Major EU initiative to clarify the costs and benefits of digital curation

Article dated: 27-Mar-13

The UK Data Archive has joined 12 partners in 7 different countries in a major new initiative to help organisations invest confidently in digital curation and preservation. 4C logo

Called 4C, the Collaboration to Clarify the Costs of Curation project aims to help organisations within and beyond the cultural heritage sector to invest more effectively in digital curation activities. It is funded to early 2015 under the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development.

"It can be difficult to make a convincing case for investment in digital curation for two reasons," explains Neil Grindley, project coordinator from Jisc. "Firstly the costs of curation are currently hard to predict; and secondly the short-term benefits of curation are hard to define because it implicitly addresses long-term challenges. 4C will address both concerns and provide practical guidance that will help."

"There has been a lot of research on this topic," says Sabine Schrimpf of Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, "but it has tended to be isolated and the results have not been embedded in tools or workflows. We want to address this in a way that everyone can understand and we realised that the best way to do this is to focus on practical activity."

"We've described 4C as 'open and social' because we will be using Twitter to publish rapid updates from the project and, rather than waiting for perfection, we will be blogging and sharing our findings as we go," Schrimpf explains. "We hope that this will encourage debate and increase the likelihood that our results are meaningful."

The UK Data Archive's contributions

The UK Data Archive's main focus is to develop a cost concept model for the costs of digital curation. This will be based on work by other collaborators in the project and the large number of existing cost models for digital preservation.

This model will in turn be transformed into a gateway requirements specification for a Curation Costs Exchange Tool. The Archive will also be in involved in the project's enhancement work package, contributing to an assessment of indirect economic determinants of digital curation. These include trust, quality, risk and impact, the extension and development of an Economic Sustainability Reference Model and examining the benefits and costs of maintaining trustworthiness within digital curation.

"4C will provide some really useful outcomes," explains Alex Thirifays of the National Archives of Denmark. "As well as a report on the state of the art, the project will create an online curation costs exchange which will help users model their costs and in this way predict more accurately the sorts of costs and benefits that are likely to result from the positive decision to preserve. This will be useful for managers in major archives and data centres. In addition we will publish a roadmap for future work in modelling costs. These tools will be particularly useful for policy-makers concerned about long-term access to data."

Raivo Ruusalepp of the National Library of Estonia described how the project will work. "4C has a relatively small number of partners and the project falls into three simple parts: we want to assess the state of current research; we want to enhance that research by considering all the costs and benefits that apply; and we want to engage people to test and validate these assumptions as we go. All three of these activities will happen in parallel as each of these tasks needs to contribute to the others."

Project partners

The project is coordinated by Neil Grindley of Jisc, and major tasks are led by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, the Danish National Archives, and the National Library of Estonia. The full list of project partners is:

  • Danish National Archives
  • DANS - Data Archiving and Network Service (KNAW/NWO) Netherlands
  • Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Germany, for the network of expertise in digital preservation 'nestor'
  • Digital Curation Centre, University of Edinburgh (UK)
  • Digital Preservation Coalition (UK)
  • Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute, University of Glasgow (UK)
  • Institute for Information Systems and Computing Research, Portugal (INESC-ID)
  • Jisc (UK)*
  • Keep Solutions, Portugal
  • National Library of Estonia
  • Royal Library of Denmark (Denmark)
  • Secure Business Austria
  • UK Data Archive, University of Essex (UK)