Tuesday, 2 June 2009

New project and end of this blog

I am glad to announce that the activities carried out through the Scoping Digital Repository Services for Research Data Management project are now being continued through a project called Embedding Institutional Data Curation Services in Research (EIDCSR) funded by JISC under the Information Environment Programme 2009-11.

Therefore, this is now the official final post for this blog. I would like to thank to everyone that has been reading and contributing to it and hope you will continue to follow our work in this new venture. 

A new EIDCSR project blog has been set up. Please follow our new activities there!

Friday, 15 May 2009

IASSIST Quarterly on research data repositories

IASSIST Quarterly IQ Vol. 31 issue 3&4 is now available. This IQ is a special issue dedicated to explore different research data repositories projects. The editor, Gretchen Cano, highlights the common themes such as the importance of aligning services with researchers' needs or the role of the data manager playing an increasingly important role within research groups. 

And it contains an article by me : Digital Repository Services for Managing Research Data: What Do Oxford Researchers Need?  where I describe the findings of the requirements gathering exercise with researchers in Oxford.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Digital Preservation Animations

Digital Preservation Europe (DPE) has just released the following great video in youtube explaining digital preservation in a funny and simple way. Good job!


Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Report on the Digital Repositories Workshop in Oxford

On Thursday 23 April, the Digital Repositories Workshop was held successfully at the Oxford e-Research Centre. It represented a bridge between the Scoping Digital Repository Services for Research Data Management project and the recently JISC funded, and soon to be unveiled, Embedding Institutional Data Curation Services in Research (EIDCSR) project.

The workshop brought 37 delegates from a variety of colleges and departments in Oxford. The morning was dedicated to showcasing repository activities in the University. After this a technical session was held in the afternoon and this included a group task to address the following question:

"from your experience, what are the technical components required to manage and curate research data in Oxford, why and what developments are more urgent?"

A full report of the event as well as copies of the presentations can be found at:

Friday, 27 March 2009

Consultation with Service Units in Oxford

I have just published the last report of the Oxford scoping study,  "Research Data Management Services: Findings of the Consultation with Service Providers" . 

This document reports back from a consultation with service units in Oxford aimed to validate the researchers requirements for services gathered through the scoping study interviews as well as to determine the data management services available to researchers and plans for future ones. The report also includes the the two main recommendations produced by the Oxford Digital Repositories Steering Group after considering an earlier version of the document.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Digital Repositories Workshop: Tools and Infrastructure

An internal event, the Digital Repositories Workshop: Tools and Infrastructure,  organised under the auspices of the Oxford Digital Repositories Steering Group will take place on Thursday 23 April.

This workshop aims to provide an overall view of best practice in the deployment and use of digital repositories to manage digital content in Oxford. The event is only open to Members of the University of Oxford and Colleges. 

To register please email: Julia.Bremble@oerc.ox.ac.uk

Using the DAF Methodology in Oxford

The document "Using the Data Audit Framework: An Oxford Case Study" reporting on the Oxford experience applying the DAF Methodology has now been published as a deliverable of the JISC funded DISC-UK DataShare project.

The DAF Methodology proved to be an excellent complement to the interview framework used to gather researchers' requirements for services to help them manage their data as part of the Scoping Digital Repository Services for

In the Oxford DAF two research groups participated in the exercise mainly through their Data Managers who provided incredibly valuable information about their groups' data and data management practices.  In both cases, their practices where mapped, see example below, to the DCC Lifecycle Model which we felt it needed to be integrated with the DAF Methodology.

In addition to this, the DAF data assets register was used to compile information about data resources being made available through the Oxford website.

We have had a really good experience with the DAF Methodology here in Oxford and will certainly make use of it in the future.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The UKRDS Final Report

I have just discovered that the executive summary of the UKRDS Final Report has been published on their website. This summary reports an overall estimated savings delivered by a scale-up UKRDS service over a period of five years to be the financial equivalent of 63.5 FTEs . 

The report also offers the following 2 key recommendations:

1.     That a UKRDS is feasible and should be considered for funding over a period of at least 5 years;
2.     That in the first instance a 2-year Pathfinder phase should be funded at a cost of £5.31m.

The International Conference on the UKRDS tomorrow will certainly be a worthwhile and highly stimulating event.  

Friday, 20 February 2009

A new Oxford project: BRII

Building the Research Information Infrastructure (BRII) is an innovative JISC funded project led by Sally Rumsey and Anne Bowtel that will make use of semantic web technologies to harvest data about research activity from existing sources in Oxford to re-use them in novel ways as well as to make them available to others. 

