The world is all grown digital.... How shall a man persuade management what to do in such times?
AbstractUnderstanding and communicating the cost and value of digital curation activities has now been recognised by a number of projects and initiatives as a very important factor in ensuring the long-term survival of digital assets. A number of projects have developed costing models for digital preservation but there remains a major problem with information assets (digital or otherwise) in that their value is difficult to express in terms that are readily understood by all the stakeholders, especially those who might fund their preservation. This paper introduces a range of issues concerning information value and business models for sustained funding of digital preservation, with particular reference to the espida Project recently completed at the University of Glasgow. This project has developed a model of information value that builds on the Balanced Scorecard approach to business performance developed by Kaplan and Norton. This model casts information curation as an investment where current and ongoing expenditure is incurred in order to produce future returns, benefitting a range of stakeholders. In this formulation, value is seen as multi-facetted and, from the point of view of the individual or organisation funding the curation, explicitly related to the funder’s strategic goals. It also recognises that benefits may only accrue over the long term and that there is a risk that information that is preserved may fail to deliver any return. Examples discussed in the paper concern the establishment of an institutional repository and the establishment of an e-thesis service for an educational institution. It concludes that a deconstruction of benefits of this kind can be more quickly and fully understood even by stakeholders not necessarily expert in the curation field. This facilitates the production of a well-constructed case that clearly articulates information value and the benefit that accrues from its curation, which in turn allows senior management or other funders to make funding decisions based on understandable information: the basic premise of good practice in management. This is a commonly understood idea and one that the espida methodology helps fulfil.
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