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.