Research Methods

Given the different results this research aims at accomplishing, a multiplicity of methods is needed to fulfill the tasks that each investigation stage is intended to carry out.

The starting point of the research will consist in planning the audit of the research partners’ repositories. Thus, to select the information to be captured by the audit the Researcher will draw on the models and tools developed by three outstanding Digital Curation initiatives focusing on specific aspects of digital assets' life-cycle:

  • DAFD (Data Audit Framework Development) provides an audit methodology and online tools to support and facilitate organisations to establish an overview of their data holdings, policies and practices against best practices and new risks (;
  • similarly, DRAMBORA (Digital Repository Audit Method Based on Risk Assessment) offers an audit methodology, complemented by a computer-aided audit software, addressing the assessment of risks implied by the policies adopted by the repositories;
  • finally, Planets (Preservation and Long-term Access through NETworked Services) offers a testbed to experiment the effects of curatorial actions on digital assets.

The findings and products of these initiatives will be used according to this schema:

  • to identify the functions and the current use of the digital assets as well as the events that modify their consistency the Researcher will use the metric assessment of the Planets' Testbed and the methods developed by DAF to identify data-assets and processes;
  • to assess the curatorial management of the digital objects, the Researcher will use the DAF audit methodology and, if curatorial policies have been already established by the audited institutions, the DRAMBORA tool for risk assessment.

Then, to complement this information with quantitative results, the Researcher will characterise the digital records and measure their distribution by applying automatic analysis on the repositories using the adequate scripting languages.

Thus, this audit will consist of both a set of experimental investigation activities resulting in metric findings assessing the digital curation actions held by stakeholders and, on the other, unstructured interviews and reports of unobtrusive observations describing the digital assets, the processes taking place in the repositories and their agents. In this way, the qualitative results of the audit will be validated by the quantitative ones producing both the holistic view and the robust data needed to triangulate the data collected.

Then, defining a curatorial workflow for the Built Environment related records, the Researcher will analyse the results of the audit, in terms of both the academic Digital Curation debate and their sustainability in the context of Archives in an early stage of their development or in informal repositories.

Borrowing from the Digital Curation Center its representation of digital curation life-cycle, the analysis of the audit results will cover:

  • the creation of digital objects, including capture and modeling methods, formats and metadata recording;
  • their actual use before the ingestion in the repositories, such as modifications and functions recording;
  • their appraise and selection for curation purposes, considering policies assessment and evaluation processes;
  • their ingestion and the consequent preservation actions to be taken, such as metadata enriching and data packaging;
  • their storage, such as the archive architecture to be implemented; f) their access and reuse, focusing on emulation, semantics and intellectual property management;
  • their transformations in order to produce new data, such as the system of permissions to derive objects by data stored and the recording of these events, and their migration for preservation purposes.

Further, the investigation will be particularly concentrated in the selection of a proper set of metadata to enable:

  • a rich exploratory and analytical visualisation of the information, that is showing the information either as a whole or as a compound of modules;
  • a browsing facility based on both cultural semantics, that is generated by the human interpretation of data, and automated semantics, such as for example the assessment of similarities between shapes in a 3D model;
  • a coherent preservation management of the digital assets;
  • and an unambiguous context for the reuse and derivation of digital assets focusing on authorship, authenticity, reliability and intellectual property.

Building on the results of these analysis, the Researcher will produce the researched policies, requirements and procedures for Built Environment related data.

Their evaluation will take place through a simulation of their employment based on the testbeds developed in Planets and CASPAR (Cultural, Artistic and Scientific knowledge for Preservation, Access and Retrieval), specialised in data preservation and in perpetual accessibility of the digital objects and their contextual environment. In doing so, borrowing from the user studies developed within the fields of Archives and Libraries both the quantitative and qualitative approach to services evaluation, once again, the audit will triangulate metrics, ethnographic observations and unstructured interviews to asses the implementation of the proposed policies and recommended procedures.