[ESIP-all] BESSIG meeting Wed, May 28, 3:30 - 5:00, Gondolier

Anne Wilson via ESIP-all esip-all at lists.esipfed.org
Fri May 23 12:39:52 EDT 2014


The next meeting of the Boulder Earth and Space Science Informatics 
Group is next Wednesday.  Speaker and topic information are below.  If 
you're in Boulder on Wednesday, please join us!

(Please note that we have a new venue.  Complete details are available 
at the web site.)

Who's Afraid of File Format Obsolescence?
Evaluating File Format Endangerment Levels and Factors for the Creation 
of a File Format Endangerment Index

Heather Ryan, University of Denver Library and Information Science

Much digital preservation research has been built on the assumption that 
file format obsolescence poses a great risk to the continued access of 
digital content. In an endeavor to address this risk, a number of 
researchers created lists of factors that could be used to assess risks 
associated with digital file formats. My research examines these 
assumptions about file format obsolescence and file format evaluation 
factors with the aim of creating a simplified file format endangerment 

This study examines file format risk under the new lens of 'file format 
endangerment,' or the possibility that information stored in a 
particular file format will not be interpretable or renderable in human 
accessible means within a certain timeframe. Using the Delphi method in 
two separate studies, this exploratory research collected expert opinion 
on file format endangerment levels of 50 test file formats; and 
collected expert opinion on relevance of 28 factors as causal indicators 
of file format endangerment.

Experts expressed the belief that generally, digital information encoded 
in the rated file formats will be accessible for 20 years or more. This 
indicates that file format experts believe that there is not a great 
deal of short-term risk associated with encoding information in the 
rated file formats, though this does not preclude continued engagement 
with preservation activities for these and other file formats. 
Furthermore, the findings show that only three of the dozens of file 
format evaluation factors discussed in the literature exceeded an 
emergent threshold level as causal indicators of file format 
endangerment: 'Rendering Software Available,' 'Specifications 
Available,' and 'Community/3rd Party Support.'  Consequently, these 
factors are ideal candidates for use in a simple file format 
endangerment index that can be used to assess endangerment levels of any 
file format.

The findings of this study have implications for further exploration of 
file format endangerment in specific digital information creation 
domains. In particular, applying this model to file formats created by 
and used in the Earth and Space Science communities will both strengthen 
the model and will produce valuable insight into format-centric Earth 
and Space Science data creation and management practices. This insight 
can then be applied to risk assessment and subsequent actions to support 
continued access to datasets over time.

Complete information is available at 

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