Digital Curation

The Costs of Inaction: advocating for digital preservation


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Illustration by Jørgen Stamp digitalbevaring.dk CC BY 2.5 Denmark

Traditionally the major challenge in digital preservation has been seen to be technology obsolesence. However, arguably the organisational challenges, particularly funding (and advocacy for funding), have proved to be much more significant over time.

In recent years an increasing number of community efforts have focussed on helping organisations to identify benefits and write a business case for digital preservation. The Keeping Research Data Safe (KRDS) Digital Preservation Benefits Analysis Tools and the Digital Preservation Business Case Toolkit are good examples.

Most organisations require a business case for major funding projects. This will outline what resources are required, what the resource will be used to achieve, and how this new investment will benefit the organisation.

It is seen as good practice to have actively considered a number of alternative options to the preferred one that you have put forward. One of the options normally recommended for inclusion in a business case is that of doing nothing and its consequences (“the costs of inaction”).

This blog suggests how research on “the costs of inaction” might contribute successfully to advocacy and business cases for digital preservation.

Although it will be of value to all repositories, it will be particularly pertinent for new and emerging repositories. New and emerging services may face particular challenges because digital preservation is a long-term activity: collections are usually appreciating assets – returns can increase over time as  collections reach a critical mass and user awareness of them grows.

For these  repositories it is always helpful to consider “the cost of inaction” and the counter-factual position if no repository exists. There are already hidden opportunity costs and negative consequences involved in doing nothing and they can provide a benchmark against which the value of and funding case for new or emerging services can be assessed.

Counter-factual evidence is difficult to gather and this remains an understudied approach. There are a few great examples for other preservation domains (I am a big fan of AVPreserve’s Cost of Inaction Calculator for Audio Visual archives and its promotional video) and this video is worth watching to understand underlying principles even if you are not an AV repository.


Another relevant example is from the domain of data archives. A recently completed CESSDA-SaW Cost-Benefit Advocacy Toolkit produced on behalf of the Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives looks at how we might evaluate immature repositories or the case for creating new ones. The Toolkit emphasises the potential importance of thinking counter-factually. What would happen if there was no repository?

There are a small number of studies that have looked at quantifying some of the hidden and opportunity costs, particularly for data archived with individual researchers as opposed to being preserved in a long-term repository.


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Illustration Charles Beagrie Ltd ©2017. CC-BY licensed

The CESSDA SaW Return on Investment Factsheet in the toolkit pulled together what evidence we have on the counter-factuals for data repositories. These studies are all partial and narrowly focussed. However, they variously consider what happens when research data is archived by individual researchers.

The reported findings are summarised in the table below in terms of total data loss, partial data loss, access (data requests fulfilled), and delay (the elapsed time until requests are fulfilled). The loss of data, loss of access, delays and inefficiencies are in many ways the flip-side of the high efficiencies seen for users of data archives. They are discussed in fuller detail in the Factsheet.


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Illustration from Cessda-SaW Return on Investment Factsheet Charles Beagrie Ltd ©2017. CC-BY licensed

These reported metrics are from studies of different disciplines and study dates (and perhaps have differing levels of certainty – absolute loss is a very difficult metric to gather evidence for). However, they contrast sharply with the excellent preservation record, very high fulfilment rates, and rapid online access rates of public data archives in the social sciences. The public data archives also are appreciating as opposed to depreciating assets with improving rather than decreasing trends in value over time.

These studies and results provide an indicator of how valuable more data on the cost of inaction would be to the digital preservation community generally. They also provide pointers to the methodologies that could be used. Feedback from focus groups with key stakeholders of data archives undertaken during production of the toolkit (see the CESSDA SaW D4.9 Cost-benefit Advocacy Toolkit Deliverable Report) certainly suggests how effective data on the costs of inaction could be as a central part of our advocacy and in business cases for digital preservation. It is research I would like to see extended and if you are aware of other examples please let me know.

This blog post was first published on the DPC website as part of the first ever International Digital Preservation Day on 30th November 2017.

