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From Concept to Reality: The Genesis of the d-KISTI Model

Hea Lim Rhee, Principal Researcher, from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KISTI), has written a blog on her experiences of designing d-KISTI – a lifecycle model which draws on the DCC’s Digital Curation Lifecycle Model

Hea Lim Rhee | 29 August 2023

You’ve likely heard the term “digital curation” being used in a whole range of different contexts, from your local library to your favorite streaming service. But what does it really mean, and why is it so crucial?

As a leading figure in Korea’s digital curation field, I found that I was frequently being asked these sorts of questions. In fact, it was this general sense of confusion about the term that motivated me to create a new digital curation model, drawing upon my experiences within KISTI, the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information, to design a lifecycle model that is simple and intuitive, even if you’re not an expert in the field. The resulting journey was long, challenging, but incredibly rewarding. It’s my great privilege to share it now with you.

My Digital Curation Odyssey

I really began to focus on specifically digital curation during my Ph.D. in the US. I applied much of what I learned through this to the numerous projects I then took on when I returned to Korea and began working at KISTI, a national, publicly-funded research institute. This practical, hands-on experience provided me with a more grounded, pragmatic level of insight into the digital curation needs of large-scale information organizations like KISTI.

Throughout my career, I have researched, worked in, and engaged in digital curation. Indeed, in our modern age, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t engaged in digital curation, even if they’re not aware of it! Whenever you sort through selfies, uploading the best photos to the cloud and deleting the rest, you’re engaging in your very own digital curation lifecycle.

It was this awareness that digital curation is foundational to modern society, alongside my diverse professional and academic experiences, that prompted me to devise my own digital curation lifecycle model: the d-KISTI Model (or, more officially, the d-KISTI Digital Curation Lifecycle Model).

Changing the Game with the d-KISTI Model

Despite having committed many years of my life to studying it, I too struggled to fully grasp what is meant by the term “digital curation.” It’s a phrase that resists definition because it’s both broad and abstract. How do we conceptualize “curation” in a digital space? How and why is this different from more conventional curation practices? This awareness prompted me to develop a new model with a very specific goal: to make digital curation both easier to understand and more accessible to people with all levels of education and experience in the field.

A visual model can be a powerful tool for understanding complex concepts. The DCC Model, which was developed by the UK’s Digital Curation Centre, is a great example of this. The digital curation landscape has, however, changed drastically since 2008, when the DCC Model was first introduced. I realized that we needed a new model to more accurately reflect more contemporary digital curation practices.

So off I went, on my quest for a more modern digital curation lifecycle model, which ultimately led me to the d-KISTI Model. In contrast to models designed for specific disciplines or content types, I specifically engineered the d-KISTI Model to be relevant to any and all organizations handling digital objects such as data, files, and images. It provides users in all disciplines with a clear breakdown of the actions and processes required for best-practice digital curation, all of which help organizations to work more effectively and efficiently.

The d-KISTI Digital Curation Lifecycle Model stands apart from preexisting digital curation lifecycle models in its focus on the “curation” part of its title. Though it may sound counterintuitive, many digital curation lifecycle models place much more weight on preservation than curation, which is something I sought to address in my new model. It provides a more balanced prioritization of the different curatorial actions involved in the digital curation lifecycle, and introduces new actions and relationships not included in previous models like the DCC Model.

I hope that the d-KISTI Model is able to contribute globally to both the research and practice of digital curation. It will help both private and public organizations to improve their digital curation practices, and guide future research in the field. I’d love for it to ultimately influence the development of new digital curation lifecycle models in the future.

Taking the d-KISTI Model from Idea to Impact

The d-KISTI Model was developed through an iterative rather than linear approach. In practicality, we can never get things perfect the first time around, and an iterative process allows us to learn from earlier drafts. For the sake of simplicity, though, I’ve presented the journey from its inception to publication as a more linear process below. Know that many trials and errors were involved in each of these steps!

Step 1: Laying out the puzzle pieces

Much as with any and all academic endeavors, the d-KISTI model began with extensive research. To be specific, I examined three curation lifecycle models and fifty-four data or information lifecycle models, with the DCC Model becoming a core point of reference for me.

Alongside this more academic research, I also took a deep dive into KISTI’s digital curation practices to maintain my more practical focus. This involved reading a lot of documents, interviewing staff, and observing the day-to-day digital curation practices within the organization.

