Assessing the survey on the Charter’s principles

In the fall of 2017, a survey on the principles of the Heritage Data Reuse Charter was released for the purpose of assessing the “Mission Statement” recently drafted. The survey was sent through various communication channels and mailing lists in the Digital Humanities landscape, addressing the different actors of heritage science : researchers, cultural heritage institutions and data centers.

The survey was mainly active for three months, between August and October 2017, getting around 30 responses. The distribution between respondents was equally balanced between each group of stakeholders.

Overview

The respondents were asked to rank each principle on a scale between 0 and 5 ; the results showed a large endorsement with 75% of 5’s, demonstrating that the principles were very well received overall.

After having ranked the principle and its related commitment, the respondents could write the reasons for which they thought the principle was “valuable for the dissemination of cultural heritage information in the scholarly community“, and propose some improvement if necessary.

Outcomes

The overall comments made by the respondents underlined three issues : 
  

  • the way the principles were expressed sounded a bit forceful, whereas they should be more incentive than obligatory
  • some commitments were not seen as CHI’s prerogatives, but as researchers ones
  • while valuable theoretically, they could see some difficulties in implementing them in practice

The mutual enrichment (Reciprocity), the facilitated access and reuse (Interoperability, Stewardship), the increased visibility of research outputs (Citability, Openness) are some of the major benefits fostered by the Mission Statement, according to the respondents. 

On the other hand, the cost factor (both financial and in terms of manpower) implied by those principles, such as documenting all available collections for a cultural heritage institution (Trustworthiness), or ensuring their long-term preservation (Stewardship), could be a hindrance. The incentive for sharing heritage data under open licenses “whenever possible” (Openness) was also qualified by CHI’s respondents who do not want to risk having “second-zone” datasets for those that cannot be opened due to restricted access. 

In conclusion, the survey pointed out the real interest and validation of the Charter’s principles, at least on a theoretical level. The question of their implementation, with all the legal and technical issues that it can raise, is still to be discussed and open to future experiments.

Cultural Heritage Data Reuse Charter: the Mission Statement

Several European organisations (APEF, CLARIN, DARIAH, Europeana, E-RIHS) and European projects (Iperion-CH, PARTHENOS) involved in the cultural heritage domain are working together to set up principles and mechanisms for improving the use and re-use of cultural heritage data issued by cultural heritage institutions and studied and enriched by researchers. The first step in this endeavour is the definition of generic principles that CHIs and researchers could both adhere to.

What follows is the first public version of the principles that have served as a basis fro a general survey on their acceptability and are planned to provide a background for further elaboration and implementations.

Reciprocity

Principle

Both Cultural Heritage Institutions and Researchers agree to share content and knowledge equally with each other, making use of data centres and research infrastructures.

Commitment

A Cultural Heritage Institution grants Researchers and/or Research teams full access to both their digital and non-digital assets, for use in accordance with the rights statement attributed to them. Researchers and the institutions hosting their research data agree to offer to the originating CHI any output or enrichment of the source material.

Interoperability

Principle

Cultural Heritage Data will be made accessible in a form that facilitates reuse of the data for research. Formats should work and be interoperable for both scholars and CHIs.

Commitment

When sharing their data, digital collections or data descriptors, Cultural Heritage Institutions will do so in accordance with international standards, frameworks and interoperability protocols. Researchers and Research Institutions will share any resulting research using compatible Cultural Heritage Institution international standards, frameworks and interoperability protocols.

Citability

Principle

Cultural Heritage data and any resulting research need to be fully citable to increase their visibility and impact. Relevant data citation standards should be applied.

Commitment

Cultural Heritage Institutions and Researchers, when presenting data, will adopt data citation practices that are human and machine readable and support scholars in directly referencing any evidence on which their research claims may rely.

Openness

Principle

Cultural Heritage data should be shared under an open license whenever possible, taking into account existing copyright and any restrictions due to national legislation and privacy issues.

Commitment

Whenever possible, Cultural Heritage Institutions will share their data under open licenses to facilitate its use, adhering to the Public Domain Charter and Copyright. They will make use of world standards such as Creative Commons or Rightsstatements.org. Where an open license is not feasible the CHI will endeavour to use a license that allows full access for research. A researcher or research infrastructure making use of Cultural Heritage Data will make all interpreted results, visualisations and related research outputs available under equivalent open licenses.

Stewardship

Principle

Long-time preservation, persistence, accessibility and legibility of cultural heritage data should be a priority.

Commitment

Cultural Heritage Institutions, Researchers and Research Institutions will take the necessary steps and precautions to guarantee long-term stewardship of the original item or record and the resulting research. Whether primary digital surrogates or further representations, forms or enrichments, the various parties involved in the creation and curation of cultural heritage data, will ensure a proper hosting and preservation of all contents.

