|Weekly News Digest
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'Yes We Scan' Petition Sent to President
Carl Malamud (Public Resources.Org) and John Podesta (Center for American Progress) have launched a petition drive calling upon the federal government to create a Federal Scanning Commission. Quoting from the petition organizers’ Letter to the President, “To date, thinking about digitization has been piecemeal. Individual agencies have thought about the problem in terms of prototypes and pilots. Only the White House can bring these efforts together under one roof and begin to think in terms of a national digitization strategy for our federal government.”
The goal is to obtain 25,000 signatures by Jan. 20, 2012. Sign the White House online petition here (free registration for whitehouse.gov account required).
Over the last year, a number of efforts have sprung up to create comprehensive digital libraries. The European Union has created Europeana with a goal to “make a large part of the world's cultural heritage available to a large part of the world's population.” In the U.S., efforts have included Google Books, the HathiTrust, the Internet Archive, and the Digital Public Library of America, a planning initiative with a goal of “creating a large-scale digital public library that will make the cultural and scientific record available to all.”
No matter what the eventual shape of these efforts, the petitioners know that the holdings of the U.S. government will play a crucial role, a central part of our public domain. While there have been many well-intentioned efforts to digitize federal holdings, those efforts have been preliminary and tentative. Our national cultural and scientific organizations have never worked together to develop a coherent digitization strategy to scan at scale
The letter makes the following suggestion:
One way to begin is to convene governmental and non-governmental experts, perhaps in the form of a Presidential Commission, Interagency Task Force, or other mechanism. The “Federal Scanning Commission” would be tasked to answer 6 questions and deliver a report within a year:
- What are the holdings of our national institutions? How many images, documents, videos, and other objects are there?
- How long would it take to digitize these materials?
- How much would it cost given current technology? Is there directed research or are there economies of scale that would bring those costs down?
- What is the strategy for digital preservation of these materials? How will we avoid digital obsolescence?
- What is the strategy for identifying restrictions on use of the material? How does one identify and safeguard materials that have copyright restrictions, contain personally identifiable information, or contain classified materials?
- What are the economic and non-economic benefits of such an effort?
- What are the cost savings to government?
- What are the economic benefits? Would this effort enable industries that build on top of scientific and technical information, spur innovation in the legal marketplace, or enable our creative industries to create more effectively?
- What are the noneconomic benefits? Will such an effort lead to better STEM and other educational efforts? Will it promote a more informed citizenry and better access to justice?
Source: Yes We Scan
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