Universities

Reflections on the Digital Preservation Handbook Book Sprint 28-29 October 2014

What a terrific couple of days! We completed a two day book sprint in London last week focussing on developing new content for the first release of the next edition of the Digital Preservation Handbook that is being funded by The National Archives, the British Library, and Jisc. Really pleased with the outputs and progress we made.

A group of 11 people Matthew Addis (Arkivum), Neil Beagrie (Charles Beagrie Ltd), Stephanie Davidson (West Yorkshire Archive Service), Michael Day (British Library), Matt Faber (Jisc), Chris Fryer (Parliamentary Archives), Anna Henry (the Tate Gallery), William Kilbride (DPC), Ed Pinsent (ULCC), Virginia Power (Jisc), Susan Thomas (Bodleian Library Oxford), met up over two days to progress sections of the content for the new “Technical Solutions and Tools” chapter of the Handbook (as identified in the Draft Outline of the 2nd Edition of the Digital Preservation Handbook). Accommodation for the sprint was kindly provided by the Jisc in their central London offices via the good offices of Neil Grindley.

We have completed draft sections for:

  • Tools (including guidance on Tool Registries)
  • Media and Storage
  • File Formats
  • Digital Forensics

In addition a content outline was agreed for the “Getting Started” sub-section of the Introduction.  Alongside this work, other sections including the Background, How to Use the Handbook, Definitions and Concepts, Acronyms and Initials, and References have been partially revised as we went.

The revision has been guided by the user feedback and consultation (see Report on the Preparatory User Consultation on the 2nd Edition of the Digital Preservation Handbook) in short to keep the Handbook text practical, concise, and accessible with more detail available in the case studies and further reading.

This was the first book sprint for all bar one of the participants. We learnt a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of “Booktype” the open source software we used that had been developed to help support this type of activity, eventually settling on using it in parallel with collaborative text tools such as Google Docs to get the best from each approach. A two-day book sprint was very intense but few could have spared more time away from the workplace, and as one participant said a tight-deadline helped everyone focus on the tasks in hand.

At the end of the sprint the challenge was set to aim to make the new content available within 3 months – we hope sufficient additional sections to create a ready critical mass, potentially the complete Tools and Solutions Chapter of the Handbook can be readied and transferred to the DPC website and reviewed for release in the New Year.

Survey results and the contents outline for new edition of the Digital Preservation Handbook just published

A big thank-you from Neil Beagrie and William Kilbride to everyone who contributed to the recent audience research survey or who  commented on the potential contents outline for the new edition of the Digital Preservation Handbook.

Following that work, the DPC and Charles Beagrie Ltd are delighted to announce the release two important documents which will form the foundations of the new edition of the DPC Digital Preservation Handbook: the results of a major survey into audience needs, an the first full outline of content.

‘We are very keen to make sure that the new edition of the handbook fits with people’s actual needs so we were very encouraged by the substantial response to the consultation document which we sent out before summer’ explained Neil Beagrie who is editor and lead author of the new edition of the handbook. ‘We estimate that the digital preservation community represented on the JiscMail list numbers around 1500 people in total: and there were 285 responses to the survey.’

‘It a very large sample of the community but it’s also re-assuringly diverse.  There’s a strong representation from higher education and public sector agencies but there’s also a sizeable group from industry, from charities as well as museums and community interest groups.  When asked if they would use the handbook, not a single respondent said no.’

‘The survey has directly informed the contents of the new handbook’, explained William Kilbride, Execuitve Director of the DPC.  ‘We started with an idea of the gaps and the many parts that had become outdated since the original handbook was published.  So we invited users to tell us what they wanted and how they wanted it – both in terms of content and presentation.  The project team has responded thoughtfully to these requests so I am confident that the resulting list of content is tailored to people’s needs. But we remain open to suggestions and comments’

‘This will help ensure that the handbook remains relevant for many years to come.’

The two documents are available as follows:

Science and Innovation: ESDS Impact study is 1 of 3 Stand-Out Studies Internationally

Our ESDS Impact Study was selected in a recent BIS report as one of just three studies internationally considered to “stand out as being particularly good examples of good practice in the measurement of economic impacts”.

In case readers haven’t seen it (or like us have a large “to read pile”), we are flagging up the “Big Science and Innovation” report undertaken for the UK Government Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) that was published in October last year (Technopolis 2013 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/big-science-and-innovation–2 ).

The report presents the findings of a study to explore the impact of large research facilities on innovation and the economy. It is a reference document, providing advice about approaches to the evaluation of innovation outcomes alongside a review and bibliography of around 100 past evaluations internationally.

The report mentions our impact study of the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS) for the ESRC on pages 31-32, 36, 37 and appendix E on p87. They discuss our strengths and weaknesses on p91 (note our Archaeology Data Service and British Atmospheric Data Centre impact studies were underway but had not reported when this report was being written). They noted the element of the counter factual in our approaches (the only study they found to do so), but do not really mention that we did address the issue of representativeness through weighting the results, and had innovation impacts (highly and implicitly) in the return on investment model.

