2012 Emmett Leahy Award Winner, Dr. David Giaretta


David Giaretta became the Director of the Alliance for Permanent Access in July 2010. He graduated from Oxford University in Physics and went on to do a doctorate in Theoretical Physics.  In 2003 he was awarded an MBE for services to Space Science.

He has worked on a number of astronomical satellites, being UK resident astronomer for IUE and the calibration lead in the USA on the Faint Object Camera of the Hubble Space Telescope. He has extensive experience in planning, developing and running scientific archives and providing and managing a variety of services to large numbers of users.

Dr Giaretta has published many scientific papers in refereed journals and given presentations at numerous international conferences, scientific as well as technical. In addition he has broad experience in e-Science. He is a member of the programme committee of the PV series of conferences which focuses on preservation and adding value to scientific and technical data and several other conference series.
As chair of the panel which produced the OAIS Reference Model (ISO 14721), ‘now adopted as the “de facto” standard for building digital archives’[1], he made fundamental contributions to OAIS and continues to contribute to the follow-on standards. Dr Giaretta leads the group which produced the ISO standard for audit and certification of digital repositories, and setting up the certification organisations.

Dr Giaretta was Associate Director for Development of the UK Digital Curation Centre. He then led a number of EU projects, closely linked to the APA, focussed on digital preservation. These included CASPAR which implemented much of the first APA research plan, addressing fundamental issues of digital preservation, producing infrastructure components and tools for preservation of all types of digitally encoded information together with evidence of their effectiveness.  PARSE.Insight identified users’ views on the main threats to, and their attitudes towards, preservation. APARSEN brings together commercial and public organisations across Europe to come to a common vision for research in digital preservation. APARSEN will help the APA become a global centre of excellence in digital preservation. The SCIDIP-ES project began in September 2011 and will put in place key infrastructure components, based on those prototyped by CASPAR, which will help organisations be more trustworthy as preservers of digitally encoded information

Dr. Giaretta's

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Presentation of the Leahy Award to David Giaretta


Presented by Kenneth Thibodeau, Chair of the Emmett Leahy Award Committee


The Emmett Leahy Award for 2012 was awarded to Dr. David Giaretta. The primary criterion for the Leahy award is impact. This year’s winner has had an impact on records and information management which is both fundamental from an intellectual perspective and worldwide from a practical perspective. David Giaretta is the Director of the Alliance for Permanent Access (APA). The Alliance is an organization devoted to developing a shared vision and framework for a sustainable organizational infrastructure for permanent access to scientific information. Leadership of a collaboration: that has been the signature of David’s career for many years. He has been a leader, in many cases the initiator, of several important collaborations in information management, including CASPAR (Cultural, Artistic and Scientific knowledge for Preservation, Access and Retrieval), PARSE.Insight (Permanent Access to the Records of Science in Europe), SCIDIP-ES (SCIence Data Infrastructure for Preservation – Earth Science), and the DCC (Digital Curation Centre).

Under his leadership, these collaborations have had several significant results. For example, CASPAR prototyped infrastructure components for digital preservation, developed toolkits for Representation Information, Authenticity, Digital Rights, etc. and performed accelerated lifetime tests of preservation components, validating the approach using data from science, cultural heritage and performing arts. The SCIDIP-ES collaboration is building on this work by moving the CASPAR prototypes into scalable, robust e-infrastructure components to support digital preservation of all types of digital objects. This technical effort is directly under Dr. Giaretta’s leadership.

 Undoubtedly, his greatest impact has been in the development of the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) Reference Model and related standards. He chaired the panel established by the Consultative Committee on Space Data Systems to develop the OAIS standard. While its roots are in the space science community, under Giaretta’s leadership, this effort was international and multidisciplinary, incorporating substantive inputs from the records management, archives, libraries, and other professions in the development of the model.

OAIS has not only become an ISO standard.  It has also provided a common conceptual framework and vocabulary for research and development efforts in many disciplines concerned with survival of digital information. It has been the foundation of digital preservation programs in archives, libraries and data centers around the world. It has also been the basis for the development of software products for digital preservation. The significance of the OAIS model is quite evident in the many follow-up activities it has spawned. These include the ISO standards for the producer-archive interface and for audit and certification of trusted repositories. Dr. Giaretta has been and is chair of the working group responsible for the last standard, and made substantive contributions to the former. Other developments spurred by the OAIS model include:


  • a collaboration between the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the U.S. and Ghent University in Belgium to define access interfaces for OAIS implementations using the Open Archive Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) and the NISO OpenURL Framework for Context-Sensitive Services (OpenURL Standard);


  • the development by Motion Pictures Expert Group (MPEG) of a standard for Preservation Description Information for multimedia; and


  • a collaboration of several universities in the U.S. on a method for exchange of enriched Archival Information Packages between repositories implementing the standard.


In his work, David Giaretta has shown that not only is he a very adept leader of collaborations; he is a good collaborator, one who inevitably encourages and acknowledges the contributions of other individuals in projects he leads.


David Giaretta's Lecture at the 2012 Leahy Award Ceremony


Audience at the 2012 Leahy Award Ceremony, including award winners, Guercio and Baron, front and center