Because good research needs good data

History of the DCC

Supporting digital curation since 2004

The Digital Curation Centre (DCC) was launched in March 2004 with support from Jisc and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to help solve digital curation and longer-term preservation challenges that could not be tackled effectively by any single institution or discipline.

Initially funded by Jisc to deliver shared curation support services to UK Higher Education Institutions, the DCC has become increasingly global in its scope and areas of activity. We have a focus on enabling research data management and increasingly around supporting the production and use of data that are findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR). Our activities are currently supported through a variety of income streams including membership subscriptions, externally supported research and development projects, and an expanding portfolio of consultancy work.

We have always recongnised the value of working collaboratively. To this end, our staff lead or participate in numerous international partnerships, workings groups, and task forces. These collaborations help to keep the DCC at the forefront of the field. Over the past 16 years of continuous activity, we have cemented our reputation as a world leading centre of expertise in research data management and curation and have adapted our approaches to meet the constantly evolving needs of the community.

A brief history of the DCC

The creation of a Digital Curation Centre (DCC) was a key recommendation in the JISC Continuing Access and Digital Preservation Strategy, which argued for the establishment of a national centre for solving challenges in digital curation that could not be tackled by any single institution or discipline.

Its remit would also include the provision of generic services, some development activity and research.

The DCC was launched on 1 March 2004, following a successful response to JISC Circular 6/038 by a consortium comprising the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow (which together hosted the National e-Science Centre), UKOLN at the University of Bath, and STFC, which managed the Rutherford Appleton and Daresbury Laboratories.

During Phases 1 and 2 (March 2004-February 2007 and March 2007-February 2010), the DCC had a target group defined as those engaging in digital preservation and curation activities within UK Higher and Further Education UKHE/FE).  This group was seen to include data specialists, records managers, librarians, archivists, researchers (as data creators), and policy-makers.

The DCC also sought to engage in project activity with the public and commercial sectors, international ‘sister organisations’ and standards working groups, recognising that the advancement of tools and processes for digital curation depends on developments that take place beyond the UKHE/FE sector as well as within it.

Hence, establishment of the DCC Associates Network was seen as providing a forum for cross-sectoral communication on important problems, not limited to the UK HE/FE community.

By the start of Phase 2, the emphasis of DCC activity had shifted considerably towards increased and direct involvement with the active research community, as exemplified by the creation of an e-Science Liaison function and the conduct of immersive discipline case studies by the SCARP project.

The Principal Investigators named in the original proposal were Professor Peter Buneman of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics, who has remained committed to the DCC through Phases 1 and 2 as its Research Director, and Professor Malcolm Atkinson, e-Science Envoy at the National e-Science Centre.

From March 2004 until February 2005, Peter Burnhill, currently Director of EDINA, was the DCC's first Director, supported by Robin Rice in the role of Coordinator.

He was followed by Chris Rusbridge, who led the DCC as Director from February 2005 until his retirement at the end of March 2010.

In April 2010 the mantle of DCC Director passed to Kevin Ashley, who had been Head of Digital Archives at the University of London Computer Centre (ULCC) since 1997.

STFC provided the technical development strand of the DCC during Phases 1 and 2, with David Giaretta contributing to DCC strategy and management as Associate Director.

Representing the Humanities, Seamus Ross, now Dean of the Faculty of Information Studies at the University of Toronto and previously the head of HATII at Glasgow, played a committed role as Associate Director and active DCC advocate until late 2008.

Phase 3 (March 2010 - February 2013) has brought the introduction of further structural changes, with a shift away from the development of curation tools and a renewed focus on building capacity, capability and skills for data curation across the UK’s higher education research community. Kevin Ashley was appointed Director in March 2010. He was supported by Graham Pryor, Liz Lyon and Joy Davidson as Associate Directors.

In 2011, an injection of additional resource by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), as part of its Universities Modernisation initiative, has enabled the DCC to undertake a concentrated programme of institutional engagements with 21 individual universities.

The work of these 60 day engagements has ranged from helping to make the case for good research data management practice, through the diagnosis of current practice and identification of forward priorities, to the use of DCC tools and training for building lasting data management strategies and infrastructure.

It is anticipated that the engagements programme, which has allowed the DCC to work more closely with members of its stakeholder community, will prove to be a core feature of the Centre’s profile for some time to come.

This new emphasis has also exposed a critical dependency upon the contribution of a network of practitioners beyond the core DCC, who will be crucial to the exponential growth of effective data curation practice.

The DCC has responded with the appointment of a dedicated Customer Relationship Manager and a range of new communication channels provided via its website.

The DCC Phase 3 team, with its core at the University of Edinburgh and its partners at UKOLN (University of Bath) and HATII (University of Glasgow), had by now established itself as an international centre of expertise with a focus on the provision of expertly mediated access to resources, originating both from the DCC and elsewhere; an advocacy and community development programme designed to produce a nationally coherent movement for change; all underpinned by a training programme aimed at nurturing the transfer of knowledge and best practice between data producers, users and custodians.

In 2016, UKOLN’s operations ceased however the DCC partnership was continued by the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Since July 2016, the DCC is no longer supported by Jisc funding  however, we have had increased support from the University of Edinburgh and have continued to expand our activities by taking on a number of consultancy projects and by engaging large European research projects. As a result, the international profile of DCC has grown considerably post July 2016.

Research funders and organisations increasingly require data management plans, both during the bid-preparation stage and after funding has been secured. DMPonline becomes the preferred tool for creating and managing data management plans for UK universities and its use is growing in Europe.

Kevin Ashley continues to be Director, supported by Sarah Jones as Associate Director.