Whose Responsibility is Web Resource Preservation?

It is possible that one of the reason why so little is being done about Web resource preservation is that everybody feels it is somebody else’s responsibility. It might be very easy for us all to avoid the issue by standing back and waiting for someone else to tackle what, we have already explained, is a very complex problem. However taking this approach may mean that nobody does anything and we all lose out.

So whose responsibility is Web resource preservation then?

There are a number of parties who may have an interest in the preservation of Web resource. These range from the international institutions down to the individual.

Individual Approach

  • The author of the resource – It may be important for individuals to retain a copy of papers, articles and other written works for future use, CVs etc.

Institutional Approach

  • The publisher of the resource – Who exactly is the publisher of a resource? Is it the Web team or the institution itself?
  • The institution – The Institution may be motivated by legal and records management reasons.
  • The institution’s Library – Libraries have had a preservation role in the past and have experience in this area but the complex nature of Web resources means they cannot achieve this task alone.

National Approach

  • The Academic Community – The united academic community may be able to achieve more than individual institutions.
  • Archives – National archives may have a role to play here.
  • Museums – Museums may be interested in the preservation of creative resources.
  • The Government – The government may be interested in statistical information, cultural data and creating snapshots of a countries Web presence.
  • Consortiums – For example the UK Web Archiving Consortium (UKWAC)

International Approach

  • International Organisations – For example the Internet Archive.
  • Commercial companies – Commercial companies may see the benefits of Web preservation from a legal and business perspective.

It seems that with so many having a vested interest in Web resource preservation the most successful approach could be cooperative working and shared responsibility. What Web preservation really needs is for us all to gain a true sense of ‘stewardship’ over Web resources.

So who has responsibility for Web resource preservation in your organisation?

4 thoughts on “Whose Responsibility is Web Resource Preservation?

  1. Kevin Ashley

    Responsibility can be more nuanced than this, although I agree it’s always important to establish where responsibility lies. It’s possible for it to be shared at multiple levels; for instance, one can depend on a national infrastructure or service to do the actual preserving, but still place responsibility on the creator or the institution to make use of that national service. That’s effectively the situation with social science datasets and the UK Data Archive – it exists because of national decision-making and nationak funding, but material only ends up there if the creators deposit it (and if the archive accepts it.)

  2. Peter Barnes

    At the institutional level, perhaps the IT department is another party that perhaps needs to accept responsibility, or at least be proactive and initiate serious consideration of the issue.

  3. James Currall

    Perhaps Peter could articulate why the IT department should have responsibility in this area. In my experience most are under-resourced to deliver ‘current’ services and given a choice between spending on service improvements and on digital preservation, I know which I would be able to justify most easily.

  4. Richard M. Davis

    My instinct is also that, like the Police, IT departments are there to effect policy, not make it. So implementation responsibility may lie with IT, but policy-making (and resources for implementation) originates elsewhere.

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