Future Proofing Civic Data

Exploring the challenges of preserving open civic data for the long term

This past year, Temple University Libraries received a Knight Foundation Grant, “Knight News Challenge on Libraries,” to lead an exploratory research project, Future Proofing Civic Data, investigating the challenges of long-term preservation for open civic datasets.

Open civic data portals, such as OpenDataPhilly in Philadelphia, have been a growing trend in cities, states, and national governments over the last decade. Many governments and other civic partners began developing open civic data initiatives in order to make data originating from governmental agencies and civic organizations easily accessible online for immediate consultation, as well as for data reuse. Datasets can include anything from election results to operating budgets to an inventory of all the trees in a city. The hope is that these portals can help bridge the gap between citizens and government and stimulate civic engagement by making data of relevance to citizens easily accessible online.

However, portals do not always have fully formed or fully implemented plans to ensure the long-term preservation of those datasets, and best practices are yet to emerge in that domain.

The Temple Library project team interviewed over a dozen stakeholders about their use cases and needs and looked at several open civic data initiatives in Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh, to compare practices and examine real-life examples. We wrote up our findings in a white paper where we explore ten important factors that need to be taken into consideration, if we are to tackle long-term preservation of civic data successfully. We also look at how libraries could take the lead, or at least participate in the process.

Please see the full white paper for more details.

The project team was comprised of Joe Lucia (PI), Rachel Appel, Delphine Khanna, Chad Nelson, Margery Sly, and Gretchen Sneff.

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