May 2012

Economic Impact of Research Data Infrastructure: new study on ADS

We are very pleased to announce a new study and collaboration between Charles Beagrie Ltd and the Centre for Strategic Economic Studies University of Victoria (Prof John Houghton) on the impact of the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) based at the University of York in the UK.

For more than fifteen years the ADS has been working to serve its users, both by acting as a long-term repository for valuable archaeological data and by providing open and free access to this data for research purposes. Its users, both those who deposit data and those who access it, come from all possible sectors of the archaeology discipline.

ADS regularly deal with data and data requests from academic archaeologists, local and national government archaeologists, the commercial sector, the community archaeology sector and, being an open archive, the general public. The ADS’s significance in the archaeological landscape has grown considerably in the last decade or so and with the use of access statistics and user feedback it has generally been easy for the ADS to demonstrate that it offers a valuable service to its users. However, it is a much more challenging proposition to find ways of analysing ADS usage that make a clear statement about the very important issue of how much economic impact that the ADS has on the sector. The new ADS Impact Study funded by JISC is intending to investigate in detail exactly this question and to give a clear indication of what the value of having a free to use and open access resource like the ADS is to the whole archaeological sector.

Engaging the expertise of Neil Beagrie of Charles Beagrie Ltd. and Professor John Houghton of the Centre for Strategic Economic Studies (CSES) , the project will analyse and survey indicators and perceptions of the value of digital collections held by the ADS and how those indicators and perceptions of value can be measured. The CSES and Charles Beagrie Ltd have led the field in conducting value perception and economic impact surveys for digital repositories and they have recently completed a similar exercise with the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS) in the UK.

A major element of the study will be two forms of stakeholder survey. The first phase will see a selection of users and depositors from all sectors be invited to participate in in-depth interviews, and secondly an online survey will be launched to gauge the levels of use, impacts, and perceptions of value amongst the broadest possible range of ADS users.

Our economic analysis aims to include a range of approaches, starting with the most immediate and direct measures of value that are likely to represent lower bound estimates of the value of ADS data and services and moving outwards to estimates of the wider economic benefits:

We hope this project will not only have immediate benefits for the ADS, its stakeholders and user communities, but will build on previous work to investigate methodologies and good practice in the area of valuation that will be directly applicable to other repositories, in different domains, allowing them to reap the benefits of this work as they seek to analyse their own economic impact. For further information on the ADS Impact study see the Project web site.

3 new Technology Watch Reports planned – Web Archiving, Preservation Metadata and Preserving CAD

The Digital Preservation Coalition and Charles Beagrie Limited are delighted to announce a the continuation of their collaboration to produce 3 more Technology Watch Reports.

‘5 Technology Watch Reports have already been produced – or are in production – and have been enthusiastically received by our members’, said William Kilbride of the DPC. The next three will ensure that the production process continues through 2013 with themes and topics proposed and refined by DPC members to help them with digital preservation.’

The three new reports will be:
- Web Archiving, Maureen Pennock
- Preserving Computer Aided Design, Alex Ball (jointly with DCC)
- Preservation Metadata, Brian Lavoie and Richard Gartner

Two of the reports are completely new, and a third one will allow us to update one of the more popular reports that has become dated since it was first published in 2005. DPC members will have a period of privileged advance access to each report prior to wider public release.

The DPC Technology Watch Report series has been one of the Coalition’s most enduring contributions to the wider digital preservation community. They exist to provide authoritative support and foresight to those engaged with digital preservation or having to tackle digital preservation problems for the first time. These publications support members work forces’, they identify disseminate and discuss best practices and they lower the barriers to participation in digital preservation. Neil Beagrie, Director of Consultancy at Charles Beagrie Ltd, was commissioned to act as principal investigator and managing editor of the Technology Watch series in 2011.

‘Each ‘Technology Watch Report’ analyses a particular topic in digital preservation, evaluating workable solutions, and investigating new tools and techniques appropriate for different contexts,’ explained Neil Beagrie, series editor. ‘The reports are written by leaders-in-the-field and are peer-reviewed prior to publication. The intended audience is worldwide, especially in the UK, Europe, Australia New Zealand, USA, Canada.’

‘We expect that these reports will have a wide readership. The audience includes members and non-members of the coalition; staff of commercial and public agencies; repository managers, librarians and archivists charged with managing electronic resources; senior staff and executives of intellectual property organizations in the private and public sectors; those who teach and train information scientists; as well as policy advisors requiring an advanced introduction to specific issues and researchers developing DP solutions.’

Further publicity on each report in the series will be released over the course. Draft outlines of each reports will be distributed to DPC  members for comment and the whole process will be overseen by an editorial board drawn from the membership.

Digital Preservation Network launched by US Universities

An interesting development presented at recent US meetings(Association of Research Libraries and Coalition for Networked Information) is the launch of a Digital Preservation Network (DPN) by over 50 major US universities.

It is a very new initiative and you can find current information on the DPN website and a bit more information at the DPN launch team page. The initiative is being catalysed and led by James Hilton Vice-President and Chief Information Officer at the University of Virginia.

