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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.

Conference Video now available

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

LIFE2 ConferenceThe video from the LIFE2 Conference is now available from the conference page.

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.

Conference presentations now available

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

LIFE2 Conference Presentations

The presentation files from last week’s LIFE2 Conference are now available on the Conference Page.

I hope to make the video of the conference available soon.

Conference blog posts

Friday, June 27th, 2008

There have been a number of blog posts about the LIFE Conference we had at the beginning of this week, which I thought might be worth highlighting here.

Patricia Sleeman (ULCC) and Alexandra Eveleigh (West Yorkshire Archive Service) both posted interesting overviews of the day. Michael Jubb (RIN) who took part in the afternoon’s panel session also posted some thoughts.

Owen Stephens (Imperial College) posted a more detailed discussion of each of the day’s presentations, which are individually linked to here:

Welcome and Introduction (Helen Shenton)

Keynote (Paul Courant)

LIFE Model (Paul Wheatley)

LIFE Model Economic Validation (Bo-Christer Björk)

Implementation of the LIFE work (Ulla Bøgvad Kejser, Anders Bo Nielsen and Paul Ayris)

British Library Newspapers Case Study (Richard Davies)

SHERPA-LEAP Case Study (Jacqueline Cooke)

SHERPA-DP Case Study (Stephen Grace)

Research Data Costs (Neil Beagrie)

Q & A for Case Studies

Panel discussion - Costing Digital Preservation: What are the next steps? (chaired by Chris Rusbridge)

Thank you to everyone who spent the time writing about the conference, and if there are any posts that I’ve missed, please do let me know.

Conference photos

Friday, June 27th, 2008

We’ll be posting photos from the conference next week, but for now, here’s one of almost everyone involved in Monday’s conference. My thanks to all our speakers, as well as everyone who attended.

LIFE2 Conference Speakers

The LIFE Conference Speakers (from left to right) - Rory McLeod (BL), Ulla Bøgvad Kejser (Royal Library, Denmark), Richard Davies (BL), Paul Courant (University of Michigan), Anders Bo Nielsen (The National Archives, Denmark), Michael Jubb (RIN), Paul Ayris (UCL), Frances Boyle (DPC), Chris Rusbridge (DCC), Paul Wheatley (BL), Jacqueline Cooke (Goldsmiths), Stephen Grace (CeRch) and Neil Grindley (JISC).

Missing from the photo - Helen Shenton (BL), Sheila Anderson (CeRch) and Bo-Christer Björk (Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration).

Conference Highlights

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

LIFE2 Logo

The LIFE Team hosted another successful project conference on Monday. We’re hoping to have video as well as powerpoints available sometime next week. In the meantime, I think it’s worth highlighting some comments made by Paul Ayris (Director of Library Services at UCL) in his closing remarks:

The key to sustainable preservation is demand; and demand is prompted by a perception of value. We should not let cost determine what we preserve. These were the messages which I picked up from Paul Courant’s keynote paper

  1. Paul Wheatley has shown us a new version of the LIFE model, with further elaborations, which will develop into version 2 of the model in the LIFE 2 Report
  2. Bo-Christer Björk has examined the LIFE1 model and found no  flaws; but he does have some suggestions on what to do about issues such as inflation and depreciation
  3. We have seen successful implementations of the LIFE model in the Royal Library and National Archives in Denmark, which has led to some significant changes to the presentation of the model in those countries
  4. We have been presented with reports from a number of Case Studies in the LIFE2 project with varying results. This seems to suggest  that we are still learning what digital preservation means in practice
  5. The final Question and Answer session has been lively:
  6. The LIFE Team, and members of the audience, have suggested that we need a predictive LIFE tool; is this LIFE3?
  7. There is interest in more case studies - scenario building is critical
  8. It would be important, using the LIFE methodology, to establish the cost of digital preservation as a shared service and compare that sum with the cost of undertaking digital preservation at a local level
  9. There is interest in the community in a pilot digital preservation service in the UK.  Why does the UK not have something like the Dutch e-Depot in the Netherlands?

Thanks should go to everyone involved in the day from the speakers, through to the 100+ delegates who contributed to the valuable discussions that took place throughout the day.

LIFE2 Conference Programme updated

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

The programme for the LIFE2 Conference has been recently updated, and is available from the conference page.

The free one-day conference will be held on 23 June at the British Library Conference Centre. If you have not yet registered, and would like to attend, you can register easily here:

Registration will close in a few weeks time, so please make sure you register in time, if you are intending to take part in the conference.

LIFE2 Conference - registration is open

Friday, April 4th, 2008

If you would like to attend the free 1-day conference held at the British Library on 23 June, please could you fill out the brief form on the project website: LIFE2 Conference

Registration will start at 9.30am, with the first speaker starting at 10.00am.

When the exact programme has been finalised I will post it to this blog, however, it will include the following:

Keynote address by Paul Courant (University Librarian and Dean of Libraries, University of Michigan)

A panel discussion on future digital preservation costing activities

Presentation on the JISC-LC Blue Ribbon Task Force on the economic sustainability of digital preservation by Paul Ayris (Director of Library Services, University College London)

Presentations on the updated LIFE costing model and how to implement it.

Presentation of the economic review conducted of LIFE1 and LIFE2 by Bo-Christer Björk (Professor of Information Systems Science, SwedishSchool of Economics and Business Administration)

LIFE project results on the costs of digital collections will also be released, including presentations on the following case studies:

Institutional repositories (from SHERPA-LEAP and SHERPA-DP).

British Library Newspapers (including mapping the costing model to both digital and analogue collections).

Primary Data at the Medical Research Council

LIFE2 Conference: 23 June 2008

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

A date for your diaries - the LIFE2 Project Conference will be held at the British Library on 23 June 2008.

The conference will cover the results from the project’s case studies which examined the lifecycle costs for:  

Digital repositories

Primary data

Digitised newspapers

The conference will cover the results from the project’s case studies which examined the lifecycle costs for:  Other topics will include mapping digital and analogue lifecycles, as well as the updated LIFE costing model and how to go about using the LIFE model in your own institutions.

The conference will be of interest to the digital preservation community and repository managers, as well as anyone with an interest in the costs associated with digital collections.

We will post further details of the programme closer to the conference date, however if you are interested in attending please register from here or email we will keep you informed of the programme details. There is no charge for conference attendance.

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