Monday, March 13, 2017

What Makes A Digital Steward: A Competency Profile Based On The National Digital Stewardship Residencies

What Makes A Digital Steward: A Competency Profile Based On The National Digital Stewardship Residencies. Karl-Rainer Blumenthal, et al. Long paper, iPres 2016. (Proceedings p. 112-120 / PDF p. 57-61).
       Digital stewardship is the active and long-term management of digital objects with the intent to preserve them for long term access. Because the field is relatively young, there is not yet a "sufficient scholarship performed to identify a competency profile for digital stewards". A profile details the specific skills, responsibilities, and knowledge areas required and this study attempts to describe a competency profile for digital stewards by using a three-pronged approach:
  1. reviewing literature on the topics of digital stewardship roles, responsibilities, expected practices, and training needs
  2. qualitatively analyzing current and completed project descriptions
  3. quantitatively analyzing the results from a survey conducted that identified competencies need to successfully complete projects
"This study had two main outputs: the results of the document analysis (qualitative), and the results of the survey (quantitative)."  Seven coded categories of competence emerged from the analysis:
  1. Technical skills;
  2. Knowledge of standards and best practices;
  3. Research responsibilities;
  4. Communication skills;
  5. Project management abilities;
  6. Professional output responsibilities; and
  7. Personality requirements.
Based on the responses for Very important and Essential, a competency statement representing this profile would suggest that "effective digital stewards leverage their technical skills, knowledge of standards and best practices, research opportunities, communication skills, and project management abilities to ensure the longterm viability of the digital record." They do this by:
  • developing and enhancing new and existing digital media workflows
  • managing digital assets
  • creating and manipulating asset metadata
  • commit to the successful implementation of these new workflows
  • manage both project resources and people
  • solicit regular input from stakeholders
  • document standards and practices
  • create policies, professional recommendations, and reports,
  • maintain current and expert knowledge of standards and best practices for metadata and data management
  • manage new forms of media
The study suggests that, in practice, technical skills are not always as essential in digital stewardship as job postings suggest. Hardware/software implementation and Qualitative data analysis skills were important to only half of the respondents. Workflow management is a universally important skill deemed ”Essential" by almost all respondents. Other categories appeared as Somewhat Important, or as areas that need further research.

The study suggests that "although specific technical skills are viewed as highly important in different settings, a much larger majority of projects required skills less bound to a particular technology or media, like documentation creation and workflow analysis."  Digital stewards should possess, not only a deep understanding of their field, but the ability to "effectively disseminate their work to others."

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