Recent years saw the emergence of large-scale content digitization efforts, and an increasing dependence of organisations and individuals on information and communication technologies to manage the complexity of public, professional, and even private life. The proliferation of distributed, inter-connected structures of information assets and services, brought about by the Internet and the Web, pose significant new challenges of resource discovery and interoperability, producing a need for interdisciplinary, collaborative research agendas and action plans to tackle issues of long-term digital preservation and adequate knowledge representation of information in a number of domains.
The need to ensure adequate representation and long-term access to digital information as its context of use changes, and to counter the risk of repositories becoming unfit for use “data mortuaries”, introduces a "grand challenge" for digital curation research: to develop the conceptual and technological tools necessary for maintaining and adding value to a trusted body of digital information for current and future use, through the active questioning,dynamic co-evolution and adequate knowledge representation ofits epistemic and pragmatic content and context.
According to the approach adopted by the Digital Curation Unit, this grand challenge requires the adoption of specific research strategies:
- a lifecycle approach to the representation of curated information objects as these evolve in interaction with changing designated communities;
- adoption of event-centric methodologies to represent adequately the structure of digital information "life events";
- a broader notion of digital curation actors, including those involved in the production, public communication and utilisation of knowledge;
- a fundamental cross-disciplinary scope in research methodologies, so as to cater adequately for differences in digital curation requirements between diverse scientific and functional (business, social, economic) contexts of use.
Such strategies, adopted by the Digital Curation Unit, attempt to address at a fundamental level the problem of sustained, long-term epistemic and functional adequacy of digital information and services. For this, the DCU prioritizes the need towards fuller understanding of domain differences in representing and managing knowledge; it identifies the necessity of dealing not just with the context, but also with the (knowledge, functional) content and meaning of information objects; it preaches the adoption of a stepping stones approach, allowing the semantic augmentation of information objects as interpretive communities ‘exercise the archive’ of digital memory; and, last but not least, it advocates an agency-oriented approach to curation, best served by event-centric methodologies, such as the application of CIDOC CRM to cultural information repositories and to the lifecycle of preservation metadata.