Preservation of eprints might seem an academic inquiry, given the early stages of repository use and the easy access that currently exists to eprints in repositories. However, material produced to modern technological standards of just a few years ago can be difficult to access. Old operating systems, file formats or software versions mean that maintaining access to material over 10 years can be problematic. Longer term access - over fifty years - is bound to generate problems. Rather than be faced with solving these issues in the future, it makes sense to try and forestall access problems wherever possible, by following sound preservation strategies in the construction of eprint collections.
SHERPA has a preservation strand which is examining these issues.
An early output was a feasibility study on eprint preservation:
James, Hamish. Raivo, Ruusalepp. Anderson, Sheila & Pinfield, Stephen. 'Requirements and Feasibility Study on Preservation of eprints' This document provides recommendations for research and the development of services and tools to support the long-term preservation of eprints.
There has been some discussion within the repository movement as the desirability of putting effort into preservation of eprints, given the apparent "medium-independent" nature of digital information. The Director and Preservation Officer of SHERPA, Stephen Pinfield and Hamish James, have produced an article, The Digital Preservation of e-Prints, which looks at the arguments for and against preservation. The article goes on to summarise the technical and organisational challenges of eprint preservation.
The Arts and Humanities Data Service have been the lead partners in SHERPA's preservation work. The AHDS has produced a paper, Selection Criteria for the Preservation of e-prints which provides guidance on methods of identifying potential risks to e-prints, prioritizing content to be preserved, and methods of implementing preventive measures to ensure content remains accessible in the long-term.
A further document produced by the AHDS provides a summary of existing standard practices, guidelines, and procedures that will allow the repository to consider long-term implications when storing e-prints. The paper, Report on Preservation Standards, looks at the OAIS model for preservation, the rights that are necessary for preservation and the current standards of metadata for this purpose.
This work also looked at the need for a Deposit Licence and produced two model licences within a report, on which to base an institution's policy and documentation. The legal aspects of these licences have been checked by JISC Legal. However, this does not constitute legal advice, and the reader must consult their own legal team before making use of the licence. This is covered in the Licences and Policies section of the SHERPA web site.
SHERPA's preservation work has been extended and expanded with the launch of a new project. This project is called SHERPA Digital Preservation - or SHERPA DP - and will run from January 1st to the end of December 2005.
SHERPA DP will be doing detailed work in looking at a practical model for
preservation activities, based on content from repositories. To quote from
"This project will create a collaborative, shared preservation environment for the SHERPA institutional repositories project, framed around the Open Archiving Information Systems (OAIS) Reference Model. It will bring together the SHERPA institutional repository systems with the preservation repository established by the Arts and Humanities Data Service to create an environment that fully addresses all the requirements of the different phases within the life cycle of digital information. The collaborative model proposed will take advantage of the skills and expertise developed by the SHERPA development partners which includes the preservation expertise of the Arts and Humanities Data Service (AHDS). By extending this collaboration into a full preservation service the project removes from each individual institutional repository the burden of adding a preservation layer to their repository, and the need for them to seek to employ scarce preservation management skills and expertise. The project will investigate the business case for this model and seek to establish an economic cost model that could be used to ensure its long-term sustainability."
The bid goes on to say:
"The model we are proposing is intended to take advantage of the pre-existing and successful collaboration between the SHERPA repositories and the Arts and Humanities Data Service. The exact nature of the model to be adopted will be established at the start of the project, but at this early stage it is envisaged that the AHDS will provide a shared preservation store, and undertake preservation planning and preservation functions, whilst the SHERPA repositories will continue their work to raise awareness and promote deposit of content, ingest, storage of content for delivery, and access. To that end we are able to use the simplified model presented in the JISC Preservation Strategy to visualise how the model might look. The top layer would be the continuing responsibility of the institutional repositories, with this project adding the bottom layer, with the addition of preservation actions, through the collaboration with the AHDS."
The project will be led by the AHDS, with overall management, like SHERPA itself, under the direction of the existing SHERPA Management Group. Further information is available from the JISC web site.