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New digital preservation service can preserve research data for centuries to come

The digital preservation of the research data of Finnish higher education institutions and research institutes began on 5 December 2019, when the first submission information package was accepted into the digital preservation service administered by CSC. Digital preservation ensures that digital resources are preserved and accessible for use by researchers for decades and even centuries to come.

The first submission information package ingested into the digital preservation was from the University of Helsinki. This package, specially designed for preservation, constituted a summary of 12 datasets that contained the continuous data produced by the SMEAR station measuring devices between 1992 and 2018. These stations measure the flows of substances and energy between forests and the atmosphere. Long-term measurement data is needed for solving issues such as the climate crisis.

The first submission information package made extensive use of the Fairdata service package.  The data was located in the IDA research data storage service, the metadata was created using the research data description tool Qvain, it was packaged using the Fairdata packaging service then approved for the University of Helsinki storage quota using the administration interface, and finally validated and saved into the Fairdata digital preservation service. Metax, the service's shared metadata warehouse, functioned as the glue between the different stages and verified the smooth functioning of the service package as a whole.

– We are eagerly looking forward to entering more data resources into the digital preservation. The data already entered served to demonstrate that the services built by CSC constitute a well-integrated whole for providing digital preservation. Once the agreements with the organizations are made, it is easy and quick to use the Fairdata channel to transfer the data for digital preservation and this can mostly be done without requiring assistance, explains CSC Development Manager Kimmo Koivunen.

Data content remains intact through all the changes

Research data selected for digital preservation is of irreplaceable value, and is therefore important to ensure the preservation and availability of these digital resources for further use by researchers in the future.

In the digital preservation, the information is stored in an understandable and usable form. At the level of the individual data bits, the data is stored in a distributed manner with multiple copies on different platforms, and the preservation of the data is ensured through migration. Hardware, software and file types become outdated, and the software and hardware in use in the future will not be able to read our current data types. Because of this, the data is adapted to be suitable for future hardware and software environments.

– Digital preservation means actively taking care to ensure that the information is preserved regardless of whatever future transformations take place. Technology gets old, and so do people and skills.  The key thing is to ensure well-functioning processes that can ensure the transfer of operations and also skills to new actors, regardless of the particular individuals involved, so that the data content can be utilized, Kimmo Koivunen explains.

Background

The Fairdata services includes components that provide data management, data description, secure storage and digital preservation of significant data resources. They are owned by the Ministry of Education and Culture and produced by CSC. Further information: https://www.fairdata.fi/

For around a decade, CSC has already been providing digital preservation services together with the Ministry of Education and Culture and organizations with data storage needs. Digital preservation of cultural heritage resources was initiated back in autumn 2015 together with memory institutions such as archives, libraries and museums.  

Further information

Kimmo Koivunen, Development Manager, CSC
+358408408196
kimmo.koivunen at csc.fi

Further information on national digital preservation services
First dataset submitted for digital preservation
SMEAR stations