What will remain of VerbaAlpina?


Keywords: data sustainability , digital sustainability , digital longevity , FAIR principles , FAIR , online publishing , research data management , RDM

  1. Referenz auf den gesamten Beitrag:
    Thomas Krefeld & Stephan Lücke (2023): What will remain of VerbaAlpina?, Version 1 (24.10.2023, 10:05). In: Korpus im Text, Serie A, 111124, url: https://www.kit.gwi.uni-muenchen.de/?p=111124&v=1
    Diese URL enthält einen Hinweis auf die unveränderliche Version (…v=nn)
  2. Referenz auf einen Abschnitt oder Nachweis eines Zitats: https://www.kit.gwi.uni-muenchen.de/?p=111124&v=1#p:1
    Diese URL enthält einen Hinweis auf einen spezifischen Abschnitt (…p:1). In diesem Fall ist sie mit dem ersten Absatz verknüpft. Eine vollständige Referenz kann jeweils über die Ziffern in den grauen Quadraten am rechten Rand des Satzspiegels abgegriffen werden.

«Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle»
(Jacques Prévert)

1. Preliminaries of Humanities

  • academic research in public institutions (universities, Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, academies of sciences)
  • largely financed by public funds (e.g. DFG)
  • carried out in temporary projects (from birth to death)
  • Verba Alpina = protypical example (funded by the DFG for 9 years)
what remains are publications, but publishing has changed radically

2. The legacy of VerbaAlpina

2.1. A "cosmos"

  • 9 years of data collection, data analysis, reflection, documentation, programming
  • legacy (almost) totally digital, no paper
  • Physical amount:
    • structured data in  database (latest VA-DB-Version: 2,5 GB; 24 project DBs, including 16 version DBs ["VA_"], 37 partner DBs ["PVA_"]),
    • 413 GB internal documents on fileserver (over 500.000 files!),
    • 44,2 GB  (another 145.069) files on webserver (including media files, e.g. fotos of concepts)
  • What kind of data was created?
    • language data collection,
    • analytic texts/presentations
    • development of manifold online tools (partially for internal use: Transcription tool, typecasting tool; external: crowdsourcing tool, online map, methodology, LexiconAlpinum ...)
    • internal documents (e.g. protocols of weekly meetings, documenting project progress and explaining decisions --> important)
  • Existence of numerous and manifold explicit and implicit connections between single elements of whole data stock ⇒ existence of whole "cosmos"

2.2. Issue stability

  • "cosmos" ideally should remain stable in state at end of project
  • Special case webportal: full functionality only in existing technical environment (File-, database- and webservers)
  • In general: Webportal should (also) remain stable and accessible because of existing interlinkage from third party
  • constant technical degrading process inevitable (updates of surrounding software frameworks require updating of VerbaAlpina code; external resources changed or vanished [e.g. recently: Stamen map tiles]; vanishing links)
  • DOI no real solution as it still requires existence of functioning website
  • container solutions (e.g. Docker) also *no* solution (mainly because of external dependencies, but also for security reasons)
  • pace and severeness of degrading process not predictable (ITG will always try to provide quick fixes if resources available)
  • For now, technical environment will be maintained and kept alive by ITG
  • Measures taken at end of project in order to reduce effort:
    • Partial deactivation of Crowdsourcing Tool and of
    • social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter/X, Instagram)
    • Creation of last VerbaAlpina version (23/2). System possibly put to read only mode

