Article Review #2: Competencies Required for Digital Curation

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The goal of Competencies Required for Digital Curation:  An Analysis of Job Advertisements by Jeonghyun Kim, Edward Warga, and William E. Moen is to analyze public job announcements in order to discover what skills are truly being sought after in the field of digital curation.  Given that this was published in 2013 using data created in 2011-2012, many of their results are still fresh enough to be relevant to today’s graduates as this is still an evolving field.  The authors note that many federal grant agencies (such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation) have begun to require the incorporation of data sharing strategies within grant proposals, thus ensuring a need for digital curation strategies and skills within those organizations seeking such funding.

As a comparison, the authors decided to contrast the actual skills being requested by those looking for digital curation professionals against those being touted in either the academic literature as those markers indicating proficiency in the field or in academic curricula.

Areas of knowledge and skills commonly being touted in academic literature could be grouped as follows:

  • Understanding Software
  • Project Planning & Management
  • Collection Definition
  • Metadata Guidance
  • Submission Review
  • Author Training

Competencies being promoted by academic curricula could be grouped into dimensions as follows:

  • Mandates, Values, Principles
  • Functions & Skills
  • Professional Disciplinary  or Institutional/Organizational Context
  • Types of Resource
  • Prerequisite Knowledge
  • Transition Point in the Information Continuum

The first observation the researchers noticed in looking at 173 actual advertisements was that there was no common set of job titles or demarcation of roles within the field of digital curation.  Job advertisements would use the terms “digital curator,” “digital manager,” “data curator,” “eScience professional,” interchangeably.  In analyzing the data, the researchers quickly learned to focus on the skill sets being requested, not the title listed in the ad.  (One notable exception however was that in 54% of the ads, the title was predicated by the word “digital.”)

The next observation was that most required or preferred a master’s degree, with 75% specifying ALA Accredited programs.  61% required some relevant work experience.

The categorization of actual skills being required were listed as follows:

  • Working in an Information Technology-Intensive Environment (50%)
  • Standards & Specifications (50%)
  • Tools & Applications (45%)
  • Project Management (42%)
  • Functional Skills for Curation (40%)
  • Personal & Interpersonal Skills (40%)
  • Research & Trends (55%)
  • Liaison & Support (49%)
  • Working Knowledge for Curation (24%)
  • Library/Archives Skills (20%)
  • Professional Development (13%)
  • Other Domain Knowledge (4%)

Expected job responsibilities could be broken down as follows:

  • Curation Activities (76%)
  • Training & Consultation (55%)
  • Initiatives – Project Management (45%)
  • Professional & Research Activities (44%)
  • Other Library Duties (44%)
  • Policy & Procedures (40%)
  • Outreach & Advocacy (35%)

The authors of the study concluded that the variability of job titles, skills, and responsibilities in the ads reflected the still-evolving nature of the field.  Since many institutions are still trying to decide what is needed to meet their own digital curation needs, it seems these employers are asking for a broad range of skills to allow them the flexibility to move people and shift responsibilities as issues/needs emerge.  Both practical and technical skills seem to be listed more highly than found in academic settings, seemingly placing institutions at odds with employers who do not place a high value on theory.

It also seemed that soft skills such as appraisal & acquisition, mixed with a background in policy & procedure help inform the curation activities while laying the groundwork for future advancement in management & administration.  I find it crucial for LIS researchers and academics to use the same skills promoted in this research when reviewing and revising their curriculum.  Only in actively reviewing the needs in the field can they be certain that they remain relevant and vital to producing qualified information professionals.



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