Public Release of New ‘Preserving Computer Aided Design (CAD)’ DPC Technology Watch Report

Charles Beagrie Ltd and The Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) are delighted to announce the public release of  the latest in the series of topical Technology Watch Reports, Preserving Computer-Aided Design (CAD). Written by Alex Ball, and published electronically, this report provides a comprehensive overview of the development of CAD technologies, the threat caused by its own innovative application and its vendors’ drive to add ever more features which can render valuable and strategically vital information unusable.

A specialist in digital curation at the Digital Curation Centre and UKOLN at the University of Bath, Alex writes ‘CAD is an area of constant innovation…, resulting in CAD systems that are ephemeral and largely incompatible with each other.’ The report examines the key standards, techniques and technologies developed in an attempt to slow the seemingly inevitable obsolescence associated with native CAD formats.

Having outlined some of the critical issues surrounding CAD preservation, as well as some of the potential solutions, Alex reminds us that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer to the problem. He urges anyone with an interest in the long term viability of CAD data to ‘consider an advocacy programme which raises awareness of the importance of standard formats and high quality format migration,’ with a view to providing greater interoperability and better support for CAD users.

Dr Ray Moore of the Archaeological Data Service (ADS) explains that ‘within archaeological practice CAD continues to play an important role, and this report provides useful background information that augments the recently updated Guides to Good Practice produced by ADS and Digital Antiquity.’ He elaborates, stating that ‘the report proves a useful starting point for those wishing to understand and develop preservation strategies and compliments subject specific guidelines.’

UK Principal Technical Expert in long term preservation for the aerospace sector, Sean Barker goes further, calling the report ‘compulsory reading for anyone with CAD data that they expect to last more than ten years.’

The report is primarily aimed at those responsible for managing repositories with CAD content, but will also appeal to creators of CAD content who want to make their models more amenable to preservation.

The report is published by the DPC in association with Charles Beagrie Ltd  and with Neil Beagrie as Principal Investigator and managing editor of the series.

Read Alex Ball’s report ‘Preserving Computer-Aided Design (CAD)’ by downloading from the DPC website now: http://dx.doi.org/10.7207/twr13-02

Assessing the Economic Impact of Digital Preservation and Data Curation

We are pleased to announce that the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in the UK has published the report of the Economic Impact Evaluation of the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS) to coincide with the launch of the new UK Data Service that succeeds it.

The ESDS has its origins in the UK Data Archive established over 40 years ago and this one of the longest standing research data archives and proponents of digital preservation in the World. The impact evaluation therefore may be of interest to the digital preservation and data curation communities beyond the social sciences and economics, particularly as quantitative as well as qualitative evidence of impact in our fields is still relatively rare.

The Economic Impact Evaluation of the Economic and Social Data Service report (PDF file) was produced by Charles Beagrie Ltd and the Centre for Strategic Economic Studies (CSES) Victoria University and was authored by Neil Beagrie, John Houghton, Anna Palaiologk and Peter Williams. It combines approaches for qualitative and quantitative assessment of impact drawing on methodologies from Keeping Research Data Safe and more generally from economics and the social sciences.

An extract from the ESRC/ESDS press release of 24 July announcing the UK Data Service is as follows:

Continuing access to the most valuable collection of social and economic data in the UK has been secured with a £17 million investment over five years for the UK Data Service. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the new service is structured to support researchers in academia, business, third sector and all levels of government.

The new service, starting on 1 October 2012, will integrate the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS), the Census Programme, the Secure Data Service and other elements of the data service infrastructure currently provided by the ESRC, including the UK Data Archive.

The integration follows an economic evaluation of ESDS, which reveals that for every pound currently invested in data and infrastructure, the service returns £5.40 in net economic value to users and other stakeholders.

The UK Data Service will provide a unified point of access to the extensive range of high quality economic and social data, including valuable census data. It is designed to provide seamless access and support to meet the current and future research demands of both academic and non-academic users, and to help them maximise the impact of their work.

“The UK Data Service represents a significant step forward in our strategy,” says ESRC’s Chief Executive, Professor Paul Boyle. “As data are the lifeblood of research, our aim is to consolidate resources in a way that expands both the reach and impact of these vital investments. It will become a cornerstone for UK research; the place to go for high quality data and support.”

