Archive for April, 2012

Survey summary and findings

We have now completed our survey of digital preservation practices among the academic community of the University of Cambridge. Here is the summary of our findings.

The project team surveyed a small subsection of the academic community interviewing 20 researchers (3 PhDs, 7 Research Associates, 6 Readers/Lecturers, 4 Professors) from a variety of departments covering four of the six Cambridge Schools.

Interviews were conducted in a semi-structured way with an interview questionnaire used as a guideline. We will blog about the interview process later.

Finding 1: Digital preservation actions are not currently part of researchers’ workflows.

There is a general lack of awareness of data management and digital preservation issues. The most common understanding of digital preservation was “long term back-up”.  Most interviewees did not appraise their material but kept everything.

Finding 2: Back-up procedures outweigh preservation issues.

A general lack of description and organisation of research material meant that access to data was often restricted to the data owner and/or creator.  Without active management of issues around format and obsolescence, there are concerns about long term access.

Most of the researchers interviewed did not think there was significant demand for their material to be re-used, and in some cases did not think that re-use was possible without the risk of it being misinterpreted.

Finding 3: Whilst this lack of digital preservation skills is commonly acknowledged, improvement is not a priority.

Most senior researchers felt that they were not in a position to prioritise training in this area over other activities.  Some, particularly supervisors on behalf of PhD students and students themselves, agreed that a better understanding of information management and digital preservation issues at the beginning of one’s research career would be beneficial.

With respect to the method of delivering support, no single approach suited all of our target audiences.  By and large, students preferred face-to-face training.  More experienced researchers did not feel that they had time to attend training sessions and preferred online support.


Within the project scope we suggest we respond to the project findings in four ways:

  1. Creating and delivering training modules on digital preservation to graduates and early career researchers.  These will supplement our existing training programme on data management.
  2. Expanding on our online guidance for all members of the University.  This will include FAQs to give answers to specific questions.
  3. Promoting the new and existing resources.
  4. Organising a cross-departmental lunchtime seminar series.

Our findings and recommendations were approved by the Advisory panel in our meeting on 29 March 2012.


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