Ethical Issues

• Copyright

Funding and Sustaining Support for Long-Term Preservation

There are some general strategic principles that the group agreed upon which we will summarize first and then move on to more specific issues and decisions. Other decisions had to be deferred because they could not be made within the context of a two-day workshop.

General Principles

1. Whenever possible physical records (e.g., notebooks, photographs, artifacts) should be physically preserved rather than discarded after digitization. Digital preservation, on the other hand, with migration strategies, may be best for other material such as tapes and objects on computer disks that have shorter life-spans. Some professionals believe that if done properly, digital object repositories can act as long-term preservation strategies and have the advantage of allowing multiple copies to be “housed” in different places (decreasing the risk of destruction from physical or social disasters/upheavals). However, many digital projects do not have plans for long-term preservation in place. If there is any doubt about long-range preservation, both strategies should be pursued.

2. The aim should be to preserve all anthropological research materials. This includes materials in less than desirable formats if that is all there is and “gray” literature (a term widely used for research reports in archaeology produced for contract work) which is not particularly accessible. There was more debate about the need for setting priorities and whether different forms of the “same” material should be preserved. On the one hand, archivists stress that it is not easy to know in advance how information might be useful in the future, and it is not always clear that two forms are identical, so it is preferable to preserve all forms that are available. On the other hand, such a practice might be a waste of resources, such as preserving a fuzzy and a clear picture of the same subject. It is probably more labor-intensive to sort through material to decide what is worth keeping and what is not, so keeping all related materials is probably the best strategy.

3. While there are important exceptions, in general we see no reason to restrict access to anthropological data. The group does not believe that is possible in practice or advisable in principle to use access control to restrict access to prevent uses that we may not like (e.g., by creationists or racists). There are a great variety of possible audiences, with the top three most highly prioritized: professional anthropologists/graduate students; other scholars; informants or subjects and subject communities; government agencies; journalists; advocacy groups; general adult public; college students; K-12 students; commercial interests; and unanticipated users in future generations.

4. Overall strategy must be constrained by considerations of privacy and ethics. As anthropologists working with humans as groups or individuals, there is an implicit trust between research and subject that participation will not cause harm in any way to the individual. We must protect privacy and at the same time remain flexible so that any system can adjust to new concerns or new standards. It will be necessary in the future to provide clear statements of intent, while allowing for evolution of technical and tactical tools to meet them while adjusting to changing conditions. In other words, it is not possible to secure privacy over the long term by simply adopting permanent policies early on, however firm and comprehensive those policies may seem to be at their inception. (More on privacy and ethics.)

The timely generation of appropriate metadata is a professional and ethical obligation. It follows that funders, both private and public sector, must recognize metadata, and data curation more generally, as essential and legitimate expenses that must be adequately supported.

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