“Between our services we have an impressive collection of rich research data,” says Dr Matthew Woollard, director of the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS) and the UK Data Archive. “We are dedicated to the reuse, sharing and archiving of data because we know the effect it can have on the wider society. Together, we look forward to becoming the UK Data Service so we can continue to build on these excellent data and services to generate even more impact.”

The full press release can be accessed here.

Winter Solstice at Stonehenge

For all those who couldn’t be there – Happy [Pagan] New Year!

Changing of the Guard at JISC and the British Library

The JISC has announced that Martyn Harrow, Director of Information Services at Cardiff University, has been appointed as Head of JISC for a fixed term of 9-18 months from 1 February 2012. He succeeds Malcolm Read who retires as Head of JISC in January 2012.

At the same time the British Library has announced that Lynne Brindley will step down as BL CEO at end of July 2012. The BL Board are now seeking her replacement.

Malcolm and Lynne together with Derek Law (ably abetted by Dave Cook) were the motor behind the early successes of the JISC and all have been great supporters of digital preservation over the years. Their successors will have a great inheritance.

A Researcher-Centric Version of the KRDS Activity Model: the I2S2 Project

The Keeping Research Data Safe (KRDS) project has produced a widely used KRDS Activity Model for costing digital preservation of research data. KRDS has developed from relatively small-scale incremental projects and we recognise that there were still significant areas for future work such as the recently published (Dec 2010) KRDS User Guide. The KRDS2 final report published earlier last year outlined a number of key recommendations for future development including:

  • “Examine further development of the pre-archive phase of the KRDS2 activity model and produce versions of the model from a researcher’s perspective.”

This suggested work has now been addressed by one of the outputs from the Infrastructure for Integration in Structural Sciences (I2S2) Project funded under the Research Data Management Infrastructure strand of the JISC’s Managing Research Data Programme.

I2S2 has been using KRDS as a basis for costing and benefits analysis. One of the outputs has been an “Idealised Scientific Research Data Lifecycle Model”, which seeks to extend and adapt from a “researcher perspective”, the Keeping Research Data Safe (KRDS) Activity Model, providing a model which reflects “research data management” or the digital preservation lifecycle in its broadest interpretation. It adapts KRDS from an archive-centric to a researcher-centric view by:

  • Defining and emphasising more of the activities in the research (KRDS “Pre-Archive” ) phase where research data is created;
  • Adding a “Publication” set of activities;
  • Concatenating the KRDS “Archive” phase activities in the centre of the model for simplification and presentational purposes;
  • Adding some specific local research administration activities;
  • In addition for the purposes of the project, it adds some selective detail of information flows and information objects between the activities.

This is the current version (Dec 2010) of the I2S2 Idealised Model.

Note this is an idealised model and several activities such as peer review or conduct experiment may have multiple instances or repetitions. “Documentation, Metadata, and Storage” may also  be undertaken as researcher activities independent of the archive in other instances and in the KRDS activity model. It also represents a project view as of December 2010 and may be subject to further changes.

PPT version of the I2S2 model incorporating relevant notes is available on the I2S2 project website.

The I2S2 project aims to understand and identify the requirements for a data-driven research infrastructure in the Structural Sciences.  The work is focused on the exemplar domain of Chemistry, but with a view towards inter-disciplinary application. Current work inter alia includes developing a set of tools and approaches to identify and provide indicators and metrics for the benefits arising from I2S2. This will extend work and the tools available for implementing the KRDS Benefits Taxonomy.

The partners in I2S2 are UKOLN (University of Bath), the Digital Curation Centre, University of Southampton, University of Cambridge, Science & Technology Facilities Council, and Charles Beagrie Ltd.

A practical guide to e-journal archiving solutions

Readers of the blog may be interested in an excellent short (15 pages) guide to e-journal archiving produced by JISC Collections.

Ensuring that ‘e’ doesn’t mean ephemeral: A practical guide to e-journal archiving solutions (version 1.1  February 2010) is available on the JISC Collections website either to view online or download as a pdf file.

The guide uses and updates work Charles Beagrie Ltd completed with Tee- eM Consulting  for JISC in 2008 in the Comparative Study of e-journal Archiving Solutions.

Results of Digital Preservation Costs Survey now available

I am pleased to announce that the findings from the Keeping Research Data Safe 2 (“KRDS2) survey of digital preservation cost information are now available on the KRDS2 project webpage.

