Digitisation Workflows for Research

Ms Ingrid Mason1, Mrs Sarah Nisbet2

1AARNet, Yarralumla, Canberra, Australia, ingrid.mason@aarnet.edu.au

2eResearch South Australia, Adelaide, Australia, sarah.nisbet@ersa.edu.au



Digitisation, the scanning of physical material, is employed in research institutions (for research) using different technologies and techniques (e.g. magnetic resonance imaging or DNA barcoding) to produce research objects in a range of digital outputs (e.g. XML or MPEG4) and dimensions (e.g. 2D-4D).  Direct and indirect working relationships operate between the researcher (and the research activity) and the digitisation service and the material holder.   There are institutional digitisation services provided via university faculty and library and services provided for the university by third parties.  The material to be digitised may be owned and held by the university, or on loan, or owned or in the custody of a third party.  Depending in the researcher’s requirements for digitised material the workflows for digitisation can range from self-help and booking internal access to scanning technologies or to complex and multi-party arrangements.


This presentation will summarise a case study – the digitisation workflows for research arising from NCRIS funded Research Data Services project: Cultures and Community led by eResearch South Australia in partnership with Griffith University (the Prosecution Project lead by Prof Mark Finnane), Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office, Queensland State Archives, and VicNode.  The case study will cover:

  1. Digitisation workflows for research, where the material to be digitised is in the custody of multiple third parties (cultural institutions), is digitised “in-house” within those cultural institutions, and the digital output (the research object) is conveyed to the research institution.
  • The practical challenges that arise to arrange and convey digitised material from multiple cultural institutions to the research institutions, using portable media (external hard-drive), web download (file transfer protocol), and CloudStor (file sender service).
  • The lessons learned on the types of tools and services (bridging research infrastructure) that can be leveraged, when data providers and digitisation services are provided by third parties working outside of the researcher sector.
  • The benefits of establishing a national framework that documents digitisation workflows and guidance information for research, ranging from basic internal institutional processes to multi-party interests and inter-institutional collaboration, in particular for research in the humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS).


Digitisation is a core feature of Australia’s cultural institutions collection access work programmes and has been for over two decades. Major drivers for digitisation in cultural institutions are: preservation, research, education, publication, and exhibition.  Prioritisation of work is a careful balance of institutional and community interests.  By example, there is a priority for digitisation where there is impact:

  • High public demand for access
  • Risk to the viability material (through physical decline)
  • Culturally significant material
  • Research and educational value

Impact considerations include:

  • Strategic alignment
  • Usage level
  • Collection integrity
  • Scholarship support
  • Community service

Institutional collection access services provided to community can and do coincidentally also serve scholarly access needs to digital cultural collections.  Where scholarly needs are discrete however, i.e. focused on particular research and education agenda and programme requirements, access to collection (and digitisation requests) needs to be negotiated and planned in partnership with collection custodians in cultural institutions.

Digitisation of Australia’s cultural collection material serves the interests of HASS researchers, through collaboration and partnering with the cultural sector.  Examples of content aggregation (of digitised cultural heritage and research collection material as an archive) with discovery services that have arisen to support HASS research directly or indirectly are:

  • AustLii – maintained by UTS and UNSW Faculties of Law [1]
  • AustLit – maintained by University of Queensland with collaboration partners [2]
  • Historical and Colonial Census Data Archive – maintained by the Australian Data Archive, Australian National University [3]
  • Australian Policy Online – maintained by Swinburne University [4]
  • Founders and Survivors – maintained by University of Melbourne with collaboration partners [5]
  • PARADISEC – maintained by University of Sydney, University of Melbourne and the Australian National University [6]
  • Prosecution Project – maintained by Griffith University [7]
  • Trove – maintained by the National Library of Australia [8]


  1. About AustLii. Available from: http://www.austlii.edu.au/austlii/, accessed 20 June 2017
  2. About AustLit. Available from: https://www.austlit.edu.au/austlit/page/5961886, accessed 20 June 2017
  3. About Historical and Colonial Census Data Archive. Available from: https://www.ada.edu.au/historical/about, accessed 20 June 2017
  4. About APO. Available from: http://apo.org.au/about, accessed 20 June 2017
  5. About the Project. Available from: http://foundersandsurvivors.org/project, accessed 20 June 2017
  6. About Us. Available from: http://www.paradisec.org.au/about-us/, accessed 20 June 2017
  7. About. Available from: https://prosecutionproject.griffith.edu.au/about, accessed 20 June 2017
  8. About Trove. Available from: http://trove.nla.gov.au/general/about, accessed 20 June 2017


Ingrid Mason, Deployment Strategist with AARNet, provides support for engagement and the uptake of the national research and education network (NREN) and services with AARNet members across the research, cultural and collections sectors. Ingrid has worked on several NCRIS programs: Australian National Data Service, National eResearch Collaborative Tools and Resources, and Research Data Services. http://orcid.org/0000-0002-0658-6095

Sarah Nisbet is eRSA’s Marketing and Communications Manager. Sarah began her career delivering communications solutions in the health care sector where she mastered the art of working across institutions, departments and organisational silos.  She specialises in delivering creative and innovative marketing and communication solutions and has managed local and national projects for eRSA, NeCTAR, NeAT, AeRO and the State Government of South Australia.

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