In This Section

4C Partners

Deutsche National Bibliothek
Keep Solutions
National Library Estonia
The Royal Library
Statens Arkiver
UK Data Archive
University of Glasgow

'How Time Flies?!' by Neil Grindley

So ... we are almost done. The 4C project was funded by the European Commission to run for two years and somewhat unbelievably, our two years is finishing at the end of January 2015.

The 4500 4C-related email messages that I've chosen to keep and file in my mailbox are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the amount of interactions that took place around this project. If I was to include all the communications that took place to set the project up; and was able to count all the communications between the 13 partner organisations in 7 different countries that participated; let alone all the messages that went out to the community ... then that really would be a big number!

Communication and interaction has been at the heart of the 4C Project and what we have tried to do throughout is to stick to our guiding principle of being an 'open and social' project. What do we mean by that and what have we done to uphold that principle? Well ... I would say that we have tried really hard as a project to work together and with the community to reflect on and refine the outputs of the project as we go along. The point was never just to deliver large piles of paper to the European Commission to justify our funding. The point - for all of us - was to collaborate to try and help 'clarify the cost of curation' - and to produce practical and usable resources and advice and guidance.

And so ... the next question is, have we managed to do that?

At this point we have to turn to the community and ask you whether you think what we have done has helped. Even as we come to the end of the funded period of the project, we would still love to hear from you and get your continued input on this topic. You can do that by engaging with the Curation Costs Exchange -  This is the place to continue the discussions and carry on developing and sharing resources that address the economic issues related to digital curation.

What we haven't done (and we would argue that no-one should - or even could do this), is to produce some kind of definitive cross-sectoral costs calculator and this ties in with the one message from the community that couldn't have been made clearer throughout the entire duration of the project (voiced at almost every Q&A session, every workshop, every webinar, every focus group). The message is that it is critically important to identify, understand, align and communicate the organisational context and the organisational drivers for digital curation at the same time as attempting to quantify and communicate the costs. For this reason, the approach we have taken is to provide resources that will help organisations to model and compare their costs rather than attempt the impossible and thankless task of simply trying to tell people what it 'should' be costing them.

Imagine the conversation ... "You are x type of organisation with y amount of assets? OK ... no problem. By our magic calculator you should be spending z on digital curation."

So, what do we have now that we didn't have before? (Or at least will have when all the deliverables have been finished and made available!)

  • We have the Curation Costs Exchange. Before the 4C Project there was nowhere for organisations to even try and share their curation costs in any methodical and comparable way.
  • We have the Curation Cost Concept Model that provides the community with detailed support to create their own approach to cost modelling - (backed up by a costs framework model and a gateway specification)
  • We have new advice, guidance and commentary on a broad range of costs-related issues including trust, risk and business modelling.
  • We have a new framework for considering sustainability issues. The Digital Curation Sustainability Model (DCSM) builds on previous work and the thinking of the 4C Project to help organisations with long-term strategic planning.
  • We have the 4C Roadmap which sets out a broad strategic and political agenda and highlights actions over the next five years that a range of organisations should take to increase the prospects for more effective and efficient digital curation.

You will be able to find all of these things on the 4Cproject website:, and ultimately contained within the Curation Costs Exchange:

I also think that over the last few years, the community has generally matured in its thinking about the costs and benefits of digital curation and the value of digital assets. There are lots of factors that will have brought that about including the inevitable maturing of curation as an activity and the accelerant effect of the challenging economic times that we find ourselves in. But I would also like to think that the 4C Project was a timely and relevant exercise and that it played its part (and will continue to do so) in supporting the drive towards increased maturity of practice.

I’m going to finish by saying that this project was a genuine surprise to me. I’m going to confess now that I went into this whole European adventure with some trepidation. We picked a hard topic and I thought the likelihood of us coming out the other end with a whole bunch of useful deliverables and the consortium all on board and talking to each other was questionable.

Well … I was wrong to be so gloomy. I have had the great good fortune to work on the 4C project with 12 other project partners (and an EU Project Officer) who have been fantastic to work with, deeply committed to the aims of the project and to collaboration; and who have employed their ingenuity, creativity, dedication and experience to make this an incredibly rewarding few years and an amazing learning opportunity.

I thank them all and look forward to working with them and the wider community to think hard about how to exploit the legacy of the project.

Neil Grindley is the Coordinator for the 4C Project and when he isn't doing that he is a Programme Manager at Jisc, the UK's expert organisation on digital technologies for education and research.