The aim of digital preservation is to store and keep data usable and comprehensible for tens or even hundreds of years. Researchers often consider their research data to be unique and, because research can be difficult to repeat, a large volume of data competes for access to long-term storage. It is crucial to identify data for long-term preservation, because only the most important data (an estimated 2-5% of all data) is moved into long-term preservation.
The challenge of digital preservation is that, although hardware, software and file formats age, the information must still be preserved. The digital storage of data is not only a technical challenge – its success also requires functional, mental, skill-based, financial and legal capabilities. This is why a plan is needed on what maintenance functions must be performed for the data in order to keep it intact and in its original form as well as to ensure its usability and reliability. Continuity planning is crucial as the lifecycle spans the service life of all components.
The foundation for maintaining comprehensibility lies in the preservation of bits, which ensures the preservation of digital data when executed systematically. From a data usability standpoint, long-term preservation specifically means preserving the comprehensibility of content and applying the storage methods that this requires. In such cases, it is possible to ensure that future users will be able to open data, interpret content and use them with devices in use at that time. Preserving the comprehensibility of content sets clearly-defined requirements for metadata and storage planning. These requirements should be drafted before beginning with any storage. Metadata and the storage plan can be used as the basis for ensuring that the data will remain unchanged in storage procedures.
Finnish service for long-term preservation of research data
The long-term data preservation service for research data is promoted together with the National Digital Library. The service will be launched in 2018.