Jaana Pinnick

Jaana Pinnick

Last updated on 25 September 2019

Jaana Pinnick is Research Data & Digital Preservation Manager at the British Geological Survey and attended iPRES2019 with support from the DPC's Leadership Programme which is generously funded by DPC Supporters.

The full title of this New Horizons panel was 'Achieving criticality of preservation knowledge: sustaining digital preservation in the nuclear field'. Working at the British Geological Survey and its National Geoscience Data Centre to preserve earth and geoscience data, this session was a must for me! The purpose of the panel was to provide exchange of ideas for the digital preservation community at large to share thoughts and experiences on preserving records in the nuclear sector. The classified nature of its information makes it difficult to exchange data with the wider community.

I was glad to hear my fellow DPC scholarship winner Elizabeth Kata from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Jim Moye from J&A Preservation talk about the particular issues in very long-term preservation, but I was disappointed to hear that Jenny Mitcham from DPC was unable to join them. However, William Kilbride did his best Jenny Mitcham impression which was much appreciated by the audience!

Elizabeth introduced to the audience the challenges she has faced in the IAEA context. The IAEA has 171 member states and promotes peaceful use of atomic energy as well as preventing the expansion of nuclear weapons. It aims to keep its records ‘for as long as required’ - for radioactive waste this means indefinitely. Information security remains a main concern with a requirement to provide highly confidential access to records, and highly customised formats pose a challenge too. The oldest computing systems at IAEA originate from around 1965 when INIS, the international nuclear information system was introduced. IAEA moved into magnetic tapes in 2007 and it took 13 years to digitise their contents. The mainframe 3rd generation computer was decommissioned in 2015 and it took three years to migrate the 9 million records it contained.

Jenny’s presentation, delivered by William, was entitled ‘Reliable, Robust and Resilient Digital Infrastructure for Nuclear Decommissioning’. With a background in archaeology both Jenny and William are well versed in finding and interpreting the past. DPC are running a 2-year project to advice the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA) on digital preservation issues. This includes developing a preservation policy and sharing good practice. NDA want to give back to the community and hope this project will be useful to everyone else.

The mission of the NDA is to clean up UK nuclear sites safely, securely and cost effectively, and to treat and dispose of all associated waste whether radioactive or conventional. Digital preservation is particularly important to NDA because they need to retain a wealth of important information in the long term. These include staff records, records about nuclear waste packages, about geological disposal facilities for nuclear waste – all records of historic and heritage value which need to be maintained for up to 10’000 years. They also include complex digital objects such as 3D plans of the building, databases, and document management systems.

Jim Moye from J&A Preservation has over 40 years of experience in film preservation. He has recently been working to digitise scientific films from above ground nuclear tests but previously has also used his expertise in preserving the Kennedy assassination footage. His work include scanning and reanalysing of images and benchmarking the resulting vast amounts of data.

The audience and speakers had a fascinating discussion on future generations being able to understand and read our records in 10’000 years, which is longer than written language has existed. How do we enable that? Societies and signs change in much shorter time periods, so we need to look at preserving the context of our content if we are to keep our data alive. As humans we are territorial which makes it difficult to do global digital preservation. That in turn makes us custodians rather than stewards of digital archives. Even if we have data, do we have the knowledge to go with it to enable their future use? Will future generations understand why we have preserved things? Only time will tell.

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