Digital Preservation

Recognizing that the true value of scientific data is often realized long after it has been collected, it is essential to ensure long-term preservation and sustained access to Canadian research data.  All data deposited with the CPDN must be archived in a simple, reusable, digital form and be accompanied by descriptive, technical and preservation metadata.

The Network respects and will preserve the intellectual and cultural property rights associated with the data in its repository.

Several government departments and agencies have been designated by federal legislative documents (for example, the Oceans Act) to collect data for the purpose of understanding the environment and its living resources and ecosystems.  As part of their mandates, these government departments and agencies have been collecting and preserving a significant amount of data in the polar regions.  The CPDN will establish linkages (through its membership or otherwise) with existing permanent data archival divisions within the Government.

Data in scope but outside the Government data archival divisions will be a priority for the CPDN.

The main preservation opportunities include:

  • Normalization: Strategy is to normalize files to preservation and access formats upon ingest. Certain file formats have become industry standards because of their use and support. The list of file formats suitable for long-term access will evolve over time and use of these file formats increases the likelihood of long-term access.

  • Migration: Transferring digital resources from one generation of hardware/software to the next. Migration helps to cope with the constantly changing technology.

  • Emulation: Techniques that help imitate obsolete systems on future generation of computers. Emulation is a mean of overcoming technological obsolescence of hardware and software.

  • Media Refresh: With the lowering costs of storage media and techniques like media refresh and media transfer, longevity problems can be addressed with continuous efforts.

  • PREMIS: Keeping preservation metadata (PREMIS) about a digital resource, for example, technical metadata about the original files, the older hardware and software, and the history of actions that had been performed – supports activities intended to ensure the long-term accessibility of this resource.

  • Multiple Copies: Keeping multiple copies at different physical locations help to recover from a natural disasters or human error.

  • Planning: Effective preservation planning can help to mitigate the preservation problem. Preservation of digital content involve wide range of activities. Some activities may be postponed, to a later date while other activities may need to be carried out sooner rather than later due to technology obsolescence or other factors.

  • Collaboration: Sharing experience with and learning from other organisations through selective national and international collaboration is another opportunity.

The main preservation challenges include:

  • Technology obsolescence: Frequent changes in the hardware, software and other technology make it very hard to provide long-term access to a digital data source.

  • Longevity problems: Limited life of commonly used storage media is another major issue. Vast majority of data are stored on magnetic tapes and disks which have a short life span.

  • Diversity of file formats: Lack of standards for file formats is a threat to the long-term accessibility. Disappearing file formats and files with built-in restrictions for copy and access makes it difficult to preserve such resources.

  • Size: The volume and growth in the amount of digital material adds complexity to the preservation problem.

  • Cost: High costs associated with the digital preservation activities further escalate this problem.

  • Complexity: Administrative complexities in ensuring timely and cost-effective actions.