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4C Partners

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

Press Release: New EU collaboration to clarify the costs (and benefits) of curation

The EC has launched a major new project to help organizations invest confidently in digital curation and preservation.

4C - ‘the Collaboration to Clarify the Costs of Curation’ – brings together 13 agencies in 7 different countries so that organizations can approach their investment in data curation and preservation with greater certainty and with greater clarity about what they’ll get back in return.

‘It can be difficult to make a convincing case for investment in digital curation for two reasons’ explained Neil Grindley project co-ordinator from Jisc in the UK.  ‘Firstly the costs of curation are currently hard to predict; and secondly the short term benefits of curation are hard to define because it implicitly addresses long-term challenges. So, even when public policy or regulation requires it, practitioners have the unenviable task of persuading executives to invest in new services whilst being uncertain about their potential impact and their actual cost.  This is particularly hard when they have to compete with immediate priorities that bring instant and obvious returns.’

‘4C will address both concerns and provide practical guidance that will help.’

‘There’s been a lot of research on this topic’, said Sabine Schrimpf of the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, ‘but it has tended to be isolated and the results have not been embedded in tools or workflows.  We want to address this in a way that everyone can understand and we realised that the best way to do this is to focus on practical activity. Our approach is firstly to identify people who have experience in this area and invite them to share that knowledge. Next it’s a question of finding people who need to understand the topic better and making sure that the knowledge we share with them is as clear and useful as it can possibly be.   We are looking to engage with many different kinds of organizations and to set up partnerships and have discussions with everyone who would like to get involved.  As well as reading widely on the topic we’ll be inviting people to workshops and focus during the next 2 years and we’ll be organizing a conference to share our results at the end of the process.  All of this will help to validate our work and encourage people to feel they have a stake in it.’

‘As far as possible all of this will happen in the open.’

‘We’ve described 4C as ‘open and social’ because we will be using twitter to publish rapid updates from the project and, rather than waiting for perfection, we’ll be blogging and sharing our findings as we go.  We hope that this will encourage debate and increase the likelihood that our results are meaningful.  Moreover if we are open with others then there is a greater likelihood that people will be open with us.’

‘4C will provide some really useful outcomes’, explained Alex Thirifays of the National Archives of Denmark.  ‘As well as a report on the state of the art that will bring together a fragmented research landscape, the project will create an online ‘curation costs exchange’ which will help users to model their costs and in this way predict more accurately the sorts of costs and benefits that are likely to result from the positive decision to preserve. This will be useful for managers in major archives and data centres and we hope it will support preservation planning functions in a variety of ways.  In addition we will publish a roadmap for future work in modelling costs which will help to clarify the areas which we think need further work.’

‘These tools will be particularly useful for policy-makers concerned about long-term access to data.’

Raivo Ruusalepp of the National Library of Estonia described how the project will work.  ‘4C is a relatively small project in European terms, funded under the ‘Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Innovation’.  This same programme has funded significant amounts of research and development in digital preservation in the past.  It’s a ‘Coordination and Support Action’ which means it is short-lived and, instead of undertaking its own fundamental research, 4C will promote and extend existing research.

‘4C has a relatively small number of partners and the project falls into three simple parts: we want to assess the state of current research; we want to enhance that research by considering all the costs and benefits that apply; and we want to engage people to test and validate these assumptions as we go.  All three of these activities will happen in parallel as each of these tasks needs to contribute to the others.’