New report identifies the value and impact of data curation and sharing

Article dated: 4 April 2014

Jisc has just published a report that synthesises the results of three studies that evaluate the value and impact of three well-established research data centres.

The three centres are: the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS), a precursor to the UK Data Service; the Archaeology Data Service (ADS); and the British Atmospheric Data Centre (BADC).

The report summarises the findings from a series of recent studies, conducted by Neil Beagrie of Charles Beagrie Ltd. and John Houghton of Victoria University, into the economic value and impact of these three UK centres.

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
  • lessons learnt and recommendations arising from the series of studies as a whole

The report is of particular interest during a time when substantial resources are being invested to develop and provide services for curating and preserving research data for long-term use.

Each data centre study combined quantitative and qualitative approaches in order to quantify value in economic terms and present other, non-economic, impacts and benefits. The studies cover both users and depositors of data; this may be the first time that depositors have been included in such an analysis.

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.

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
  • 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 per cent 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
  • 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 additional 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 full report can be downloaded from Jisc at the link below.