This is a guest post from Chris Awre, Head of Information Services, Library and Learning Innovation at the University of Hull. Chris has been working with me on the "Filling the Digital Preservation Gap" project.
On 18th/19th November, Jenny and I attended two events held by Jisc at Aston University looking at shared services for research data management. This initiative has come about as many, if not all, institutions have struggled to identify a concrete way forward for managing research data, and there is widespread acknowledgement that some form of shared service provision will be of benefit. To this end, the first day was about refining requirements for this provision, and saw over 70 representatives from across Higher Education feed in their ideas and views. The day took an initial requirements list and refined, extended and clarified these extensively. Jisc has provided a write-up of the day of its own that describes the process undertaken usefully.
Jenny and I were kindly invited to the event to contribute our experience of analysing requirements for digital preservation for research data management. The brief presentation we gave highlighted the importance of digital preservation as part of a full RDM service, stressing of how a lack of digital preservation planning has led to data loss over time, and how consideration of requirements has been based on long established principles from the OAIS Reference Model and earlier work at York. Essentially the message was – make sure that any RDM shared service encompasses digital preservation, even if institutions have different policies about what does and does not get pushed through it.
Thankfully, it seems that Jisc has indeed taken this on board as part of the planning process, and the key message was re-iterated on a number of occasions during the day. Digital preservation is also built into the procurement process that Jisc is putting together (of which more below). It was great to be having discussions about research data management during the day where digital preservation was an assumed component. The group was broken up to discuss different elements of the requirements for the latter half of the morning, and by chance I was on the table discussing digital preservation. This highlighted most of the draft requirements as mandatory, but also split up some of the others and expanded most of them. Context is everything when defining digital preservation workflows, and the challenge was to identify requirements that could work across many different institutions. We await to see the final list to see how successful we have all been.
The second day was focused on suppliers who may have an interest in bidding to the tender that Jisc will be issuing shortly. A range of companies were represented covering the different areas that could be bid for. What became apparent during Day 1 was the need to provide a suit of shared services, not a single entity. The tender process acknowledges this, and there are 8 Lots covering different aspects. These are to be confirmed, and will be presented in the tender itself. However, suffice to say that digital preservation is central to two of these: one for providing a shared service platform for digital preservation; and one to provide digital preservation tools that can be used independently by institutions wishing to build them in outside of a platform. This separation offers flexibility to how DP is embedded, and it will be interesting to see what options emerge from the procurement process.
Jenny and I have been invited to sit on the Advisory Group for the development of the RDM shared service(s), so will have ongoing ability to raise digital preservation as a key component of RDM service. Jisc is also looking for institutions to act as pilots for the service over the next two years. This provides a good opportunity to work with service providers to establish what works locally, and the experiences will serve the wider sector well as we continue to tackle the issues of managing research data.