CESSDA SaW Final Conference in Dublin

The final conference of the CESSDA SaW project was held in Dublin, Ireland on 19th October 2017 and summarised the project results in strengthening and widening of European infrastructure of social science data archives. Organized by the Irish Social Science Data Archive (ISSDA) and CESSDA ERIC, the event was very successful hosting representatives from 28 countries. CESSDA members, non-members and aspiring members, were rounded to present the outcomes of a two-year project which has helped increasing the consortium and strengthening its members.

It has been an extremely productive and collaborative project with many valuable and interesting outputs. Charles Beagrie Ltd has led on the development of the cost-benefit advocacy toolkit (released in April 2017) in CESSDA-SaW and we covered this in a previous blog post – but there are many other project outputs now available that will be of interest to the research data management community.

There is a fuller report, presentations and photos from the conference available here.

The Cost-Benefit Advocacy Toolkit: useful tools for research data and digital preservation

We are pleased to announce that the Cost-Benefit Advocacy Toolkit has been published by Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives (CESSDA) and is available for you to use.

The Toolkit will be of interest to a wide audience in research data management and digital preservation.

It was developed within the CESSDA SaW project, which aims to strengthen and widen the CESSDA network.

You can access the Toolkit and download any components from here.
The Toolkit is comprised of:

  • A User Guide;
  • Three Factsheets (Benefits, Costs, and Return on Investment);
  • Four Case Studies from Social Science Data Archives (ADP in Slovenia, FSD in Finland, LiDA in Lithuania, and UKDS in the UK);
  • Two Worksheets (the Archive Development Canvas, and the Benefits Summary for a Data Archive);
  • A Deliverable Report describing how the toolkit was developed.

In addition, the Toolkit describes and links to a number of pre-existing external tools and relevant studies.

The major use for the Toolkit will be supporting funding and business cases but elements are likely to be relevant in advocacy to other groups or in supporting broader operational tasks.

Some feedback on the draft Toolkit from attendees at our International Digital Curation Conference 2017 workshop earlier this year included:

“This was one of the most relevant and important workshops I have ever attended in my 14 years of professional experience in this library profession. Since I am interacting with senior stakeholders (e.g. assistant vice-presidents, Deans, Chairs, & associate Deans etc.), cost-benefit and ROI are very important to the development of research data services.”

“The worksheets are really useful, and very relevant to be used at an institutional level.”

“Highly relevant and good content.”

The CESSDA SaW Project is funded by the EU Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under the agreement No.674939.

The development of the Toolkit was led by Charles Beagrie Ltd, with support from the Slovenian Social Science Data Archive (ADP), the Finnish Social Science Data Archive (FSD), the Lithuanian Social Science Data Archive (LiDA), the University of Tartu in Estonia (UTARTU), and the UK Data Service (UKDS).

You can find out more about CESSDA SaW here.

IDCC Conference Workshop Feb 2017

Demonstrating the Value and Impact of Research Data Services

Monday pm 20th February 2017

Workshop organisers: Neil Beagrie (Charles Beagrie Ltd) and Mike Priddy (DANS) and the Consortium of European Social Science Archives (CESSDA).

Description: At this half-day workshop attendees, will learn from Neil Beagrie and Mike Priddy about how to apply the Cost-Benefit Advocacy Toolkit, the Capability Development Model, and the Archive Development Canvas (a variant of the Business Model Canvas) developed by the CESSDA Strengthening and Widening Project (CESSDA-SaW). Although the CESSDA-SaW project work focuses on the social sciences, core elements are multi-disciplinary and relevant to a wide range of organisations at IDCC involved in development, funding, and advocacy for research data infrastructures and open access for data.

The workshop is free to attend but places are limited so early booking is advised.

CESSDA-SaW is a project funded by the Horizon 2020 programme. Its principal objective is to develop the maturity of data archive services that are aspiring to be, or are a part of the CESSDA community of social science data archives in a coherent and deliberate way towards the vision of a comprehensive, distributed and integrated social science data research infrastructure, facilitating access to social science data resources for researchers regardless of the location of either researcher or data. As part of the project, we have been developing the Cost-Benefit Advocacy Toolkit, the Capability Development Model, and the Archive Development Canvas to assist data archive services across Europe.

