New Research: The value and impact of data curation and sharing
Substantial resources are being invested in the development and provision of services for the curation and long-term preservation of research data. It is a high priority area for many stakeholders, and there is strong interest in establishing the value and sustainability of these investments.
This synthesis report aims to summarise and reflect on the findings from a series of recent studies, conducted by Neil Beagrie of Charles Beagrie Ltd. and Prof. John Houghton of Victoria University, into the value and impact of three well established research data centres – the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS), 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; and the lessons learnt and recommendations arising from the series of studies as a whole.
The data centre studies combined quantitative and qualitative approaches in order to quantify value in economic terms and present other, non-economic, impacts and benefits. Uniquely, the studies cover both users and depositors of data, and we believe the surveys of depositors undertaken are the first of their kind. All three studies show a similar pattern of findings, with data sharing via the data centres having a large measurable impact on research efficiency and on return on investment in the data and services. These findings are important for funders, both for making the economic case for investment in data curation and sharing and research data infrastructure, and for ensuring the sustainability of such research data centres.
The quantitative economic analysis indicates that:
· The value to users exceeds the investment made in data sharing and curation via the centres in all three cases – with the benefits from 2.2 to 2.7 times the costs;
· Very significant increases in work efficiency are realised by users as a result of their use of the data centres – with efficiency gains from 2 to 20 times the costs; and
· By facilitating additional use, the data centres significantly increase the returns on investment in the creation/collection of the data hosted – with increases in returns from 2 to 12 times the costs.
The qualitative analysis indicates that:
· Academic users report that the centres are very or extremely important for their research, with between 53% and 61% of respondents across the three surveys reporting that it would have a major or severe impact on their work if they could not access the data and services; and
· For depositors, having the data preserved for the long-term and its dissemination being targeted to the academic community are seen as the most beneficial aspects of depositing data with the centres.
An important aim of the studies was to contribute to the further development of impact evaluation methods that can provide estimates of the value and benefits of research data sharing and curation infrastructure investments. This synthesis reflects on lessons learnt and provides a set of recommendations that could help develop future studies of this type.
The synthesis report:
Beagrie, N. and Houghton J.W. (2014) The Value and Impact of Data Sharing and Curation: A synthesis of three recent studies of UK research data centres, Jisc. PDF (24 pages)