Survey results will help sector understand impact of data loss

A headshot of Paul Stokes.
Paul Stokes

Jisc is partnering with the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) to produce a report that should help the sector face challenges around - and improve - methods of digital data preservation.

A graphic of a data analysis system.

The higher education and research sector stores a vast amount of digital data, from student and staff records to research assets, historical archives to current course work, and wise investment to secure this information is crucial.

In both financial and reputational terms, the consequences of inadequately preserving data can be very costly, but accurate information about those costs is lacking.

For a start, it is difficult to value data. It's even more challenging to put a figure on the knock-on effects of data loss.

For a start, it is difficult to value data. It's even more challenging to put a figure on the knock-on effects of data loss.

This is why we’re asking for help from member organisations. We want to hear the causes of data loss, and the costs associated with the loss, with recovering and with mitigating future risks. Often the sums involved in data loss only become apparent after a disaster – and no-one wants to be in the position of being able to drive a business case for data preservation only after suffering a data loss.

The report will help the sector to make informed decisions about measures to reduce risk and preserve data. It will also support digital preservation staff make a strong case to their senior managers for robust investment.

There are many questions to consider when investigating, costing and planning how to deal with a data loss. For example:

  • How much did it cost to produce the data in the first place?
  • Can it be recovered?
  • If not, can it be replaced?
  • Are the right people with the right skills available to do that?
  • Are resources available to pay those people?
  • If the data cannot be recovered or replaced, what is the impact?
  • What are the implications for research projects, or the jobs of those working with the data?
  • Why was the data lost?
  • What measures should be in place to stop it happening again?
  • Does the insurance policy cover any of these costs?

Jisc and the Digital Preservation Coalition are independent organisations with the expertise to collate and anonymise the answer to these types of questions. Aimed at senior managers, the plan is to release the report to coincide with the iPres 2022 conference in Glasgow in September.

The report administrators would like to use a first tranche of information to form the basis of a workshop at the IDCC 2022 conference in June, so the initial call for case studies will remain open until April. If the project is sufficiently successful, then the survey will be left open indefinitely and the research will be repeated at appropriate intervals and subsequent reports published.

Member organisation that would like to contribute are asked to share their stories.

There’s no silver bullet here, but it would help enormously if all organisations had robust cyber security strategies that work hand-in hand with data preservation strategies, both overseen by the board.

Further information 

Developed with input from members and leading preservation system suppliers, Jisc’s preservation service can be used to preserve any digital asset. It keeps multiple copies of selected data, automates checks to make sure data has not been changed and converts data in old formats to newer ones so it can be used with new technology.

To help organisations implement solid security measures, the National Cyber Security Centre has produced guidance – 10 steps to cyber security.

About the author

A headshot of Paul Stokes.
Paul Stokes
Subject matter expert – digital preservation

I have responsibility for supporting the exploration and, where appropriate, the take-up of innovative technologies and standards that will have a demonstrable positive impact on further and higher education in the UK.