neil cropped 2A report looking into the value and impact of data sharing and curation in research data centres found that the value of the access that users have to the data is more than double the sum of money invested in the centres. Neil Grindley finds that this is obviously useful and good news for the data centres, but it is also a welcome insight for those trying to wrangle the benefits, value and cost of digital curation into more readily understandable frameworks

Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Oscar Wilde’s epigram still strikes a chord more than a century after it was written, but for those of us in the business of managing digital objects over time (let’s call it digital curation) it needs a bit of an update. In its place I’d offer: “nowadays, people are beginning to know the price of stuff but they struggle a bit to know whether it’s valuable.” Actually I’d go further and say that we may not even be sure what sort of value we are talking about when it comes to digital objects or digital processes.

We can only measure the true value of data curation and assess impact through trying to apply consistent methods across different organisations and their stakeholders. A recently published report attempts to describe precisely this. Commissioned by Jisc and carried out by Neil Beagrie and John Houghton, the report looks into the value and impact of three well-established research data centres: the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS), now part of the UK Data Service, the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) and the British Atmospheric Data Centre (BADC).

It provides a summary of the key findings from new research and reflects on:

  • The methods that can be used to collect data for such studies
  • The analytical methods that can be used to explore value, impacts, costs and benefits to different stakeholders
  • The lessons learned and recommendations arising from the series of studies as a whole

usb hubImage credit: Ds13 at en.wikipedia (Wikimedia, CC BY-SA)

Assessing user benefits

This is the first time that this array of qualitative and quantitative methods has been applied to determining the value of data curation. The headline result is that the value of the access that users have to the data (which is made freely available by the data centres) is more than double the sum of money invested in the centres.

the value of the access that users have to the data is more than double the sum of money invested in the centres

This is obviously useful and good news for the data centres, but it is also a welcome insight for those of us who are trying to wrangle the benefits, value and cost of digital curation into more readily understandable frameworks.

Adding value to your digital curation

The EC-funded and Jisc-led 4C Project – Collaboration to Clarify the Costs of Curation – is charged with coming up with a number of resources. These include reports, models and a Curation Costs Exchange (CCEx), all of which should help organisations make leaner investments into digital curation and to have a better knowledge of the benefits and the return on investment that they might expect. The objective of the CCEx is to more easily allow comparisons to be made between curation processes and to try and link that to the component costs of those processes.

The aims of the report and the 4C Project do not align exactly, but it is clear that the study has much to offer about the application of methodologies and the sort of assumptions that can and should be made about the value of digital assets. Take a look at the new report, and visit the Digital Curation Centre (DCC) website to find out more about its digital curation work.

This piece originally appeared on the Jisc blog and is reposted with the author’s permission.

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the Impact of Social Science blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please review our Comments Policy if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.

About the Author

Neil Grindley is the Head of Resource Discovery at Jisc, an organization that funds and supports technology-related projects and services for the UK Higher and Further Education sector and is influential within and beyond the UK as an innovative agent of change. Up until recently Neil was responsible for the Digital Preservation and Curation programme at Jisc and oversaw a range of activities and partnerships and served on the board of various preservation membership organisations. Previously, Neil worked on projects supporting the use of advanced ICT methods for humanities research and before that was the IT Manager at the Courtauld Institute of Art.

 

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