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Capturing and preserving practice based research

The University of Westminster is a member of the Digital Preservation Coalition, an organisation dedicated to sharing and recognising good practice for the long-term preservation of and access to digital assets. PR Voices was recently featured in a guest post on the DPC blog. You can read the original post here

Practice Research Voices (PR Voices) is an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project led by the University of Westminster. The project is scoping the development of an Open Library of Practice Research for the dissemination and preservation of practice research, building on existing software and standards and guided by open research principles. 

‘Practice research’ is ‘an umbrella term that describes all manners of research where practice is the significant method of research conveyed in a research output’ (Bulley and Sahin, 2021). Practice research outputs are typically multi-component portfolios or collections of non-text file formats which are disseminated and hosted in separate places such as personal websites, institutional repositories, archives, and commercial video-sharing platforms. These factors pose a significant challenge to the preservation and reuse of practice research and practice research data. 

The aim of PR Voices is to enable practice research to be captured, preserved, and made as discoverable and reusable as journal articles and monographs. To achieve this, the project will identify technical specifications for a data repository tailored to practice research requirements and for integrations such as digital preservation software. The project will also produce a set of recommendations for improvements to repository metadata standards and persistent identifiers that will enhance the discoverability of practice research. The project also aims to build the practice research community of practice to bring together the currently disconnected discussions between different stakeholder groups. This community of practice includes practitioners and researchers, librarians and information professionals, developers, research data managers, repository managers, research managers, archivists, records managers, and curators. 

PR Voices recognises that working closely with practice research and research data creator communities is essential to the project’s aim to enable and maximise the capture, preservation, and reuse of practice research, and community engagement is central to the methodology of the project. A Community Advisory Group has been formed to provide a critical perspective on the project, and a community engagement event in June 2022 will provide the opportunity for a wider group of practice research practitioners, researchers, and professionals to contribute to this work.   

To inform the work, the project has conducted a qualitative and quantitative survey with both researchers and practitioners and institutional and organisational support professionals to map and assess current practice in capturing, preserving, and disseminating practice research. This survey will be complemented with focused semi-structured interviews with members of the practice research community and user testing feedback on a closed test practice research repository (a copy of the existing open source WestminsterResearch repository, hosted by Cayuse).   

The resulting proposed technical specification will then be tested against the British Library’s Shared Research Repository to identify how it might scale to other repository software. A metadata and persistent identifiers workshop is planned (informed by the project findings) to work with representatives from these communities to develop recommendations to take forward.  

The survey results will also inform a qualitative and quantitative research data mapping exercise to identify barriers to research data preservation and reuse in practice research. The research data mapping exercise will identify the specific digital preservation requirements of practice research data types and inform recommendations in relation to the community guidance and training necessary to improve the data literacy of practice researchers (around, for example, recommended file formats for the preservation of practice research, digitisation, managing copyright, and licensing for reuse). 

PR Voices is a collaboration between the University of Westminster, King’s College London, the British Library, Jisc, and Cayuse. 

If you would like to hear more about the project or are interested in getting involved, you are welcome to contact Jenny Evans at J.Evans2@westminster.ac.uk 

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