SILS’ new online PSM degree will help meet rapidly expanding needs for digital content management

December 12, 2016

SILS is moving forward with the development of a new Professional Science Master’s (PSM) degree program, with hopes of launching in 2017. The PSM in Digital Curation–the first of its kind in the United States–will be offered completely online and will help meet the rapidly expanding educational and organizational needs created by the so-called data deluge of the 21st century.

“It’s focused on curating and stewarding digital content,” said SILS Alumni Distinguished Professor Helen Tibbo, the PSM’s director. “We’ve designed it to be useful for people working in libraries, archives, and museums–our usual audience–but we equally expect to see people working in RTP [Research Triangle Park] and similar places where companies are dealing with large amounts of digital information.”

A feasibility study conducted in preparation for the degree underscored “a shortage of digitally literate professionals and increasing demand from employers seeking professionals to manage digital collections in libraries, museums, media organizations, public offices, research institutions, hospitals, law firms, and private companies.” The number of educational initiatives in digital curation remains low, particularly those geared toward novices and midcareer professionals.

“Every organization everywhere in the world needs to manage its digital content, and manage it in such a way that it remains authentic and reusable over time,” Tibbo said. “This goes beyond the IT perspective, where you’re looking at capacity and storage. This focuses on the content itself, how to make it accessible in the future, what file formats to choose, how it can be ingested into your repository, what metadata can be added so you can find the information you need again. These are all archival principles and we have developed workflows to make the process successful. Organizations often don’t think this way, though, so this is going to meet a huge need.”

The PSM will be a 30-credit hour degree program providing the core skills, knowledge, and competencies for managing, preserving, and adding value to the growing body of society’s digital assets.

SILS expects many of the students to be working professionals who will pursue the degree on a part-time basis, and since the program is completely online, students may literally be coming from anywhere in the world.


Why is Carolina the ideal place for the country’s 1st Professional Science Master’s Degree in Digital Curation? Our faculty are world-renowned experts and pioneers in the areas of digital preservation, data curation, archival administration, digital forensics, and electronic records management. SILS and UNC have long-standing reputations for excellence and innovation in educational programming, scholarly research, and practical applications of digital content stewardship. Such preeminence cannot be precisely quantified, but numbers from some recent events and projects certainly reinforce the standing. iPRES2015, the 12th International Conference on Digital Preservation held in Chapel Hill, drew 327 participants from 22 countries. Just six months after its launch in March, the Research Data Management and Sharing (RDMS) Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) had attracted nearly 9,000 visitors and engaged over 2,225 learners; 510 people had completed the entire course and 276 had paid to receive a statement of accomplishment; and the course had received a 4.5 out of 5 stars rating. Since its introduction in 2009, the annual DigCCurr Professional Institute–which fosters skills, knowledge, and community among professionals responsible for the curation of digital materials–has drawn 249 participants from 9 countries and 33 states. BitCurator, BitCurator Access, and BitCurator NLP have been made possible by 4 major grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The most recent review by U.S. News & World Report of library and information studies programs ranked SILS #1 in Archives and Preservation and #1 in Digital Librarianship. In 2016, SILS presented its 1st Digital Preservation Under the Radar Award to musician Roger McGuinn.

 This story was originally published in the Fall 2016 SILS newsletter.