The data about research activity is also known as research management data (not research data!). Cecilia Loureiro-Koechlin, BRII Project Analyst, explains very effectively what these data are in her recent blog post. The BRII team will use existing data sources like the Oxford Research Archive or the Medical Science Division website, organize the data using RDF ontologies/taxonomies and develop APIs and web services that can enable the re-use of the data for other purposes.
Linking information like this about researchers' fields of expertise, projects, publications, roles, groups, collaborators, etc  has the the potential to impact how scholars identify their peers in particular areas and could empower them to establish new multi-disciplinary relationships which in some cases may help attract funding.

I see this project having strong synergies with research data management activities. In a way, research data outputs could be one of the pieces of information that could be linked to their authors, disciplines and publications, improving discoverability as well as providing additional information about the data. Moreover, the interviews I conducted as part of the scoping study revealed researchers' interest to identify who else in the institution handles the same types of data so that they could benefit from their experiences. Therefore, this type of research information infrastructure could help promoting best practice in research data management. One could also foresee, service providers making their existing services explicit in a similar form so that researchers can discover them more easily but this is certainly not within the scope of this project.    

In sum, this is an extremely exciting new initiative and I would highly recommend to keep an eye on the project's blog that will surely produce some stimulating material.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Economics of Digital Preservation

The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access published in December 2008 the report "Sustaining the Digital Investment: Issues and Challenges of Economically Sustainable Digital Preservation". 

This Task Force made up of international leading experts in digital preservation and curation has been brought together to investigate issues around the economic sustainability of digital information. This first report presents a conceptual framework that will guide the Task Force efforts in 2009. 

A definition is provided for economically sustainable digital preservation

“set of business, social, technological, and policy mechanisms that encourage the gathering of important information assets into digital preservation systems, and support the indefinite persistence of digital preservation systems, enabling access to and use of the information assets into the long-term future.” 

And a set of requirements to achieve this are proposed: 

  •  Recognition of the benefits of preservation on the part of key decision-makers;
  •  Incentives for decision-makers to act in the public interest;
  •  A process for selecting digital materials for long-term retention;
  •  Mechanisms to secure an ongoing, efficient allocation of resources to digital preservation activities;
  •  Appropriate organization and governance of digital preservation activities. 

The report goes into defining business and economic models explaining how "the economic model describes how economic reality works and the business models provide templates for acting within that reality". Consequently, the Task Force suggests that good business models will rely on complete economic models and they propose a minimum set of properties for the latter: 

  • They will account for the resources used to produce sustainability and access.
  • They will pay special attention to the role of time, in both the simple sense of the elapsed time that leads to bit rot, and in the more complicated sense that over time ownership of the data and available technologies may change.
  • They will enable us to examine the effects of different organizational and technical strategies on the quality of preservation and access.
  • They will enable us to assess the technical and the economic risks of losing data.
  • They will allow us to evaluate alternative policies, including changes in intellectual property law.
  • They will allow us to evaluate the implications of the five components of our sustainability definition, both individually and collectively. 

After this, a synthesis of a review of the literature on economics of digital preservation is provided and two UK projects are examined: 

  • The LIFE Project, a British Library and UCL collaboration which generated the lifecycle preservation model shown below that helps establishing the cost to preserve digital materials. 

Figure 1. LIFE’s preservation model (taken from Blue Ribbon Task Force report) 

  • The Keeping Research Data Safe study that focused on developing guidance to enable UK HE institutions to develop cost models to manage and preserve research data. The cost framework suggested by the study consisted of three parts:
    • key cost variables and units that affect the cost of preservation
    • an activity model that identifies activities with cost implications
    • a resources template providing a framework to draw the previous elements together 

The report finishes with six lessons learned: 

  1. It is easier to ‘sell’ outcomes than processes.
  2. Avoid excessive discounting of the benefits from digital preservation
  3. Separating preservation costs from other costs is difficult
  4. Diversity of funding streams is important for sustainable digital preservation
  5. Non-monetary incentives are important.
  6. Consider the full range of options when selecting an economic model to support digital preservation. 
Overall, this interim report provides an extremely useful synthesis of the issues around the economics of digital preservation for those organizations that are considering taking up the challenge. The next report promises to offer a set of scenarios with common conditions and associated suitable economic models for supporting long-term digital preservation.