Because good research needs good data

Principles for Enabling Access to Engineering Design Information Through Life – Building Curation into the Records

Matt Giess, Consultant at Glue Reply Ltd., Chris McMahon, Mansur Darlington, Steve Culley, University of Bath, Alexander Ball, DCC/UKOLN, University of Bath, Nicholas Caldwell, John Clarkson, University of Cambridge.

Published: May 2012

The ability to support products (be they artefacts or services) over extended lifecycles is to a great extent dependent upon the ability to maintain complete records of the design, manufacture and ultimately operation of such products.

This task is, in essence, one of curation, where efforts must be expended in ensuring that these records are managed in such a manner that their original content and intent are clear to subsequent users of each entity within the record.

In order to achieve this, it is essential that these records are constructed in such a manner as to adequately capture required detail and ensure these remain accessible and comprehensible to future users, many of whom would be uninvolved in its generation.

A £5 million research project, KIM, was tasked with investigating this topic. A number of key conclusions were drawn from the complementary but eclectic work conducted during the project, each of which emerged from different domains and different aspects of the design process.

In order to provide a single, coherent set of recommendations for users and developers of design representation tools, a set of principles has been established by synthesis of these conclusions. This chapter aims to convey these principles and to make clear their provenance.

Download the Principles for Enabling Access to Engineering Design Information Through Life chapter (pdf)

Key points

  • Information should be created, retained and recorded only if necessary.
  • Information should be recorded in a storable information object at a granularity appropriate for use and re-use.
  • Information should be given a unique, persistent identifier.
  • Information objects should not be duplicated where a dynamic link or explicit reference can be used instead.
  • Information objects should be tailored to achieve their intended goals.
  • Information objects should be created with potential future re-use in mind.
  • The value of an information object should be assessed throughout its life from creation to disposal.
  • Information objects and their annotations should be created systematically and represented in a way amenable to perpetual re-use.
  • Methods and procedures for information handling should systematic, unambiguous and reliable.
  • Corpora of information objects should be used as a resource for reflective learning and discovery.
  • Information management is too important to be left to arise ad hoc; it should be designed explicitly to meet the needs of the organisation.