Trustworthiness

Principle

The provenance of Cultural Heritage data and any consequent research should be clear, up to date, openly available and therefore trustworthy.

Commitment

Cultural Heritage Institutions, Researchers and Research infrastructures will put best effort into documenting the provenance of the data that they share, including records of any relevant materials, equipment, techniques, procedures and protocols used. They will attribute any resources used and flag any issues of authenticity or missing data and will also alert to any defamatory use of Cultural Heritage data.

The heritage data reuse charter in a nutshell

Improving access to cultural heritage data is one of the major data management challenges in the field of arts and humanities.

A fundamental difference between the epistemic cultures of hard sciences and arts and humanities is that in the arts and humanities the wide range of scholarly information artefacts, pieces of arts, written documents of all sorts, recordings, annotations etc. broadly referred to as cultural heritage data are not autonomous products of research projects but are deeply embedded in the cultural memory of Europe, and the cultural and social practices of the institutions (museums, libraries, archives) that preserve, curate and (co)produce them. These institutions are not only data providers as ownership of heritage data is inherently shared between them, the researcher communities, the public and the people and cultures that give rise to the objects in question.


What can be considered as cultural heritage data?

  • Primary analogue sources
  • Digitized resources (scanned artifacts)
  • Born-digital collections
  • Attached metadata
  • Annotations
  • Further enrichments

A major difficulty when scholars interact with heritage data is the lack of a clear and comprehensive framework that could serve as a general baseline for such interactions between scholars and cultural heritage institutions. Scholars who want to reuse and share data need to know the terms of use for the database and the data content. What are the legal rights in data and who has these rights? How rights holders use the rights allowing for productive and successive use? In which ways they can connect and keep together these sources with their own research findings and enrichments of these data? The lack of clarity and the great deal of confusion here impacts greatly their work conditions and this can be recognized as a recurrent problem both heritage data creators, curators and reusers are suffering from.

To find solutions to this problem, a wide range of stakeholder groups involved in the cultural heritage domain (Europeana, CLARIN, E-RHIS, IPERION CH, APEF, PARTHENOS) came together under the governance of DARIAH and started to design a common online environment that will enable all the relevant actors to connect and improve together access to heritage data and make transactions related to the scholarly use of cultural heritage data more visible and transparent.

Who are the stakeholder groups?

  • Cultural Heritage Institutions are considered in their function as curators of collections and objects in their physical form and as potential primary initiators of corresponding digital surrogates, from basic descriptions (catalogues of collections, metadata for specific objects) to more elaborate outputs (scans, 3D models, physical analyses, etc.);
  • Primary data can be hosted by CHIs or by Higher Education Institutions like universities, but they are in many cases curated by dedicated Data Centers. These Centers play a key role in guaranteeing the stability, the visibility and the long time availability of the primary data;
  • Cultural Heritage Laboratories have a high-level expertise in Cultural Heritage. They give essential insights into Cultural Heritage history, technologies, environment, and Alteration.
  • Researchers are invited to sign in person, independently from the institution for which they are working at the time they sign the Charter;
  • However, academic institutions (departments, universities, research institution or funding agencies) wishing to sign the Charter are welcome to do so as well.

(Source: https://digitalintellectuals.hypotheses.org/3031)

The basis of this common environment is a moral contract, the Mission Statement all stakeholders must adhere to. It comprises of six core principles: Reciprocity, Interoperability, Citability, Openness, Stewardship, Trustworthiness. Key elements of the future online environment would include primarily conditions of access and reuse (e.g.license information) for each collection or object registered in the Heritage Dara Reuse Charter as well as contact information to the person responsible for specific datasets. Signing the Charter would allow all stakeholders to declare their commitment to the reuse conditions expressed for each collection or object registered in the Charter and thus increase the transparency and visibility of their own workflows.

Establishing a common online environment to support smooth end-to-end communication between cultural heritage institutions, data centres, research institutions and individual researchers will be an essential component of the FAIR data ecosystem in the arts and humanities domain. Such a trusted framework would be a key step in achieving a better alignment of data creation and curation with downstream reuse.

If you are willing to contribute to design of this shared environment or just interested to learn more about our mission, you are very welcome to contact us through this blog or follow the hashtag #chdatareusecharter on twitter.

The institutional partners behind the heritage data reuse charter
The work has been carried out with the support of the European union under the Parthenos and Iperion CH projects.


Heritage Data Reuse Charter

The aim of this scholarly blog is to provide a single space where the progress made on the definition of an heritage data reuse charter can be recorded and documented. This charter is targeted towards researchers, cultural heritage institution as well as any organisation for which the issue of data reuse for research can be relevant. After an initial impetus provided by the European research infrastructure DARIAH, several institutions have joined the effort: CLARIN, E-RIHS, APEF, LIBER.