Migration to Intermediate XML for Electronic Data (MIXED)
Researchers in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences produce a lot of data. Usually, when they publish their results in journals, the underlying results are not disclosed. If they want to refer to their datasets, they mostly have no other means than an address where to ask for enquiries. It would be much better if researchers could get at their data with a few mouse clicks. What they need is a way of archiving that data in which the material is referable and stays accessible for a long time. This calls for the concept of digital preservation. Put otherwise: how can we ensure that archived materials survive the race of ever new versions of the software with which they are created? MIXED is a project to convert data that is now residing in databases and spreadsheets into formats that are future-proof.
MIXED is in the process of defining an archival format for databases and spreadsheets in XML. At the same time, MIXED is developing software to convert to and from this archival format. This software is taking the shape of a set of modules that automatically convert tabular data from databases and spreadsheets into archival format and vice versa. We consider modules for Excel, Oracle, SQL Server, and Access, as a minimum set. The gain of this approach is: as time passes, it is no longer needed to subject the archival data to the process of migration to newer versions of vendor specific software. Only new software modules will be needed. This approach is a smart form of the migration strategy, and could be extended to all kinds of data. The MIXED archival format will in fact be an umbrella, under which it gathers the best (existing) standards for specific kinds of data.
MIXED is an internal DANS project. The archival format will be fixed by information experts at DANS, who are in contact with other groups working towards digital preservation, and with reference to relevant (international) standards. After the stage of defining the concepts, a software developing stage has started, in which the import and export modules are being engineered, together with a framework that enables data producers and archive personnel to put the modules to work. One of the intended archives where the software should work as a preservation component, is the EASY archive, product of another DANS project.