KeepIt course module 2, Southampton, 5 February 2010
Tools this module: KRDS, LIFE
Tags Find out more about: this module KeepIt course 2, the full KeepIt course
Presentations and tutorial exercises course 2 (source files)
Digital preservation begins with the author. This sounds good, but depends on the relation between author and content service. In the case of repositories, which work with large numbers of authors who use a wide variety of content creation tools, the relation may not be close enough to influence or impose good authoring practices that can assist and improve preservation consequences. Yet the alternative, dismal prospect is that preservation is at the end of the food chain, both literally and chronologically. You certainly don’t want to be at the end of the food chain when the money is being handed out.
So the trick is to make sure preservation and data management is is embedded into the institution’s policies and procedures. Hence KeepIt course 1. It’s also to place preservation within the whole lifecycle of digital objects. This is what the DCC Curation Lifecycle Model does at a conceptual level; it’s also what the LIFE (Life Cycle Information for E-Literature) seeks to achieve in terms of modelling the costs of preserving digital information from creation through longer-term management over years.
This presentation by LIFE3 project manager Brian Hole introduces LIFE and leads towards a practical exercise to explore using the costing tool. The version of the tool used at the time of the course was described by Brian as a ‘work in progress’ where the initial input and digitisation sections were sufficiently complete ‘to yield meaningful results’. The tool used an Excel spreadsheet, and that continues to be the case for the recently announced and more widely available LIFE3 beta evaluation version, but is eventually expected to be made available through a Web interface. Whichever platform you run Excel on, the LIFE tool requires use of the macros, which course participants found a limitation for non-Windows machines.
Costings results from the group work were in some cases quite startling to participants, producing some eye-watering numbers for those used to more frugal repository budgets. This mirrors the kinds of results reported for repository applications - see the documentary evidence provided for the SHERPA DP and SHERPA-LEAP case studies from LIFE2. It’s possible such costs are over-estimated for the specific case of repositories today – it may require access to the final version of the tool and some more dedicated use to discover this – recall this was not a final version and could not be customised for the repository experience. The results were nevertheless instructive, and it’s plausible that if and when repositories experience typically explosive digital content growth that the costs will converge with those from the tool. At that point, let’s hope the tool is sufficiently fine-grained to enable repository managers to control and fine-tune the costs, to provide preservation within the budget.