In the UK, substantial resources are being invested in the development and provision of services for the curation and long-term preservation of research data. It is a high priority area for a range of stakeholders, universities, researchers and research funders. There is strong interest in establishing the value and sustainability of these investments. Although a number of studies have looked at methods for determining cost-benefit and broad indicators of value for research data sharing, there remain significant challenges. Only a relatively small number of socio-economic studies have focused specifically on the impact of research data sharing, or research data infrastructure. Moreover, their results have largely concentrated on qualitative indicators rather than quantification of value in economic terms. This synthesis aims to summarise and reflect on the combined findings from a recent series of independent investigations, produced by the same authors, into the value and impact of three well established UK research data centres or services.1 Its intended audiences are those interested in a brief overview of the key findings and lessons from the series as a whole.
It provides a summary of the key findings and reflects on:
» The methods that can be used to collect data for such studies (Section 2.1);
» The analytical methods that can be used to explore value, impacts and benefits (Section 2.2);
» The measurable value, impacts and benefits of the research data centres and the research data curation and sharing that they support (Section 3); and
» The lessons learnt (Section 4) and recommendations arising (Section 5) from the series of studies as a whole.
The studies covered the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS), the Archaeology Data Service (ADS), and the British Atmospheric Data Centre (BADC).2 Each report was commissioned independently and at different times over a period of two years by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Jisc, and Jisc and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), respectively. There are, therefore, differences in the studies arising from varying requirements, timing, and levels of funding. Readers should refer to the individual study reports for greater detail on the context and findings from each data centre. Nevertheless, all three studies combined quantitative and qualitative analytical approaches in order to quantify value and impacts in economic terms and explore other, non-economic benefits. Uniquely, the studies cover both users and depositors of data, and we believe the surveys of depositors that we have undertaken are the first of their kind.