Cost models

"No such thing as free digital preservation." - Sørensen, J.D.(1)

    Main points

The need for data archives is on the rise now that research funders are increasingly demanding that research data is made available via open access. At the same time, the funding model for data archives is still far from clear. There is a tension between short-term funding, which is inherent to research projects, and the long-term effort involved in continually making research data from those projects available.

There are quite a few projects(2) that have identified the costs for long-term storage. “Unfortunately, we've all used different models, and different ways of describing the data”so says Paul Wheatley in a blog post. The European 4C project(4) is trying to introduce change and has compared the various cost models(5). "The aim of this project is to help organisations across Europe to invest more effectively in digital curation and preservation", according to project partner DANS. Identifying the costs is one thing; identifying the benefits, such as added value for future users, is also part of the story."

The authors of the white paper(6) 'Sustaining Domain Repositories for Digital Data' feel that the best solution would be if research funders would include the costs for long-term storage (by making a percentage of the total budget available for this purpose). Since this model would lead to all data being equal: they all have the same chance of being archived.


UK Data Archive developed a costing tool(7)This provides insight into the cost items that you need to take into account during the entire lifecycle of the research data (so not only for long term preservation). The person completing the tool remains responsible for the estimate.

On the 4C platform Curation Costs Exchange(9) data archives and other stakeholders can compare cost information and discuss their expenses and underlying choices.


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  1. Sørensen, J.D. (2013, November 8). No such thing as free digital preservation. [blog]. Retrieved from 
  2. Jackson. A.; Wheatley, P. (2013). Digital preservation and data curation costing and cost modelling. [wiki]. Retrieved from 
  3. Wheatley, P. Digital preservation cost modelling: where did it all go wrong? [blog]. Retrieved from
  4. 4C, Collaboration to Clarify the Costs of Curation. Retrieved from
  5. 4C, Collaboration to Clarify the Costs of Curation. Outputs and deliverables. D3.1 - Evaluation of cost models and needs & gaps analysis. Retrieved from
  6. Ember, C. (2013). Sustaining Domain Repositories for Digital Data: A white paper. Retrieved from
  7. UK Data Service. (2013). Data management costing tool and checklist. Retrieved from
  8. 4C-platform Curation Costs Exchange

Additional reading

  • Palaiologk, A.S.; Economides, A.A.; Tjalsma, H.D.; Sesink, L.B. (2012). An activity-based costing model for long-term preservation and dissemination of digital research data: the case of DANS. International Journal of Digital Libraries, 12, 195-214. Retrieved from