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New Research: The value and impact of data curation and sharing

Substantial resources are being invested in the development and provision of services for the curation and long-term preservation of research data. It is a high priority area for many stakeholders, and there is strong interest in establishing the value and sustainability of these investments.

A 24 page synthesis report published today aims to summarise and reflect on the findings from a series of recent studies, conducted by Neil Beagrie of Charles Beagrie Ltd. and Prof. John Houghton of Victoria University, into the value and impact of three well established research data centres – the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS), the Archaeology Data Service (ADS), and the British Atmospheric Data Centre (BADC). It provides a summary of the key findings from new research and reflects on: the methods that can be used to collect data for such studies; the analytical methods that can be used to explore value, impacts, costs and benefits; and the lessons learnt and recommendations arising from the series of studies as a whole.

The data centre studies combined quantitative and qualitative approaches in order to quantify value in economic terms and present other, non-economic, impacts and benefits. Uniquely, the studies cover both users and depositors of data, and we believe the surveys of depositors undertaken are the first of their kind. All three studies show a similar pattern of findings, with data sharing via the data centres having a large measurable impact on research efficiency and on return on investment in the data and services. These findings are important for funders, both for making the economic case for investment in data curation and sharing and research data infrastructure, and for ensuring the sustainability of such research data centres.

The quantitative economic analysis indicates that:

  • The value to users exceeds the investment made in data sharing and curation via the centres in all three cases – with the benefits from 2.2 to 2.7 times the costs;
  • Very significant increases in work efficiency are realised by users as a result of their use of the data centres – with efficiency gains from 2 to 20 times the costs; and
  • By facilitating additional use, the data centres significantly increase the returns on investment in the creation/collection of the data hosted – with increases in returns from 2 to 12 times the costs.

The qualitative analysis indicates that:

  • Academic users report that the centres are very or extremely important for their research, with between 53% and 61% of respondents across the three surveys reporting that it would have a major or severe impact on their work if they could not access the data and services; and
  • For depositors, having the data preserved for the long-term and its dissemination being targeted to the academic community are seen as the most beneficial aspects of depositing data with the centres.

An important aim of the studies was to contribute to the further development of impact evaluation methods that can provide estimates of the value and benefits of research data sharing and curation infrastructure investments. This synthesis reflects on lessons learnt and provides a set of recommendations that could help develop future studies of this type.

The synthesis report

Beagrie, N. and Houghton J.W. (2014) The Value and Impact of Data Sharing and Curation: A synthesis of three recent studies of UK research data centres, Jisc. PDF (24 pages)


What is the Impact of Research Data in the Arts and Humanities?

The AHRC periodically commissions case studies to investigate the impact and value of AHRC-funded research. Across the series as a whole, impact has been defined in its broadest sense to include, economic, social, and cultural elements. The latest AHRC case study, Safeguarding our heritage for the future, focuses on the impact of data sharing and curation through the Archaeology Data Service.

It cites some of the Jisc-funded “The Value and Impact of the Archaeology Data Service: A study and methods for enhancing sustainability” study by ourselves and John Houghton.

There is the headline research efficiency impact message on page 1 and the relevant detail on page 2 of the case study as follows:

“JISC commissioned research carried out in 2012 found that the ADS has a broad user group which goes well beyond academia: whilst 38% of users are conducting academic research, 19% use ADS for private research;17% for general interest enquiries; 11% are Heritage Management users and 8% are commercial users; 6% use it to support teaching and learning activities; and 1% use it for family history research. The ADS is respected as an invaluable resource, saving users time and therefore money, and providing security for those who use the service to deposit their data. A significant increase in research efficiency was reported by users as a result of using the ADS, worth at least £13 million per annum – five times the costs of operation, data deposit and use. A potential increase in return on investment resulting from the additional use facilitated by ADS may be worth between £2.4 million and £9.7 million over thirty years in net present value from one-year’s investment – a 2-fold to 8-fold return on investment.”

The pdf version of the Safeguarding our heritage for the future case study  is available for download on the AHRC website.

AHRC Case Study



Science, Publishers and Libraries – The Future of the Article?

Last month I attended an excellent Academic Publishing in Europe 2014 conference in Berlin on the theme of “Redefining the Scientific Record: The Future of the Article, Big Data & Metrics” . Also notable was the inclusion for the first time at the conference, of a full session devoted to preservation of e-journals and the scientific record.