Curation Lifecycle Model.jpg

Figure 1. DCC Curation Lifecycle Model

Step 2: Putting the pieces together

Throughout my entire process, I made sure to consistently analyze and organize all the data I was collecting and creating using NVivo12. Ironically, this became its own process of digital curation, again just affirming how omnipresent this practice is! This cyclical process of creating, analyzing, and reviewing produced several iterative drafts of the model, each of which improved upon its predecessors.

Step 3: Asking for help

If I could share one piece of wisdom, it would be that no good piece of academic work is a solo endeavor. The process of peer review is baked into our publishing model, and should also be part of our creation model. The process of refining the d-KISTI model was fundamentally collaborative, with me seeking advice from curation experts. About 70 researchers and practitioners enriched the d-KISTI model by providing feedback via email, in one-to-one meetings, and in response to presentations at both domestic and international conferences. Among these was the DCC, which became a key collaborator throughout my process, as the DCC model was so foundational to my work. I consulted with DCC staff, and even invited two DCC members to take part in the KISTI-DCC workshop in Korea in 2019. In 2021, after a collaborative effort spanning two-and-a-half-years, the d-KISTI model was finally completed and presented.

Step 4: Sharing the d-KISTI model with the world

Creating the d-KISTI Model was just the beginning. My greatest ambition is to raise the visibility and impact of the model by presenting and sharing in as many fields, spaces and nations as possible. This began with a paper on the model published in the Journal of Librarianship and Information Science in 2022. Even at this late stage, the comments provided by the journal’s peer reviewers also helped to shape the model’s development. This step is by no means over. I now hope to raise the d-KISTI model’s profile by giving lectures and presentations on it. This will not only allow a much broader prospective user base to access and benefit from it, but also enable me to engage in the sorts of rigorous, in-depth discussions that will facilitate the model’s further development and refinement.

Each of these four steps was and remains equally crucial in making the d-KISTI model what it is today. Just as much as I’m pleased to see that this collective and iterative endeavor has contributed significantly to the academic field of digital curation, I’m also very keen to underscore the importance of collaborative knowledge construction. The d-KISTI Model is a testament to this process, and I look forward to seeing how it continues to impact the world of digital curation in the future.

Inside the d-KISTI Model

Having explored the background behind it, let’s now take a look at the d-KISTI model itself. In essence, it represents the actions required for efficient and systematic digital curation at all stages of the digital curation process, and their relationships to one another. These actions fall into three categories: full lifecycle actions, sequential actions, and occasional actions.

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Figure 2. d-KISTI Digital Curation Lifecycle Model

  • Full Lifecycle Actions: Put simply, these must be conducted consistently throughout the entire lifecycle of data, and are represented in the model by the five concentric blue ovals.
  • Sequential Actions: These are actions that have to be conducted in a specific order during the data’s lifecycle, and are represented by the green block arrows at the center of those concentric circles.
  • Occasional Actions: Not every data lifecycle will always involve these actions. They’re only taken under specific conditions and are represented by rectangles connected to the sequential actions by dotted line arrows.

Through these very comprehensive actions, the d-KISTI model provides a framework for digital curation, emphasizing the need to recognize their interconnections to facilitate a greater understanding and application of digital curation practices.

The Road Goes Ever On and On

This project was a long one, and not without its setbacks. As so many academics have likely also encountered, I found myself asking whether I’d ever finish it so many times over the years. I’m enormously lucky to be surrounded by some wonderful people, who were consistently there to encourage and assist me whenever I thought about giving up. Even as I pen this blog, it’s clear that the d-KISTI model’s journey is far from over. In fact, I plan to continue updating it to keep pace with the ever-evolving landscape of digital curation.

To that end, I warmly welcome feedback on both my model and article from other experts in the field. More broadly, I hope to encourage everyone reading this article to join me in shaping the future of digital curation. If you’re looking for a good entry point, I’d very humbly recommend my own article, which is available in full here.

If you have any thoughts or feedback after reading it, please do drop me an email directly at Your contribution will help to ensure the continuous evolution and enhancement of the field of digital curation.

My Bio

Hea Lim Rhee has been a principal researcher at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI) since 2011. In 2020, she published a primer on digital curation in Korea, titled Digital Curation: Guideline and Checklist (ISBN: 978-89-294-1167-1), alongside several journal articles on digital curation in both Korean and international journals. Having taught digital and content curation for over 10 years at multiple international universities and Korean government agencies, she also served as a co-chair at two RDA working groups. She is also the recipient of the LRRT Jesse H. Shera Award for the Support of Dissertation Research, which the American Library Association gives to just one doctoral student per year.


Figure 1: Digital Curation Centre [2008],

Figure 2: Source: Rhee, H. L. (2022), p. 9, Figure 4.