They identified 18 published reports that had measured the economic benefits made possible by specific research infrastructures, and which they considered to be of sufficient quality to be instructive to BIS and colleagues. John and I were very pleased to be selected and highlighted to BIS as one of just three studies which they considered to stand out as being particularly good examples of good practice in the measurement of economic impacts from all the international studies they reviewed. The three good practice studies were:

  • The economic impact study for the Berkeley Lab (by CBRE Consulting, 2010)
  • The study of the economic impact of the Human Genome Project (by Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, 2011)
  • The economic impact evaluation of the Economic and Social Data Service (carried out by Charles Beagrie Ltd and The Centre for Strategic Economic Studies (CSES) University of Victoria, 2012)

On completion of the ESDS, ADS and BADC impact studies, we authored a synthesis to summarise and reflect on the combined findings. This was published by Jisc earlier this year see The Value and Impact of Data Sharing and Curation: A synthesis of three recent studies of UK research data centres. If you are interested in our ESDS impact study and the methods, issues, and findings, we would recommend the synthesis for a short overview and summary of our work. Alternatively, the full report of the ESDS study is available from the ESRC website.

Neil Beagrie and John Houghton

Trending: The Value and Impact of Data Sharing and Curation

A colleague has pointed out that our synthesis report for Jisc on the Value and Impact of Data Sharing and Curation has had over 3,900 downloads since April 2014. You can see the stats and access the report here on the Jisc Repository.

It is great to see that there is a very high level of interest in the topic and report. I’m not sure how that figure compares, but if you have done work for Jisc you should now be able to search or browse the Jisc repository and see the download stats for your own work. Potentially, access to the Jisc repository stats is going to be very useful for those involved in REF or needing to demonstrate their  impact to their institutions and other stakeholders.

New Publications: TNA Guidance and Case Studies on Cloud Storage and Digital Preservation

We are pleased to announce that The National Archives (TNA) has published our new guidance on Cloud Storage and Digital Preservation, with five accompanying case studies.

The Guidance and case studies have been created for TNA to address questions archivists have raised about digital preservation and cloud storage. The guidance is written by a Charles Beagrie team comprising of Neil Beagrie, Paul Miller, and Andrew Charlesworth.

The Guidance is now available to download here.

Of particular interest to many archivists will be the experience of our case studies, which are available as separate PDFs from the url above. These are as follows: Dorset History Centre, Parliamentary Archives, Tate Gallery, University of Oxford, and the Archives and Records Council Wales Digital Preservation Consortium.

To accompany the publication of the Guidance, we held a webinar for archivists on digital preservation and the cloud on 13May 2014, the recording of which will be accessible soon on TNA’s website. A further announcement will be made when that is available.

Work starting on a New Edition of the Digital Preservation Handbook

We are delighted to announce that The National Archives is working with the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC), Charles Beagrie Ltd, Jisc and the British Library to update and revamp a key online resource for managing digital resources over time, the online edition of the Digital Preservation Handbook.

The Handbook authored by Neil Beagrie and Maggie Jones, was first published in 2001 in a print edition by the British Library with support from Resource: The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries (whose functions have subsequently transferred to The National Archives and the Arts Council)and Jisc. The online edition was launched in 2002 on the Digital Preservation Coalition website. It remains heavily used by archivists and other information professionals.

The National Archives and the Digital Preservation Coalition and ourselves will work with expert partners over the next two years to develop the new look Handbook as an interactive online resource.

‘I’m delighted to be working with The National Archives on this important project’, said William Kilbride of the DPC.  The original handbook remains very popular so we have been loathed to take it down, but we’ve been aware for a while that it was becoming increasingly out of date.  Our experience shows that there is a real demand for concise and practical advice on preservation so I am confident that this new edition will be immediately popular’.

The project to deliver the resource is a joint venture between The National Archives, the DPC and Neil Beagrie (Charles Beagrie Ltd), one of the original authors of the report, with further contributions from Jisc which was one of the initial co-funders and the British Library who published the original handbook.

‘I’m looking forward to starting this important revision’, said Neil Beagrie.  ‘It’s not just a few updates to the text: we will be basing the new handbook on an extensive process of consultation to make sure that the new edition measures up to people’s real and emerging need and, to make sure that it highlights good practice.  We aim to make sure it binds together other sources of advice (including the many excellent reports in the DPC Technology Watch series) and that it provides authoritative and concise advice for topics that are not supported by other resources.’

The online element will ensure the Handbook can be easily updated over time, incorporating case studies and a view from current practitioners to ensure it is relevant to a wide audience, from beginners to those with more specialist needs. We hope the Handbook will help individuals from a wide range of organisations adopt a step-by-step approach to addressing their digital resource management needs.

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.

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.

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