EOSC’s Evolutionary Scenarios: Perspectives for Digital Cultural Heritage
Workshop on 27 November 2019, National Library of Portugal, Lisbon
This year’s Europeana conference started with a bouquet of engaging workshops on various aspects of digital cultural heritage.
The main conference had been recorded and is available online:
The workshops have not been recorded and this is my personal reflection on the event which was very timely and successful in bringing key initiatives from the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) which are relevant to the Digital Cultural Heritage domain,
The event aimed to “address the challenges and opportunities that the EOSC establishment is posing to cultural heritage institutions” and “offer food for thought about the positioning of cultural heritage institutions within this ecosystem by:
- presenting best practices already put in place as for data or services sharing;
- discussing specific solutions for digital cultural heritage in compliance with the FAIR principles;
- inviting the audience to identify and plan activities for gathering requirements from the cultural heritage sector as a potential stakeholder in EOSC.”
It started with short welcome addresses by Marco de Niet, Chair of the Europeana Network Association Management Board (Marco is the Manager of the Research & Education Services Division & Deputy Director, Leiden University Library), Alba Irollo, Research Coordinator, Europeana Foundation and Sara Di Giorgio, Project Manager of CulturaItalia, ICCU / Member of the Europeana Network Association Management Board. These addresses summarised the engagement of Europeana with the research community (currently Europeana works with six communities and researchers are one of them – and the one with the largest representation among the delegates of this Europeana conference, some 30% of all participants. Sara di Giorgio provided data from the recent Europeana re-use survey which illustrate that the EOSC awareness among Europeana community is still relatively low but there are valuable insights on the role EOSC can play in improving the access and preservation of digital cultural heritage data.
- Setting the scene: EOSC Secretariat was the talk delivered by Annika Kossack (Consultant, Technopolis Group). She outlined clearly the stages of development of EOSC which had been mentioned for the first time in EC communication in 2016 and currently is in the stage of clarifying and implementing a governance structure. She also explained the six major domains of the EOSC model: architecture, data, services, access & interface, rules and governance. Annika gave also a clear message it is important to engage with EOSC contributing to the vision of modern research, and to the implementation of real European transversal services.
- The power of digital e-infrastructures: EOSC-Hub was the title of the talk of Jorge Gomes (Researcher, LIP / Laboratory of Instrumentation and Experimental Particles in Lisbon & INCD / National Distributed Computing Infrastructure). While he was outlining this infrastructure which will is being developed in a funding cycle which will end in December 2020, I had an a-ha moment. It was obvious that our traditional model of building infrastructures which always has to provide an answer to the uneasy question “if we build it will they (the users) come” is now shifting to a model where the user communities should engage and discuss with those who deliver infrastructures what they want to achieve.
- National and European federated infrastructures: EOSC-Pillar (delivered by Adeline Joffres, Head of International Cooperation, Huma Num) outlined the activities the regional project coordinating the national open science efforts for Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and Italy. She provided an interesting example of interoperability in a Proof of Concept which explores how to link two french repositories, the open archive HAL and nakala.
- Social Science and Humanities Open Cloud: the SSHOC project was presented by Franciska de Jong (Professor at Utrecht University & Executive Director of CLARIN ERIC). She argued that SSHOC is “THE cluster for cultural heritage in the EOSC” and provided an interesting example on preparing and depositing a dataset on 135.000 cultural heritage descriptions from Europeana into EOSC.
This set of talks outlined that there are different ways of joining the EOSC efforts – and the entry points could be domain-specific or regional.
The last presentation (EOSC and research communities: the state of play) was delivered by Franco Niccolucci, Director, VAST-LAB PIN / Scientific Coordinator of ARIADNEplus and PARTHENOS / Former professor, University of Florence. One could hardly imagine a more suitable final talk for the event – because, after so many responses to the question HOW, Prof. Niccolucci took the conversation back to the question WHY, and FOR WHOM. He illustrated the low participation of Humanities’ scholars providing an example from archaeology. He asked, how many of the some 60.000 archaeologists working in Europe are aware of open science and the infrastructures to deliver it? He continued with more questions – how popular is FAIRness? Is data reuse implemented, encouraged, enabled or ignored? How EOSC will help in reducing the fragmentation among various academic domains? Should there be a common FAIR layer? What kind of common services are requires for re-use? These questions concentrate on FAIRness, services and re-use.
But I personally felt his final questions, how to spread awareness, and how to train researchers, are the really hard ones. If we go back to the shift in how infrastructures are created now, we can see that the responsibilities of deciding what needs to be supported by an infrastructure are moving away from those who design the infrastructure to the communities who need the services. If the community of those who are interested in digital cultural heritage is not able to articulate its needs – and also achieve a critical mass in engaging with EOSC, who will voice and develop the resources and services which will support this same community?
I hope there will be more workshops which will explore further this and will engage the digital cultural heritage in a healthy and productive EOSC dialogue.
Many thanks to everyone who contributed and made this event possible!