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Digital preservation means maintaining the usability and understandability of digital information over the course of decades. In addition to preserving the data itself, this also requires findability and such data formats that will keep the data usable. The metadata has to clearly tell the potential user what the data is all about.

DPS for research data is a part of the Fairdata services funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture. The Fairdata services consist of the essential digital data management services for supporting the research process described in the Open Science and Research Handbook. The other components are the research data storage IDA, the research dataset finder Etsin, the research metadata tool Qvain, and other support services. The services also enable sharing, discovering and referring to data using persistent identifiers.

Digital preservation of research data in the national DPS service began with the University of Helsinki in December 2019. The technical implementation of DPS for research data is based on a cultural heritage preservation service that has been in production for a while already. So far, the University of Helsinki and the Geological Survey of Finland have deposited their data in DPS for research data.

– The DPS has proven itself in digital preservation of cultural heritage data, so it was only natural to apply the concept to research data as well, says development manager Kimmo Koivunen from CSC.

The depositing organizations have been satisfied with the service on the whole, although there have also been challenges.

– Digital preservation is important and widely required, says science information specialist Mari Elisa Kuusniemi from the Helsinki University Library.

– According to our experience, researchers rarely have experience of creating metadata for digital preservation. They need support in order for the data even to be human-readable, let alone to conform to international standards. Due to the special nature of research data, applying standards is not always possible, but even existing standards may be unknown. Creating metadata is not a core competence of researchers, so the situation is completely understandable, Kuusniemi continues

– Introducing DPS for research data has not been without challenges, and the assessment took its time, but after the deposition process got underway, it has worked well, and the small problems that have arisen have been dealt with rapidly. The vast quantities of data produced by tomography laboratories are a challenge overall, and DPS for research data has been a good solution for us, says research scientist Jukka Kuva from the Geological Survey of Finland.

The University of Turku is also planning to start using DPS for research data in the near future.

– We are presently in the process of compiling the data of the Turku University Archive of the School of History, Culture and Arts Studies into information packets suitable for the DPS for research data. Fairdata PAS is very much welcome for guaranteeing the digital preservation of data, says development specialist Kaisa Hakkila from the University of Turku.

CSC and the organizations using the services have founded the Fairdata Network for promoting the deployment and efficient use of the services. The network deals with e.g. the development plans of the services and other essential points of development.

– When it comes to research data, we are about to embark on a collective journey in digital preservation that will allow institutes of higher education preserve their significant research data for future generations. The journey will not be easy or short, but we can do it together. Collaboration across organization boundaries will be especially necessary, says development manager Kuisma Lehtonen from CSC.

Writer: Tero Aalto