One of the core aims of the KRDS2 project was to identify potential sources of cost information for preservation of digital research data and to conduct a survey of them. Between September and November 2009 we made an open invitation via email lists and the project blog and project webpage for others to contact us and contribute to the data survey if they had research datasets and associated cost information that they believe may be of interest to the study.

13 survey responses were received: 11 of these were from UK-based collections, and 2 were from mainland Europe. Two further potential contributions from the USA were unfortunately not available in time to be included.

The responses covered a broad area of research including the arts and humanities, social sciences, and physical and biological sciences and research data archives or cultural heritage collections. Each survey response is approximately 6-8 pages in length.

A summary analysis plus individual completed responses to the data survey that provide  more detail, are available.

We have also made the revised versions of the KRDS2 activity model available to download.

We aim to release the KRDS2 report via JISC in March following peer review and final editing. Further supplementary materials from KRDS2 will also be placed on the project webpage in March.

You will also notice that we have recently undertaken a major website re-design and made additions, should you wish to browse other information on the web site.

HEFCE and JISC Funding for 2010 and beyond

The Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) is one of the major public funders of teaching and research in UK Universities. It is also the major funder of the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) providing around 75% of the recurrent core budget and the majority of its capital funding. So its announcements on funding are hugely important for the UK university sector.

HEFCE have recently released Circular letter number 02/2010 Funding for universities and colleges in 2010-11 setting out the implications of government cuts to its budget from August 2010.

The majority of press coverage following the release of the circular, has focussed on the implications for teaching and the reduction to the number of funded student places for the next academic year.

However the circular also sets out a number of key decisions and cuts in other areas of HEFCE support namely:

“£294 million in special funding for national programmes and initiatives, such as the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the development fund for employer engagement. This compares with £316 million in 2009-10.” [approximately 7.5% reduction]

And under Capital funding it notes:

“reprioritising and rephasing of the funding for JISC, including the open and educational resource programme, will release a further £27 million”

Note “The decisions taken by the Board do not take account of the £600 million reduction in the higher education and science and research budgets by 2012-13 announced in the pre-Budget report on 9 December 2009”.

The JISC annual budget is around £82 million recurrent core and £33 million capital.

JISC is hugely influential in many areas of UK HE and FE including open access, digital preservation, e-learning and digital libraries amongst others. Any reduction to its core funding and capital programmes will be significant for many in the sector and beyond.  In January, JISC postponed all current capital funded calls and invitations to tender (ITTs), pending the HEFCE board decision.

Digital AfterLife

The implications of the emerging information society, what it means for digital preservation, and its impact on individuals have always been personal interests. These interests featured in the article “Plenty of Room at the Bottom? Personal Digital Libraries and Collections” a few years ago. One aspect that article touched on was the issues of “digital estates” and how they would be dealt with in future. At the time I speculated:

“It does not seem too far-fetched to suggest that in time we may see the emergence of “digital executors” with access to secure digital safe-deposit boxes storing passwords and access rights.”

So yesterday’s article in the Guardian newspaper  on Preparing for the digital after life struck a chord. The article addresses how should we deal with web users’ Facebook, PayPal and other accounts when they log off for good? Amongst other things it mentions a number of emerging services:

“After setting up an account with Legacy Locker, users can upload login details for digital assets and specify who will receive them posthumously. AssetLock offers a similar “electronic safe deposit box”, while Slightly Morbid allows members to send an email from beyond, giving them the ultimate final word. Deathswitch is an automated system that prompts users for their password on a regular basis. If it has not been received after several prompts, the system deduces the user is “dead or critically disabled” and messages are sent to pre-selected recipients.”

Fascinating stuff but I can think of several  people with overfull mailboxes who had better not apply for the Deathswitch service…

Research Data Costs Survey for Keeping Research Data Safe2

The “Keeping Research Data Safe 2” project aims to extend previous work on digital preservation costs for research data. It is identifying long-lived datasets for the purpose of cost analysis and building on the work of the first “Keeping Research Data Safe” study completed in 2008.

We are  making an open invitation via email lists and the project blog and  webpage for others to contact us and contribute to the data survey if they had research datasets and associated cost information that they believe may be of interest to the study. Please get in touch if you are interested in participating or would like further information. Expressions of Interest can be sent to info@beagrie.com.

We are preparing a survey proforma to identify key research data collections with information on preservation costs and issues which will be available shortly. Further information on the Keeping Research Data Safe2 Project can be found on the project website.

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