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LIFE3 model beta available for evaluation

Friday, June 11th, 2010

 LIFE3 screenshot

If you are interested in evaluating the latest beta version of the LIFE3 predictive costing model, please contact us by email.

We are still working on several of the stages by refining the formulas and adding case study data, but it works well enough to give a good impression of how the final version will work.

All feedback will help us to make the model of the greatest possible use to as wide-ranging a group of stakeholders as possible. We are particularly keen for people in research and higher education to try the model and let us know what they think.

Storage costs survey

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

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We are collecting data on digital preservation storage costs for LIFE3 that will help us to improve the accuracy and flexibility of the storage section of the model.

If you operate a digital preservation repository, we would greatly appreciate it if you or your operational managers could fill out and return the survey, which can be downloaded here.

If possible we would like to have the responses back by May 21st, and as mentioned on the form, incomplete responses are better than none at all as all data received will be of use.

All responses to this survey will be kept confidential and any data used in the LIFE Model will be anonymised.

LIFE3 and Research Repositories

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

LIFE3 was presented at a workshop for the KeepIt project in Southampton on the 5th of February, to a group of 16 research and library repository managers from around the UK.

The workshop provided an opportunity to compare the approaches of LIFE and the Keeping Research Data Safe project (KRDS), and was a great opportunity for the LIFE team to get people using and evaluating an early version of the new cost prediction model and tool.

The KRDS project has been tightly focused on the costs and benefits of preserving research data within higher education institutions, while LIFE has a broader focus that also includes libraries, archives, and other institutional repositories, and to date has focused on costs only.

During the afternoon session, the participants were given the current development version of the LIFE predictive tool to experiment with, and the feedback was both extremely positive and constructive. It was especially interesting to see how users from research data repositories approached the tool with different costing scenarios and questions compared to users from libraries for example. This is something we will take into account as development of the tool progresses, and we will continue to collect feedback from the group on future versions.

We would also welcome the involvement of any other institutions or researchers dealing with digital preservation, who would be interested in trialling versions of the tool as it matures. We are actively seeking feedback with the aim of making the tool as useful to the DP community as possible. If you are interested in participating, please contact the LIFE team.

LIFE3 project granted third phase funding

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

LIFE3 Press Release: 

A ground-breaking project to support long-term digital preservation has been granted funding for its third phase. The LIFE Project (Life Cycle Information for e-Literature) is a collaboration between the British Library and UCL (University College London), supported by LIBER (the Association of European Research Libraries), which is developing tools and techniques to enable long-term planning for digital preservation by researchers, librarians, data managers and other information specialists.

The latest phase of the project has been granted funding by JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee) and RIN (Research Information Network). The Project will develop a predictive costing tool which will enable long term lifecycle costs to be estimated at the point of acquisition or creation of digital collections. This will greatly enhance the ability of data professionals to plan and resource preservation activities, and understand the financial commitment that comes with key collection management decisions.

Helen Shenton, Head of Collection Care at the British Library, said, “We are delighted that the third – and most practical – phase of the LIFE Project is being supported by both JISC and RIN, which further enhances the very collaborative character of the project to date.”

Dr Paul Ayris, Director of UCL Library Services, said, “The development of a costing tool, to cost digital preservation activities, will mark the culmination of the LIFE Project. The toolset will be available to academics, researchers, funders and libraries to help them predict the costs of the long-term digital curation of the assets they are creating and storing. It will be a major step forward to have this tool available and in the public domain.”

LIFE3 concludes in July 2010.

For the full press release see:

A few thoughts on the LIFE2 conference

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

Frances Boyle (Executive Director of the Digital Preservation Coalition) who took part in the panel discussion for the LIFE2 Conference, has written up some key points from the conference.

A few thoughts on the recent LIFE2 conference
Frances Boyle, DPC

Frances BoyleMoney matters and all things economic are hitting the headlines both in the real world and in that most glamorous of niches, the digital preservation community. In recent months a number of reports have been published looking at particular aspects of digital preservation costs (e.g. the JISC LOCKSS & Research Data reports). It was against this backdrop that the timely LIFE2 conference was held at the BL last week.

The initial sessions outlined the roadmap of the LIFE project, in its various incarnations, by members of the project team. They had clearly engaged with the community throughout the project phases; the dialogue resulting in refinement of the model. Elements which had changed included the addition of a distinct metadata component – something which engendered debate throughout the day. Another refreshing aspect of the work was the extent to which lessons learned from case studies had been used to tweak and improve the model.

The key note speaker was the enigmatic Paul Courant (Dean of Libraries, University of Michigan), who addressed the most fundamental of issues - what are the benefits of digital preservation and why should we be spending money on this? The benefits identified were efficacy, accessibility and reliability – i.e. you know it is there, you can find it and you can use it– that perfect information retrieval moment! In his view the easy stuff to deal with is text e.g. output from digitisation projects, journals etc; the harder stuff is multimedia, material with embedded functionality and links etc; whilst the hardest stuff of all being the cultural record itself.

Again getting to the crux of the matter Paul raised the tricky question - who will pay for universal access for all when there is no palpable return on the investment?

As is often the case when interested parties from the community gather in an orderly fashion the value and the benefit to both project members and the gathered audience was realised in the interactive sessions sprinkled throughout the day. LIFE2 is a project which addresses practical generic issues which have resonance with not only the digital preservation community but also with the ‘powers that be’ who occupy the surrounding space and who ultimately pick up the bills. Indeed, the expressed aim from the original LIFE project was ‘to make a major contribution in understanding the long-term costs of digital preservation’. This deceptively simple aim remains a ‘biggie’ in the digital preservation space.