The broad outline for the workshop will be as follows:

  • Brief introduction to the CESSDA-SaW project
  • Presentation and discussion of the Cost-Benefit Advocacy Toolkit
  • Presentation and discussion of the Capability Development Model
  • Panel presentation and discussion – Bringing it together: The Archive Development Canvas
  • Breakout groups with hands-on opportunities to use and discuss the tools we have presented

The expected learning outcomes from the workshop are that all attendees will:

  • Understand the purpose of CESSDA-SaW, the Toolkit, Capability Development Model, and the Archive Development Canvas;
  • Understand what is specific to social science, to different funding regimes, or maturity of services;
  • Know the main findings from the desk research on the Toolkit and key lessons learnt;
  • Understand economic approaches such as Return on Investment, other key arguments for Value, how it has been calculated, and why the counter-factual and “cost of inaction” are important;
  • Understand how to use the Capability Development Model to undertake a self-assessment
  • Know what outputs will be available from CESSDA-SaW and how they might use them.

To register for the workshop see http://www.dcc.ac.uk/events/idcc17/workshops

If you are too late to book, I will maintain a short reserve list. Please contact me if you wish to be added to the list. Should anyone drop out and a place become available it will be offered to the reserves.

Presentation on the Value and Impact of Social Science Data Archives and the CESSDA SaW Toolkit

A set of 38 slides now on slideshare used for the Focus Group Cost-Benefit Funding Advocacy Program (Task 4.6) session at the CESSDA Saw Workshop in The Hague 16/17 June 2016.

This was an interactive focus group repeated over two parallel sessions.  It was aimed at European social science data archive staff with responsibility for bidding for funding or promotion and advocacy of the archive to key stakeholders.  The presentation covers some of the key ideas on how the CESSDA Saw funding advocacy toolkit will be structured, its components, and key facts and approaches it will include.

We expect the cost-benefit funding advocacy toolkit under development to support the negotiation with ministries and funding organisations across Europe.

The results of the toolkit user requirements survey with responses from 24 European social science archives were presented and discussed, together with suggested approaches and content for the toolkit. 22 people attended the two sessions overall, representing a mix of countries at different stages on the development path for social science archives (none, new/emerging, mature). There was strong interest and support for the emerging toolkit together with open discussion of how it can be applied in the specific political and administrative context of different European countries.

The slide set presented here is an extended version including a number of hidden background/ reference slides not used in the presentation. The focus group is one of a series guiding further development of the toolkit and its adoption being given to either: (a) social science data archive staff or (b) their key stakeholders (senior management in their universities, research councils and academies, funding ministries, national statistics offices, research users and depositors).

CESSDA is the Consortium of European Social Science Data Archives. The CESSDA SaW project “Strengthening and widening the European infrastructure for social science data archives” is funded by the European Commission as part of its Horizon2020 programme.

Digital Preservation Handbook Update February 2016

Originally published in 2001 as a paper edition, ‘Preservation and Management of Digital Materials: a Handbook’ was the first attempt in the UK to synthesise the diverse and burgeoning sources of advice on digital preservation.  Demand was so great that in 2002, a free online edition of the Handbook was published by the newly established Digital Preservation Coalition.

After more than a decade, in which digital preservation has been transformed, the Handbook remains among the most heavily used area of the DPC website.

Funders and organisations are collaborating on re-designing, expanding and updating the Handbook so it can continue to grow as a major open-access resource for digital preservation. The DPC and Charles Beagrie Ltd have been engaged on a major re-working of the Digital Preservation Handbook for release as a new edition over 2015/2016. The National Archives (our Gold Sponsor) working together with other stakeholders including Jisc, the British Library, and The Archives and Records Association (our Silver Sponsors), and the National Records of Scotland (our Bronze Sponsor) is supporting the Digital Preservation Coalition in updating and revamping the Handbook. Many individuals and organisations are also contributing to this work through book sprints, peer review, project and advisory boards.

The revision, guided by the user feedback and consultation (see Report on the Preparatory User Consultation on the 2nd Edition of the Digital Preservation Handbook), is modular and being undertaken over a two year period to March 2016.

We have provided updates at regular intervals to inform the community on progress with the project and with this final February update we are delighted to announce a number of key developments.

