‘Europeana for Research’ - digitisation, copyright reform and advocacy beyond the pilot stage

Author: Aubéry Escande
28 October 2016 Comment

Two years ago, Research and Culture Policy makers together with Europeana and Digital Humanities Researchers created a set of Recommendations: Europeana for Research. As we move away from the pilot stage of Europeana Research, we developed an updated and streamlined set of recommendations for action:

- Implement more digitisation of cultural heritage;

- enforce copyright reform to make best use of the public investment in digitisation; and

- advocacy on benefits of Digital Humanities Research for Society.

As we move away from the pilot stage of Europeana Research, we now are reviewing what has been taken up and what is useful for its future and the growing field of digital humanities research from cultural heritage. We suggest an updated and streamlined set of recommendations for action.

Europeana for Research visual report: JAM Visual Thinking - Copyright: CC BY-SA

Barriers

In Science the barriers have been overcome with the Council conclusions of May 2016 requiring that all scientific articles are made freely accessible.

“Research and innovation provide the solutions to the social and economic challenges of the future. Open access breaks down the walls surrounding science and makes sure that society benefits as much as possible from all scientific insights. In that way, we maximise the impact of universities and knowledge institutions.” - Sander Dekker, Junior Minister for Education, Culture and Science (the Netherlands)

If Science can, Culture should

Policy Makers of culture and research at EU and national levels hold the key to unlock two major barriers to cultural heritage becoming fully available to researchers and society:

- More public funding for digitisation

- Copyright reform (to make best use of the public investment in digitisation)

Funding of digitisation

Policy Makers need to make more funding available for digitisation. If supported by public and public-private funds, free access to this content should be a requirement.

Continuing to encourage private investment remains necessary given what still needs to be digitised: “23% of the heritage collections is digitised,” [and] about 50% still needs to be digitised”. ENUMERATE Core Survey 3, May 2015

But if the digitisation is of our public collections, policy makers should insist on the use of agreed standards for formats and metadata to deliver accessibility over the long term.

Copyright reform

Policy Makers need to reform copyright to allow cultural heritage institutions to digitise our heritage without the huge cost of clearing rights or any fear of litigation.

Unlocking this gate permits digitisation and therefore research on 20th century material, contributing to the understanding of our most recent cultural history. This is currently seriously hampered by lack of availability. The reform should take into account that researchers need digital collections that cross borders for text and data mining purposes.

Equally, cultural institutions should not create new rights. They should undertake to label their digital content with correct rights statements and guarantee permanent access.

Advocacy

Last but by no means least, our third recommendation is that policy makers, together with researchers, give the arguments why accessible, digital cultural heritage is so important to society, its ability to understand itself, and to connect Europe through its culture.

Researchers and cultural heritage institutions should publish use cases of their reuse of digital cultural heritage.

Next steps

The European Commission is organising dialogue meetings between DG CONNECT, DG Research & Innovation, Members States, Europeana (representing cultural heritage institutions), and Researchers to improve the coordination of policy and programmes for use of digital cultural heritage by Researchers.

Additionally, DG CONNECT is asked to set new concrete priorities and targets for digitisation, using interoperability standards for permanent access and preservation of Europe’s cultural heritage.