Some take-home messages from the day:

Progress had been made into a better understanding of the costing model components.

The model was workable in real libraries and archives. It was preservation strategy neutral and provided a comprehensible checklist – both important for practitioners.

At the methodology level it was mooted, in my view persuasively, that some level of discounting should be included in the model.

Roles & responsibilities – a recurrent theme which surfaces at many digital preservation events. Perhaps indicative that digital preservation is a relatively new area which is not only in transition itself as a discipline but impacts on organisations which are also in a state of flux.

The model’s flexible approach in isolating and articulating the elements and sub elements would enable the practitioner to juggle where the spend is best suited to fit their particular needs. For example decreasing the number of received file formats at ingest would impact on the costs of future technology watch activities.

How might consideration and management of significant properties be balanced against efficiency and costing savings? How might organisations achieve this balance?

An obvious issue which is not always taken into account is that data preservation costs vary according to when they are taken during the lifecycle. Retrospective costings add complications to the process.

Looking specifically at research data costs, issues to consider are economies of scale, first mover innovation costs and efficiency curve effects.

Tools which would help back at the ranch that were discussed:

  1. A predictive costing tool.
  2. Tools which would allow institutions to contrast and compare the cost of DP in-house, with the cost of shared service and in turn with the cost of outsourcing to a third-party service. Indeed LIFE2 is in a great position to take this on by extending some of the case studies.
  3. Scenario building examples which would allow the LIFE2 model to be contextualised for an institutions own business priorities.

Model refinements suggested during the day included:

  1. Mapping to OAIS terminology. In this jargon packed field it would improve clarity and embed the proposed models in the ‘lingua preservation’.
  2. Metadata assigned to the functions they relate to not as a discrete stage as it currently stands.
  3. Call for more case studies – and indeed some thought on how these might be best packaged and presented to the community.
  4. Add elements for appraisal, deselection & disposal activities.
  5. An indication of the frequency of preservation actions would help to spec the cost of the preservation actions.
  6. Express the model in terms of activity based costing and consider using FEC.

Thoughts which will linger, a few days after the event, are that we shouldn’t forget why we’re interested in this – we need to consider (at regular intervals) the value of the assets, material, stuff, or whatever we might want to call it. Without recognition of the value how can we make informed cost benefit analyses, cost opportunity calculations or indeed business cases? How we measure the value and impact is perhaps another area which might be of interest to project funders?

Extending the LIFE2 model might also afford opportunities to develop material for an organisation to benchmark their activity – the costs of specific components within the LIFE2 model will vary enormously by organisation, collections, activity aims and priorities etc. A set of ‘typical’ models reflecting a range of scenarios would provide a useful gauge for organisations. Is there any mileage in suggesting that a transparent costing model should be part of any trustworthy digital repository scheme? I would certainly welcome piloting the model with a digital preservation service.

So an interesting event and a project which will hopefully go on to develop further tools within the LIFE portfolio.

The Afterlife Is Expensive for Digital Movies

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has just published a report on digital preservation and costing of digital movies. The New York Times discusses the report here, noting some key costs, comparison of digital and analogue tape and making mention of some detailed case study work. Unfortunately the report itself (entitled “The Digital Dilemma”) isn’t online but apparently you can order a paper copy from:

Ashley Head, AMPAS, Science & Technology Council, (phone) 310-247-3000 ext. 358 or e-mail:

There is also some related discussion on the digipres list, here.

More here, when I’ve read the report itself!

Information World

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

This is a link to a feature story on the British Library/Microsoft large scale digitisation project. There is a mention of the LIFE project alongside other BL digital preservation activities.


Delos - Appraisal in the digital world.

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

DElOS Logo

Based in the simply stunning Accademia Nationale Dei Lincei in Rome, this DELOS conference covered a diverse and highly informative cross section of speakers all facing the challenges of appraising electronic archives. Focusing mainly in the archive world but with strong input from both libraries and Universities it covered topics from appraising Art databases through to Scientific records.

I was there representing both the British Library using our recently completed risk assessment of digital objects as well as LIFE2, it was the first time the two had been used together and it seemed to work well. I underlined the LIFE project methodologies strength in helping repositories assess both the cost but also the areas of main activity within any archive.

The example I use most often to illustrate this is the VDEP analysis that was done for LIFE, even though the costs may not in all cases be 100% accurate the model still is able to identify where the most cost is gathered. In this particular case it was in the metadata creation which helped us highlight areas where future savings may be made, or where tool development could be focused to help reduce future costs.

The conclusions were that appraisal is a word used in many different ways, there is the traditional archiving use through to more modern electronic means and even went as far as a 3D model which plotted levels of activity within an archive based upon how many documents you send or recieve. Basically it put you on a map that kind of looked like the solar system and based upon your workrate you moved into or out of the picture…you have been warned.

The two day conference was a great success and it was a pleasure to be there.

TASI - Digital Preservation advice

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

TASI Logo TASI (Technical Advisory Service for Images) has just published updated versions of An Introduction to Digital Preservation and Establishing a Digital Preservation Strategy.From the TASI Lightbox Blog:  

“Digital preservation is a broad term used to describe the continued accessibility and maintenance of a digital resource safeguarding it into the future. Digital preservation is a vital part of the creation and management of any digital collection, and both these documents are essential reading for anyone embarking on a digitisation project.”

Digital Lives Project website & blog launched

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

The Digital Lives Research Project has recently launched a new website and blog.

Digital Lives is an incredibly interesting project, designed to provide a major pathfinding study of personal digital collections. It is so interesting in fact, that two of the LIFE Project team (Rory McLeod and Paul Wheatley) are on the Digital Lives project team.

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