 

Publication Schedule

The 2nd edition of the Handbook had a partial “soft launch” in October 2015 and approximately 2/3rds is online and publicity accessible at http://www.dpconline.org/advice/preservationhandbook

This partial release will be further enhanced by additional functionality when a new platform for the website focused on ‘responsive design’ is brought on stream by the DPC in 2016. This will provide an updated design and improved user experience on mobile and tablet devices, compared to the current site templates that are optimised for viewing on a desktop screen. We will also add the facility to generate PDFs. In the interim some functionality and content will remain “works in progress” but the community have gained early access to a significant new resource.

The remaining 14 sections to complete the Handbook have now been written, edited and are in peer review (see Handbook contents page for coming soon sections). We are aiming to complete this work and revise content for publication by the end of March 2016. The Handbook is now live so we will need to close and update section by section for these 14 remaining updates, hopefully in the final week of March and/or early April 2016. Watch this space for future announcements!

NRS joins funding group

The Digital Preservation Coalition was delighted to announce this month that The National Records of Scotland (NRS) had come on board as a ‘Bronze Sponsor’ for the eagerly anticipated second edition of the ‘Digital Preservation Handbook’. As of February 2016, with the addition of the NRS we have raised 93% of estimated funding required for the Handbook revision. We have prioritised content creation, scaled back some events, and adjusted budgets to ensure completion within a very tight funding profile.

Slideshare from Handbook Workshop at DCDC15

A workshop on the Digital Preservation Handbook was run at the DCDC15 conference in early October. Powerpoint slides from the Handbook presentation are now available on Slideshare. They provide a detailed overview of the new edition Handbook and work in progress. To date, there have been over 2,000 views of the slides.

European Bioinformatics Institute economic impact slideshare

A short set of 4 powerpoint slides summarising the findings on the economic impact of the European Bioinformatics Institute with extensive accompanying slides notes, all CC-BY licensed, have been placed on Slideshare.

The European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL- EBI), located on the Wellcome Genome Campus in Hinxton, UK, manages public life-science data on a very large scale, making a rich resource of information freely available to the global life science community. EMBL-EBI is one of a handful of organisations in the world involved in global efforts to exchange information, set standards, develop new methods, and curate complex genome information.

We published a full report this week with the results of a quantitative and qualitative study of the Institute, examining the value and impact of its work. Our focus is the economic impact and can be seen as complementary to traditional academic measures, such as citation counts.

The summary slides show the quantitative economic approaches used included: estimates of access and use value, contingent valuation using stated preference techniques, an activity-costing approach to estimating the efficiency impacts of EMBL-EBI data and services, and a macro-economic approach that seeks to explore the impacts of EMBL-EBI use on returns to investment in research. These approaches allowed us to develop a picture, beginning with estimates of minimum direct values for the EMBL-EBI’s user community and moving progressively toward approaches that measure wider social and economic value.

New report: The Value and Impact of the European Bioinformatics Institute

We are pleased to announce a new report: The Value and Impact of the European Bioinformatics Institute.

In 2015, Charles Beagrie Ltd  was commissioned by the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), to study and analyse its economic and social impact.

The EMBL- EBI, located on the Wellcome Genome Campus in Hinxton, near Cambridge in the UK, manages public life science data on a very large scale, making a rich resource of genome information freely available to the global life science community.

The full report published today presents the results of the quantitative and qualitative study of the Institute, examining the value and impact of its work. The report highlights key findings, including that EMBL-EBI data and services made commercial and academic R&D significantly more efficient. This benefit to users and their funders is estimated, at a minimum, to be worth £1 billion per annum worldwide – equivalent to more than 20 times the direct operational cost of EMBL-EBI.

A press release with further information is available on the EMBL-EBI website at http://www.ebi.ac.uk/about/news/press-releases/value-and-impact-of-the-european-bioinformatics-institute

The Full Report is available online in printable format at http://www.beagrie.com/EBI-impact-report.pdf

A short Executive Summary version of the report is available online in printable format at http://www.beagrie.com/EBI-impact-summary.pdf

12 slideshares for Xmas: 20 years in digital preservation

I have just posted the final instalment of a personal selection of 12 presentations drawn from events and topics over the last 20 years in digital preservation, which I hope will be of interest.

