Catching up with past NDSA Innovation Awards Winners: Mat Kelly, PhD


Nominations are now being accepted for the
NDSA 2020 Innovation Awards.

Mat Kelly won a 2012 Innovation Award in the Future Steward category when he was a graduate student at Old Dominion University. He won the award in recognition of his work on WARCreate, a Google Chrome extension that allows users to create a Web ARChive (WARC) file from any browsable web page. Kelly is currently an assistant professor in the Information Science department at Drexel University’s College of Computing and Informatics. 


What have you been doing since receiving an NDSA Innovation Award?

I was a Master’s degree student at Old Dominion University’s Web Science and Digital Libraries (WS-DL) Research Group when I received the award. The award brought to light in the web archiving community some aspects of preservation that were being neglected due to technical difficulties and the need for more work and research on web archiving. My MS thesis partially entailed the work for which I received the NDSA Innovation Award. After receiving my MS in 2012, I continued onto my PhD with the same group and defended my PhD dissertation, pertaining to the same subject for which I received the award, in 2019. I have since taken a position as a tenure track assistant professor in the Information Science department at Drexel University’s College of Computing and Informatics. I continue to focus my research of neglected aspects of web archiving that continue to remain a difficult area to explore due to the nature of the medium.

What did receiving the NDSA award mean to you?

The award gave credence that the programmatic work I was doing was worthwhile. The focus of the tool for which I was awarded was not just to create software, but demonstrate the need for simple user interfaces with powerful, standards-based approaches to encourage individuals to be able to archive the part of the web they care about. This helped to seed further research in the area, both for myself as well as others.

What efforts/advances/ideas of the last few years have you been impressed with or admired in the field?

I am in awe at the Webrecorder project, particularly the work of Ilya Kreymer. I appreciate the efforts the organization has done to encourage personal preservation and to do so with with usable software that does not need to rely on a central endpoint or institution for web archiving. Additionally, I have also been impressed with the breadth of the research performed by the other members of the WS-DL research group under the supervision of Drs. Michael L. Nelson and Michele C. Weigle. They have managed students taking interdisciplinary approaches toward neglected but necessary areas of research beyond the computer science area under which they are housed.

What advice do you have for future stewards in the digital preservation field?

The project for which I was awarded did not have an end-goal of attaining notoriety, though it was a pleasant surprise early in my career as a graduate student. It was a passion project to fill a need for those that want to accomplish something but may not have the technical know-how. This is a common occurrence. I would encourage others to further explore the area and exercise the skills for which they have expertise to determine a niche to which they can contribute.

Is there anything else we didn’t ask that you’d like to add?

I am thankful for the NDSA for considering me for the award early in my academic career and for my research group fostering innovation and enabling the opportunity to use what was once a passion project to have greater impact than it would have originally.