2.3. Measures taken

  • Problem: Possible disappearence of institution responsible for hosting of data (= currently ITG - What happens if ITG vanishes?)
  • Maintenance and keeping alive costs MONEY. Not provided by third party funding.
  • Solution: transfer of responsibility to another institution - But: Which? Available resources for hosting and maintenance indispensable. Very important: TRUST mainly regarding stability/longevity!
  • Options: Zenodo, Clariah-DE, NFDI? ... Hard to get overview, no compulsory rules, no standardized procedures
  • Our choice (a very good one!): University library - BUT: Library can not fully substitute ITG (regarding hosting of current system)
  • Therefore: Transfer of core data to repository at library ("UB Discover"). "Static" format that requires no or minimal maintenance (no "living" components, e.g. functioning online map)
  • What are "core" data? Our choice:
    • structured language data ⇒ University library
    • semistrucured discursive elements (mainly articles in methodology and LexiconAlpinum; additionaly selected articles published on webserver) ⇒ University library
    • Program code ⇒ github
  • Additionally: detailed documentation and description of data, methods and processes as well as functionality of developped website/tools/code
  • Hope: future developers will be able to rebuild and maybe further develop tools and/or features of VerbaAlpina web developments.

Overview over selected "items" and their respective persistence perspective:

  persistence perspective
  • structured data (relational; MySQL)
        • retrodigitized
        • shared by partner projects
        • supplemented by crowd sourcing
  • precarious; dependent on
        • web browsers
        • external web services (e.g. stamen)
problematic: external links
total change of publishing: what is published is not automatically persistent anymore

⇒ a schematic sketch of this change in chap. 2, 3 and a strategic proposition in chap. 4

3. Publishing of public research in Gutenberg Galaxy

  • format of traditional publication: printed books, artikels
  • publishers were needed for technical reasons (production, distribution) 


Research publishing is not part of the scientific activity
Publishers transform research results in private commercial goods (books)
Public Libraries • few
• give access to reading
• no access to data reuse

4. New horizon of publishing in www

  • publishers are no longer needed ⇒ independence of research publishing from private business (see Krefeld 2023b)
  • new formats of publication (platforms, not only results also work in progress) 
  • new licences (CC BY-SA instead of ©) 
  • new solutions for research data management (already working, see VerbaAlpina and LMU Library; cf. Kümmet u.a. 2018a, Krefeld 2022e)
      • but: outcome of a special and longlasting collaboration, also in other projects (cf. fdm)

5. Purpose beyond VerbaAlpina: a mutual commitment by default

  • a sort of an inheritance contract ensuring that the results of publicly funded research are available to the scientific community even after the death of the project
          • languages - and dialects - belong to the intangible cultural heritage
          • as well the research traditions in which they are documented (e.g. lexicography, dialect atlases)
  funding web publishing permenant FAIR access
funding   x x
web publishing x   x
permanent FAIR access x x  
  • funding = base of web publishing and permanent FAIR accessibility
  • web publishing = condition of funding and permanent FAIR accessibility
  • permanent FAIR accessibility = justification of funding and web publishing 

6. A possible initiative...

... for all of us who agree with the outlined commitment

  • the organisers will write an open letter to be sent to the national funding bodies and to the ERC
  • signed by the participants of our meeting who agree (and forewarded to other collegues?)


  • fdm = fdm: Forschungsdatenmanagement Bayern. eHumanities - interdisziplinär, LMU & FAU (Link).
  • Krefeld 2022e = Krefeld, Thomas (2022): Wissenschaftskommunikation im Web, in: Methodologie, VerbaAlpina-de 23/1 (Link).
  • Krefeld 2023b = Krefeld, Thomas (2023): ‘Publikation’ geht in Revision, in: Korpus im Text, Serie A, 104645, München, LMU (Link).
  • Kümmet u.a. 2018a = Kümmet, Sonja / Lücke, Stephan / Schulz, Julian / Zacherl, Florian (2018): Forschungsdatenmanagement, in: Methodologie, VerbaAlpina-de 18/2 (Link).
  • Lücke/Zacherl 2022 = Lücke, Stephan / Zacherl, Florian (2022): API, in: Methodologie, VerbaAlpina-de 23/1 (Link).
  • Verba Alpina = Krefeld, Thomas / Lücke, Stephan (2014-): VerbaAlpina. Der alpine Kulturraum im Spiegel seiner Mehrsprachigkeit, München (Link).

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