PhD profile: Devan Donaldson

Devan Donaldson

Devan Donaldson; developing instruments to assess digital archives.

Even in high school Devan Donaldson knew that he was headed to graduate school and a PhD. At the time, he didn’t know what subject he would study, but a doctorate has been his goal from a very early age. His ultimate career choice evolved naturally over time.

Devan majored in history at the College of William and Mary and went on to earn a master’s in library science at the University of North Carolina. He then entered the doctoral program at the University of Michigan School of Information, where he has built upon the foundation of his previous degrees by conducting research in digital preservation, digital curation, preservation management, preservation repositories, and the trustworthiness of curated data.

The last two subjects form the basis of his doctoral dissertation. Over the summer of 2013, he worked with the Washington State Digital Archives, studying how people assess the trustworthiness of documents in archival repositories. His goal is to develop instruments that can be used to measure the trustworthiness of digital documents.

“Digital archivists assume that trust in a digital repository translates into trust in the documents retrieved from that repository,” he says. “But how do we actually know unless we understand how end-users think about trustworthiness in the context of their specific information tasks?” Once his instruments are developed, he hopes that digital repositories will use them to assess trustworthiness.

During his academic career, Devan has accumulated several awards and honors, including induction into the Edward Alexander Bouchet Graduate Honor Society in 2012. This society recognizes outstanding scholarly achievement and promotes diversity and excellence in doctoral education. He is the first UMSI student to receive this honor.

He is a Rackham Merit Fellow and a Gates Millennium Scholar and has served as vice president of the Students of Color of Rackham (SCOR). He was a member of the Rackham Graduate School Executive Board (2011-2012) and in 2012 was invited by the Provost to serve on the search committee for the University Librarian position.

Recently, he presented a conference paper based on the research design for his dissertation at the 10th International Conference on the Preservation of Digital Objects (iPres 2013) in Lisbon, Portugal in September, 2013. A paper which he co-authored with his adviser Paul Conway has been accepted for publication in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (JASIST).

With his doctorate in view, Devan is currently interviewing at schools of library and information science with the aim of achieving the goal he set long ago: a university faculty position.

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