The DPN caught my eye for many reasons. One being that in November 2008 with support from JISC, I was part of a digital archiving study group with amongst others Don Walters (Mellon Foundation) and Sandy Payette (Fedora Commons) that presented and debated the subject of digital preservation with US university presidents and Vice-Chancellors from UK universities who were part of the Windsor Group. The meeting was hosted by the University of Virginia.

The meeting had an extremely influential group of attendees and provided sufficient time and the right environment for them to engage seriously with the topics presented. I was surprised by the real level of engagement and recognition of the problem of digital archiving and sense of mission and responsibility that universities should have coming from the University Presidents and V-Cs themselves. It resonated very strongly as an issue with the university leaders present – not an outcome I had necessarily expected.

Unfortunately the follow-up from that meeting was hit by the economic crisis which was a big disappointment given the progress made. However I sense that the development of DPN perhaps flows from that meeting and the work of colleagues on the digital archiving working group eventually may prove fruitful.

Moving Pictures and Sound DPC Technology Watch Report now available

The Digital Preservation Coalition, Richard Wright and Charles Beagrie Ltd are delighted to announce the public release of the latest DPC Technology Watch Report ‘Preserving Moving Pictures and Sound’, written by Richard Wright, formerly of the BBC.

‘Moving image and sound content is at great risk’, explained Richard Wright. ‘Surveys have shown that 74 per cent of professional collections are small: 5,000 hours or less. Such collections have a huge challenge if their holdings are to be preserved. About 85 per cent of sound and moving image content is still analogue, and in 2005 almost 100 per cent was still on shelves rather than being in files on mass storage. Surveys have also shown that in universities there is a major problem of material that is scattered, unidentified, undocumented and not under any form of preservation plan. These collection surveys are from Europe and North America because there is no survey of the situation in the UK, in itself a cause for concern.’

‘This report is for anyone with responsibility for collections of sound or moving image content and an interest in preservation of that content.’

‘New content is born digital, analogue audio and video need digitization to survive and film requires digitization for access. Consequently, digital preservation will be relevant over time to all these areas. The report concentrates on digitization, encoding, file formats and wrappers, use of compression, obsolescence and what to do about the particular digital preservation problems of sound and moving images.’

The report discusses issues of moving digital content from carriers (such as CD and DVD, digital videotape, DAT and minidisc) into files. This digital to digital ‘ripping’ of content is an area of digital preservation unique to the audio-visual world, and has unsolved problems of control of errors in the ripping and transfer process. It goes on to consider digital preservation of the content within the files that result from digitization or ripping, and the files that are born digital. While much of this preservation has problems and solutions in common with other content, there is a specific problem of preserving the quality of the digitized signal that is again unique to audio-visual content. Managing quality through cycles of ‘lossy’ encoding, decoding and reformatting is one major digital preservation challenge for audio-visual as are issues of managing embedded metadata.

DPC members have already had a preview. Pip Laurenson of Tate commented ‘This is a terrific report. Thank you so much for commissioning it – it is the best thing I have read on the subject.’

The report has also been subject to extensive review prior before publication. Oya Rieger and colleagues at Cornell University who reviewed the final draft welcomed the report: ‘It is a very thorough report. We realize that it was a challenging process to gather and organize all this information and present it in a succinct narrative. Another virtue of the report is that it incorporates both analog and digital media issues. The final section with conclusions and recommendation is very strong and provides an excellent summary.’

Another reviewer explained why the preview for DPC-members was so timely: ‘We are currently working on a grant proposal focusing on new media art and having access to the preserving moving pictures and sound report was very useful. The report provides a thorough characterization of the current practices, shortcomings, and challenges. Having access to the report has saved us from spending expensive time on conducting a literature review. ‘

DPC Technology Watch Reports identify, delineate, monitor and address topics that have major bearing on ensuring our collected digital memory will be available tomorrow. They provide an advanced introduction in order to support those charged with ensuring a robust digital memory and they are of general interest to a wide and international audience with interests in computing, information management, collections management and technology. The reports are commissioned after consultation with members; they are written by experts; and they are thoroughly scrutinised by peers before being released. The reports are informed, current, concise and balanced and they lower the barriers to participation in digital preservation. The reports are a distinctive and lasting contribution to the dissemination of good practice in digital preservation.

‘Preserving Moving Pictures and Sound’ is the second Technology Watch Report to be published by the DPC in association with Charles Beagrie Ltd. Neil Beagrie, Director of Consultancy at Charles Beagrie Ltd, was commissioned to act as principal investigator and managing editor of the series in 2011. The managing editor has been further supported by an Editorial Board drawn from DPC members and peer reviewers who have commented on the text prior to release. The Editorial Board comprises William Kilbride (Chair), Neil Beagrie (Series Editor), Janet Delve (University of Portsmouth), Sarah Higgins (Archives and records Association), Tim Keefe (Trinity College Dublin), Andrew McHugh (University of Glasgow) and Dave Thompson (Wellcome Library).

The report is online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.7207/twr12-01  (PDF 915KB)

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