Scholarly Communication

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.

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’ .

Praise for DPC Technology Watch Reports

Four reports have now been released in the new series of DPC Technology Watch titles and it is great to see the high-level of interest and praise they are gathering.

The Library of Congress voted the DPC Technology Watch reports into its “Top Ten Digital Preservation Developments of 2012”.

Individual reports have also been gathering praise for example Digital Forensics (see blog reviews by Jose Padilla in The Signal and Barbara Sierman in Digital Preservation Seeds) and IPR and Digital Preservation (see Current Cites January 2013 edited by Ray Tennant).

Part of the aim of the new series and adding DOIs for the reports and an ISSN for the series was to encourage more citations and reviews and to introduce the reports to a wider audience.

Although they are “e-only” and published electronically as PDFs, they are peer-reviewed, free to download and accessible to all. I hope we can encourage more editors of relevant professional print journals as well electronic media to consider reviews of e-titles in the DPC Technology Watch reports and bring them to the attention of the widest possible audience.

Additional new titles in the series to be released in 2013 include: Web-archiving; Preservation Metadata (2nd edition); Preserving Computer-Aided Design (CAD); and Preservation, Trust and Continuing Access for e-journals.

The Biomedical Research Infrastructure Software Service (BRISSkit)

We are very pleased to announce that we will be providing consultancy support for the second stage sustainability and take-up phase of the BRISSkit service ( It was a pleasure for us working with colleagues at the University of Leicester and the Biomedical Cardiovascular Research Unit (LCBRU) at the NHS University Hospitals Leicester Trust in the first phase of the project. Our focus was on community engagement and the return on investment case for funding.

Further funding from JISC for the next stage of sustainability and take-up will now allow the project to consolidate the work to date and extend to two additional Biomedical Research Units within University Hospitals Leicester Trust (including the Institute for Lung Health Respiratory BRU & Lifestyle BRU) and to test the service with two external partners (UCL Institute of Child Health; and University of Birmingham School of Cancer Studies).

The Biomedical Research Infrastructure Software Service (BRISSkit) is led by the University of Leicester and will provide a suite of open source biomedical research database applications as secure web services in a browser. BRISSkit components may be hosted standalone or as integrated, cloud hosted solutions for researchers and clinicians, accessible via the UK JANET academic or NHS accredited networks. It will facilitate cohort discovery; making it easier for researchers to manage the identification, selection, engagement and recruitment of suitable subjects for research. Using internationally recognised data standards researchers and clinicians may then combine, query, visualise and output datasets. Components include:

•             contact management and patient recruitment

•             electronic clinical data capture

•             tissue sample management

•       research data combination and querying

The project partners are currently piloting these services with groups across the University Hospitals Leicester Trust and nationally, working with a range of technical partners and key stakeholders including JISC, HEFCE, JANET and the NHS National Institute for Health Research. For further information see the BRISSkit community website.

Research Data Management in Times Higher and Royal Society Report

Research Data Management is very much in the news today with a lead article  in the Times Higher Education Supplement Seize the Data devoted to the issue and the release of the Royal Society Report Science as an Open Enterprise.

I was particularly pleased to see citation of our JISC funded research reports on Keeping Research Data Safe (pages 66-7) and the references to other major projects and programmes with which we have been involved such as Dryad and its sustainability and business case or the JISC Research Data Management Programme  in the Royal Society report.

Finally as the THES lead article notes one analysis of UK data equity estimated it to be worth £25.1 billion to British business in 2011. This is predicted to increase to £216 billion or 2.3 per cent of cumulative gross domestic product between 2012 and 2017. Although most of this is forecast to come from greater business efficiency in data use, £24 billion will stem from an increase in commercial data-driven R&D. The economic context alone draws attention to the huge importance of the issue, and in normal times would justify serious further investment in the science base.

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.

JISC Collections conclude a UK consortium membership rate for the Portico archive

I missed a significant announcement back in the summer holidays so I will blog a (belated) update this month. In July JISC Collections and Portico concluded a UK consortium membership rate for the Portico archive. This builds on a previous consortium agreement with Portico for Scottish university libraries in SHEDL.

The JISC agreement offers a substantial discount to consortium members on the individual library rate that would apply. As of 12 October 2011, 57 UK university libraries have joined the Portico e-journal archive (20 of these are since July 2011 and as part of the new JISC Collections agreement). Take-up of the e-books archive has been much lower so far: only the SHEDL libraries (where e-journal and e-book archive membership was bundled) and 5 out of the 20 new UK library members have taken this option.

Membership of Portico acts as an “insurance policy” should post-cancellation access arrangements with a participating publisher fail and provides a fully out-sourced service. The Portico archive service is discussed in more detail in a JISC Collections Guide to e-Archiving Solutions.

Benefits from and Sustainability for Research Data Infrastructure

I’m pleased to announce the release today of the Report ‘Benefits from the Infrastructure Projects in the JISC Managing Research Data Programme‘ prepared by Charles Beagrie Ltd for the JISC.

JISC’s Managing Research Data programme has invested nearly £2M, in a strand of eight Research Data Management Infrastructure (RDMI) projects to provide the UK Higher Education sector with examples of good research data management.

The eight projects studied in the report have described a wide range of key benefits from investments in research data infrastructure including:

Ability to cite shared data (Admiral Project, University of Oxford):

Integrated thinking around research data management (IDMB Project, University of Southampton):

Enhanced data sharing and discovery (FISHnet Project, Freshwater Biological Association and King’s College London);

Research efficiency, rapid access to data (I2S2 Project, Universities of Bath/Cambridge/Southampton, Charles Beagrie and the Science and Technology Facilities Council);

Clear and accessible guidance (Incremental Project, Universities of Cambridge and Glasgow);

Improving data management plans, policies and institutional settings (MaDAM Project University of Manchester;

Cost Savings through Centralisation and Virtualisation (Sudamih Project, University of Oxford).

Our report provides an analysis and synthesis of all the benefits and metrics identified by the eight RDMI projects in their benefits case studies, the benefits and enhancements that accrued to existing tools and methodologies from them, and the emerging business cases (as of June 2011) for sustainability being built by the RDMI projects. A brief overview is available on the JISC webpage with the report itself.

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