The preservation session on Permanent Access to the Record of Science was organised by Marcel Ras (Netherlands Coalition for Digital Preservation – NCDD) and the KB (the Dutch National Library). The Powerpoint presentations are now available with a blog post on the conference on the NCDD site. The presentations are overviews of the state of the art  and present the problem from the perspectives of different stakeholders:

The problem.  An introduction to Preservation, Trust and Continuing Access for e-Journals – from me – expanding on my recent DPC Tech Watch devoted to e-Journals

Ensuring access to the record of science: driving changes in the role of research libraries  - from Susan Reilly (LIBER)

The Publisher. Remaining Future-proof: Publishers and Digital Preservation – from Eefke Smit (STM Publishers)

The Archivist. Ensuring the Scholarly Record is kept safe: measured Progress with Serials – from Peter Burnhill (EDINA)

If you are interested in the other themes of the conference such as data publishing (I was!), a selection of the discussions were also video recorded and are available online here.

Cloud Storage and Archives


I am leading a Charles Beagrie team consisting of myself, Paul Miller (from Cloud of Data), and Andrew Charlesworth (Reader in IT Law, University of Bristol), which is funded by The National Archives to address questions that archivists have raised about digital preservation and the cloud.

We have been preparing guidance and case studies to assist the archives sector understand and share emerging best practice.  There is a guest blog ‘cloud storage and archives: a match made in heaven?’ posted today on the TNA website introducing the work and future plans. Our team member Paul Miller also posted an earlier blog entry during January called ‘Can the cloud do ‘in perpetuity’?‘ that introduced some of the key issues and questions.

The guidance and case studies are being reviewed currently prior to their planned release in the second quarter of this year, when they will be published and announced on The National Archives’ website. To accompany the publication of the guidance and a future update, we are planning two webinars with TNA for archivists on digital preservation and the cloud. The first will be in mid-May 2014 and the second in early 2015.

New Study Shows Availability of Research Data Declines Rapidly with Article Age

A Nature news item “Scientists losing data at a rapid rate“ reports and provides a valuable commentary on, a research article by Timothy Vines et al published today in Current Biology that looked at the availability of research data for Ecology articles over 2-22 years.

The researchers had requested data sets from a relatively homogenous set of 516 Ecology articles published between 2 and 22 years ago, and found that availability of the underlying data was strongly affected by article age. For papers where the authors gave the status of their data, the odds of a data set being extant fell by 17% per year over that period. Availability dropped to as little as 20% for research data from the early 1990s. In addition, the odds that they could find a working e-mail address for the first, last, or corresponding author fell by 7% per year.

Although solely focussed on Ecology, this is an interesting addition to a growing body of research on data sharing and availability, and to the case for archiving initiatives such as Dryad, Figshare, and institutional data repositories when no international or disciplinary archive exists.

Measuring the Value and Impact of Research Data Curation and Sharing

My colleague John Houghton gave an excellent 20 minute Presentation at the October 2013 Open Access Research Conference in Brisbane on recent studies conducted by Charles Beagrie Ltd and Victoria University covering the value and impact of sharing research data via three UK research data centres. I highly recommend it as an accessible, concise, overview. The video of the presentation is now available at

It summarises recent studies exploring the impact and value of the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS), the Archaeology Data Service (ADS), and the British Atmospheric Data Centre (BADC). The aim of the studies was to both assess the costs, benefits, value and impacts of the data centres, and to test a range of economic methods in order to ascertain which methods might work across three very different fields, with very different data production and use practices, and very different user communities. The presentation focuses on the methods used and lessons learned, as well as the headline findings.

As blogged previously the three reports for the ESDS, ADS, and BADC are all available now as individual open-access publications. A short synthesis of all three reports is being published by Jisc in the New Year.

Digital Preservation Technology Watch Reports pass 50,000 Downloads

Yesterday the new series of Digital Preservation Coalition Technology Watch Reports passed the 50,000 downloads mark for the first time: these are downloads by real users excluding robots etc.

The new series was launched publicly in 2011 with Preserving Email by Chris Prom and there are now 8 titles published since that date. All have proved very popular: Preserving Email still heads the group with over 13,000 downloads (but has been available for longest), followed by Preserving Moving Picture and Sound with over 9,000, and Digital Forensics and Preservation with over 8,000.

The new series was chosen by the Library of Congress as one of its Top 10 Digital Preservation Developments of 2012.

The reports are published by the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) in association with Charles Beagrie Ltd as editors and Neil Beagrie as Principal Investigator and managing editor of the series. The series is intended as an advanced introduction to specific issues for those charged with establishing or running services for long term access.  They identify and track developments in IT, standards and tools which are critical to digital preservation activities. All are released as open-access publications after a preview period of exclusive access to DPC members.

The DPC Technology Watch Report Series publications are freely available online from the DPC website at:

New services page and website updates

Sharp-eyed regular visitors may have noticed we have made a number of changes and some re-design to the website in recent months.

One major addition has been the Services webpage providing examples of some of the broad areas of work  we undertake and providing a different view of selected projects from our Clients  page.

