History of DC

In 2009, Data Conservancy (DC) answered the National Science Foundation’s call to create a world where “digital data are routinely deposited in well-documented form, are regularly and easily consulted and analyzed by specialists and non-specialists alike, are openly accessible while suitably protected, and are reliably preserved.” Prior to this award, members of Data Conservancy had already established collaborative research, development and prototyping efforts. The Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins had initiated a dialogue with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) years ago that began shortly after Johns Hopkins University (JHU) received the award for the National Virtual Observatory (NVO). This unique collaboration led to an agreement for the Sheridan Libraries to curate the SDSS data even before the Data Conservancy award. As an initial step, with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Sheridan Libraries developed a model and framework for connecting data with publications, which was ultimately adapted and implemented for our current service that supports data deposit for arXiv.org pre-prints.


The SDSS agreement represented the foundation for building data curation infrastructure in a comprehensive, holistic, sustainable manner. During the 2006 International Digital Curation Conference, Sayeed Choudhury and Carole Palmer discussed the innovative research at the Graduate School for Library and Information Science (GSLIS) at the University of Illinois and the unique data curation activities at Johns Hopkins. This initial conversation launched an ongoing collaboration that highlights Johns Hopkins as a “laboratory” for data curation research and development. Alex Szalay introduced Choudhury to Christine Borgman whose research interests included data practices within the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS). Borgman’s group realized the potential for extending their research to study SDSS curation efforts as an exemplar for a deep investigation within a particular domain. This breadth and depth of research into data practices represents a key overarching principle of navigation for DC.


While the relationship between astronomers and digital librarians at Johns Hopkins offered a deep opportunity for science drivers, DC reached into other domains through new relationships identified by DC principals. The DC proposal included partners from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Marine Biological Laboratory and the National Center for Atmospheric Research thereby connecting DC research, development and prototyping efforts to the earth sciences, life sciences and social sciences domains.


Data Conservancy has built upon the initial prototyping efforts led by the Sheridan Libraries that was influenced by its own Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funded analysis of repositories and existing collaboration with Carl Lagoze through the Open Archives Initiative and Sandy Payette through the Fedora Commons (now part of DuraSpace).  DC partners Portico and Tessella introduced the essential perspective and expertise of “industrial-strength” operations and systems.  These partners helped develop the infrastructure and operational environment that has led to the JHU data management services.


These long-term relationships and activities culminated in Data Conservancy that embraces a holistic, comprehensive view of data curation. By bringing together domain scientists, information scientists, social scientists, computer scientists, digital librarians, data managers and business professionals, Data Conservancy has explored the socio-technical dimensions of cross-disciplinary data infrastructure. Data Conservancy is now expanding into a full-fledged community development model that will feature new instances and partners.