In This Section

4C Partners

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

'4C’s Cost Model Evaluation' by Joy Davidson

As Ulla explained in her blog post back in June (Call for Curation Cost Models), one of 4C's main aims is explore how current cost models and tools might be enhanced to improve their potential usability to a wider array of stakeholders. During the course of our work, we are also hoping to better understand what bits of financial information are needed by different stakeholders and how we can ensure that they get the information they need when they need it. To this end, the 4C team has spent the past week evaluating eleven cost models against a detailed schema (79 individual elements!) trying to identify features that might be appealing to users as well as identifying aspects of the models that may be hindering their uptake. Below is a brief overview of some of the gaps we’ve identified so far. 

One of the barriers that could be limiting take-up is the lack of easy to use, quick start guides. Many of the tools we reviewed had very detailed user guidance - some guides coming in at 90+ pages. While the information contained in the detailed guidance is no doubt invaluable as orgnanisations proceed with an in-depth costing analysis, this sort of guidance doesn't really help potential users to determine if a particular model is right for them without expending quite a lot of effort. In many other cases, the guidance is embedded in the tools themselves so you need to start using them to get an idea of how they work and whether they will be right for you.


Make the tools more useful by developing concise, high-level overviews using plain language and common descriptive elements detailing what the tools can provide, who should use them, and when they should be used. 

Another obstacle hindering uptake is, in my opinion, that current models can’t easily feed into each other and don’t reflect the fact that different stakeholders within an organisation may wish to use different models to calculate costs at different points in time. For example, if a researcher uses CET or KRDS to calculate in-project, directly incurred costs for a specific project, how can these be fed into something like LIFE or CMDP at the institution-level to calculate indirects associated with in-project costs and longer-term archiving within an institution? Conversely, when determining the indirects costs associated with archiving data, would we be able to separate out these costs in instances where a funder provides a data centre for deposit rather than the data being retained by the institution? Cost models need to reflect organisational workflows rather than assume that all cost information will come through a single point (e.g., individual or organisational unit). Without being able to assess costs that reflect different workflows involved in generating and caring for data in the short and longer-terms, it will be very difficult to determine potential areas where cost savings and efficiencies can be made.


Enhance the models to allow them to be inter-changeable across parts of the lifecycle (e.g., for instance KRDS2 for pre-archive activity and LIFE3 at the archive stage).

In addition to being able to exchange information between various models, it would be fantastic if we could reach a point where the models interacted with other organisational systems (HR systems, grant systems, CRISs). As the models are currently used as stand-alone tools, users would have to manually update the formulas they have developed any time a variable changes (e.g., salary scales change, VAT increases, etc). It would be much better if the models were interoperable with other organisational systems that will likely be more frequently updated and maintained.  


Identify ways – with stakeholders – that data can be automatically updated in model(s) selected for use within institutions. Perhaps working towards CERIF compliance for current models would also be beneficial.

Lastly, a number of the models we reviewed provide very detailed breakdowns of a number of activities and roles that may be involved over the lifecycle but don't provide any recommended way of calculating these costs (e.g., pre-defined formulas and default data) that users could easily adapt when using the model. In this respect, each institution must invest time and effort to develop their own formulas and gather cost data to get any results from some of the models.


Share examples of formulas and develop sample default datasets for different scenarios that can be loaded into cost models.

Overall, the quality of the models we reviewed is very high and there are a number of excellent features in each that will help specific user communities get a good grasp on their curation costs. But there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to make these features more usable and valuable to a wider range of stakeholders.

The next step for 4C will be to delve a little further into identifying gaps and producing recommendations for our Roadmap. If you have a view on any of the gaps we’ve identified so far or want to suggest others we should consider please get in touch. We'd love to hear from you! 


Joy Davidson, HATII-DCC

Joy and the DCC lead on project task 2.2 on stakeholder analysis, building and monitoring a network of partners and stakeholders. The DCC also participates in other tasks in WP2, relating to engagement and analysis of stakeholder initiatives, outreach, publications, events and social network utilisation.