Preservation Planning for Crystallography Data, JISC eCrystals Federation Project, WP4: Repositories, Preservation and Sustainability

Manjula Patel

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

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    The aim of the eCrystals Federation project is to enhance the management of crystallography data at the institution level, incorporating data generated in departments, laboratories and by individual researchers or practitioners. The project is attempting to set up a federation of institutional repositories for the management and dissemination of derived and results data from crystallographic experiments. WP4 of the project is concerned with the development of approaches to the preservation and curation of crystallography data in open repositories. We consider that preservation planning and its associated activities should be viewed as an integral part of sound data management practice.

    However, one of the obstacles to proactively undertaking preservation and curation activities identified by the interim report of the Blue Ribbon Task force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access is a fear that digital access and preservation is too big a problem to take on. Given their wide-ranging influences and multi-faceted nature, it is no surprise that curation and preservation are considered by many to be daunting tasks. Stewardship of research data is undoubtedly a substantial commitment to sign up to with major implications for funding and resources. Nevertheless, today’s repository managers are under increasing pressure to provide expertise in IT skills, domain knowledge and preservation issues. We consider that expertise in all three areas is essential for the effective management of digital research data and in this report focus particularly on curation and preservation issues.

    Over the last two decades a huge amount of research has been undertaken with respect to particular aspects of digital curation and preservation resulting in an accumulation of tools, frameworks and guidance; our aim is to raise awareness of these and guide repository managers to a subset which is relevant to the long-term management of crystallography data. Our objective has been to break down the process of preservation planning into manageable components, thus providing a starting point for managers of repositories to consider the likely preservation issues specific to their particular repository. We illustrate various aspects of preservation planning with reference to an exemplar crystallography data repository supported and run by the EPSRC National Crystallography Service (NCS) based at the University of Southampton.

    Social, political, cultural, organizational, financial, legal and technical issues will all impact on a commitment to the long-term management of digital data. As a result preservation planning has to be undertaken in the organisational context and specific circumstances of a repository. Consequently, the solutions forged will be specific to each repository – there is no “one size fits all” solution. In addition, we recognise that there is considerable diversity in crystallography laboratory practice which will require customised preservation planning.

    Nevertheless, we believe that there are generic methodologies and tools which can be applied in order to help achieve preservation plans appropriate to individual repositories. We have therefore attempted to break down the process of preservation planning into various practical aspects, including (analysis of data and workflows; evaluation of preservation requirements; defining a preservation policy; formulating a preservation strategy; recording preservation metadata; modelling costs; planning for sustainability; and regular evaluation or self-assessment). Given the complexity of the topics and issues involved (even for a sub-discipline such as crystallography) the coverage focuses on breadth rather than depth.

    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherNational Crystallography Service, University of Southampton
    Number of pages29
    Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2009

    Bibliographical note

    Report originally published on eCrystals Federation Project wiki


    • crystallography data
    • digital curation
    • preservation
    • planning

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Chemistry(all)
    • Computer Science(all)


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