A batch of updates have also been added to most other sections of the website, including in publications several new reports and book chapters released since the summer.

The re-design changes are quite subtle, so you might need to compare it to an old version in a Web Archive to see them  - perhaps compare with the UK Web Archive April 2012 version. More significant (but “under the hood”) was the move over the summer to a new server and to using Django, a high-level Python Web framework for the coding. Hopefully this was so seamless you will not have noticed the transition.

All comments and feedback welcome!

The Value and Impact of The Archaeology Data Service: findings released on research data sharing and curation

Neil Beagrie of Charles Beagrie Ltd and Professor John Houghton of the Centre for Strategic Economic Studies (CSES) are pleased to announce the release of their final report from the Jisc study which examined the value and impact of the Archaeology Data Service (ADS). The aim of this study is to explore and attempt to measure the value and impact of the ADS. A range of economic approaches were used to analyses data gathered through online surveys, and user and depositor statistics, to supplement and extend other non-economic perceptions of value.

The study reveals the benefits of integrating qualitative approaches exploring user perceptions and non-economic dimensions of value with quantitative economic approaches to measuring the value and impacts of research data services. Such a mix of methods is important in capturing and presenting the full range and dimensions of value. The approaches are complementary and mutually reinforcing, with stakeholder perceptions matching the economic findings. For example, both qualitative and quantitative analysis highlights the important contribution of ADS data and services to research efficiency.

The study has changed stakeholder perceptions, increasing recognition of the value of the ADS and digital archiving and data sharing generally. Most stakeholders already valued ADS highly, but felt the study had extended their understanding of the scope of that value, and the degree of its value to other stakeholders. They were positive about seeing value expressed in economic terms, as this was something they had not previously considered or seen presented,

The report is available for download as a PDF file at:

This report forms part of a series of independent studies produced by the authors on the value and impact of three UK research data centres. The other data centres already reported upon are the Economic and Social Research Data Service (ESDS), and the British Atmospheric Data Centre (BADC). To summarise and facilitate dissemination of the key findings from all three data centre studies a separate synthesis is currently being prepared by Jisc.

Public release of ‘Preservation, Trust and Continuing Access for e-Journals’ DPC Technology Watch Report

Charles Beagrie Ltd and the Digital Preservation Coalition are pleased to announce the public release of Preservation, Trust and Continuing Access for e-Journals, the latest in the Digital Preservation Coalition’s (DPC) series of Technology Watch Reports. Written by Neil Beagrie, and published in association with Charles Beagrie Ltd., this report and associated press release were published yesterday at the DPC’s much anticipated ‘e-Journals Summit’ at the RIBA headquarters at 66 Portland Place, London.

Endorsed by LIBER (The Association for European Research Libraries), the report discusses the critical issues of preservation, trust and continuing access for e-journals, particularly in light of the dynamic and interdependent resources they have become, as well as the ever-growing trend towards open-access.

With extensive experience in this field and a particular reputation for his policy advice on e-journals and the cost/benefits of digital preservation for Jisc and others, Neil tells us that these “issues have become increasingly important for research libraries as published journals and articles have shifted from print to electronic formats; and as traditional publishing business models and relationships have undergone major transformations as a result of that shift.”

With these issues in mind, the report provides a comprehensive review of the latest developments in e-journal preservation, outlining key considerations and an application of best practice standards. The report introduces a range of service providers that now support continuing access and/or preservation of e-journals and how research libraries have increasingly come to trust them.

Neil explains that “for trust to be established between libraries and digital preservation services there needs to be clear agreements for long-term archiving, and clear procedures and mechanisms for those agreements to be implemented and validated when necessary across all elements of the supply chain.”

Matthew Herring from the University of York is sure that the report provides answers to these requirements, calling it “a clear, comprehensive and informative introduction to the area… if I was trying to grapple for the first time with long-term e-journal access, I would find this a very helpful guide.”

Oya Y. Rieger, Associate University Librarian for Digital Scholarship and Preservation Services at Cornell University Library agrees, adding that “due to inherent risks associated with digital media, the initial focus of earlier preservation studies was much more on technology issues. Neil’s comprehensive analysis illuminates the complex and integrated nature of technical, policy, business, and trust issues underlying e-journal preservation.”

While ‘Preservation, Trust and Continuing Access for e-Journals’ predominantly addresses issues felt most keenly by libraries, scholars and publishers, the report also includes generic lessons on outsourcing and trust learnt in this field of interest to the wider digital preservation community. It is not solely focussed on technology, and covers relevant legal, economic and service issues.

You can download a PDF copy and read the report at ‘Preservation, Trust and Continuing Access for e-Journals’ .

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