They are taken from events on four different continents including the first iPres conference and cover themes such as personal archiving, research data management, e-journals, the digital preservation lifecycle model, national and institutional strategies and collaboration, costs/benefit/economic impacts of digital preservation, the establishment of the Digital Preservation Coalition, and the development of the online Digital Preservation Handbook. I hope there will be something in there for everyone.

There are accompanying blog narratives which set the presentations into context and the powerpoint presentations themselves on Slideshare. Details and web links to them are as follows:

2014 – The Value and Impact of Research Data Infrastructure (economic impact), presentation to the Preservation and Archiving Special Interest Group (PASIG), Karlsruhe Germany    slides     narrative

2013 – Maintaining a Vision: how mandates and strategies are changing with digital content (changes and responses), keynote presentation to Screening the Future conference, London UK slides     narrative

2010 – Keeping Research Data Safe (digital preservation costs and benefits), presentation to KB Experts Workshop on Digital Preservation Costs, The Hague Netherlands          slides     narrative

2007 – Digital Preservation: Setting the Course for a Decade of Change (evolution or revolution?), keynote presentation to the Belgian Association for Documentation (ABD-BVD), Brussels Belgium              slides     narrative

2005 – Digital Preservation and Curation Summing up + Next Steps (setting curation and research agenda for2005-2015), conclusions to Warwick II Workshop, Warwick UK             slides     narrative

2005 – Plenty of Room at the Bottom? Personal Digital Libraries and Collections, keynote presentation to European Conference on Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries (ECDL), Vienna Austria   slides     narrative

2004 – eScience and Digital Preservation, presentation to Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIST) conference, Rhode Island USA                  slides     narrative

2004 –  The JISC Continuing Access and Digital Preservation Strategy 2002-5(covering UK Higher Education sector and partners), presentation to the JISC-CNI conference, Brighton UK slides  narrative

2004 –Digital Preservation, e-journals and e-prints, presentation at private workshop 1st iPres conference, Beijing China                 slides     narrative

2004  –  The Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC), Its History, Programme, Rationale ,and Structure, set of 4 linked presentations to DPC Forum, London UK              slides     narrative

2001 – Preservation Management of Digital Materials (the Digital Preservation Handbook) presentation to Digital Preservation Workshop/State Library, Melbourne Australia         slides     narrative

1998 – Preserving Digital Collections: current methods and research (digital preservation lifecycle model), presentation to the Society of Archivists annual conference, Sheffield UK             slides     narrative

This is a baker’s dozen as there is a also bonus presentation from 2015 on slideshare covering the latest work on The Digital Preservation Handbook (new edition for full release in March 2016).

The background and narrative blog for this personal selection of presentations is also available.

SlideShare: The Value and Impact of Research Data Infrastructure

This slideshare, The Value and Impact of Research Data Infrastructure, was given at the Preservation and Archiving Special Interest Group (PASIG) meeting in September 2014 held at Karlsruhe, Germany. It is the final instalment of 12 presentations I have selected to mark 20 years in Digital Preservation. It demonstrates the value of preservation and re-use of research data.

Between 2011 and 2014, Charles Beagrie Ltd and John Houghton completed three major studies on the economic value and impact of the Archaeology Data Service, the British Atmospheric Data Centre, and the Economic and Social Research Data Service, and a synthesis of the three studies. In these studies, we developed and refined qualitative and quantitative methodologies to measure the value and impact of research data and associated services and tools.

This combination of methods has broken new ground in approaches to assessing the value and impact of major research data services and provided a strong evidence base and compelling outcomes.  In a recent review of the international state of the art as regards the relationships between large-scale science facilities and innovation performance, our work was one of 3 studies highlighted to UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills as being particularly good examples of ‘good practice’ in the measurement of economic impacts.

The presentation focuses on these studies, with the study of the Archaeology Data Service given as a detailed example. It has a UK Focus but the research and lessons are international. These studies are also three of the few quantitative studies of the value and impact of digital preservation currently available.

A fourth study on the value and impact of the EMBL European Bioinformatics Institute has since been completed by Charles Beagrie Ltd and John Houghton and should be available in 2016.

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