Digital preservation is a general term for a set of services with one goal: keeping your data safe so that it can be accessed in the future. Beyond the life of a grant or a research project, you need to insure that your data is available for future generations. Ironically, digital data is significantly more transient than traditional information sources such as books, photos, which can easily survive for years, decades or even centuries. Without active management, data decay and disappear at an alarming rate.
Digital preservation is often overlooked in the research process, with dire consequences. A common misconception is that a backup system is all that's needed to assure safe and trustworthy long-term access. However, backup systems do not serve this purpose. It is critical for you to know the difference to ensure you have the right system in place for your needs.
Purpose of backups: to keep a snapshot of data at a certain moment in time, enabling quick restoration after accidental data loss, system crashes or other errors. Backups are typically saved for 30-90 days.
Purpose of preservation: to preserve a complete record of all important information, so that data has meaning in the future, ensuring that it meets the requirements of funder mandates, audits, restoration of missing content and re-use of data. Preservation systems retain data for many years.
If you have language in your data management plan that your data will be available after the life of your grant, you need digital preservation!
UC San Diego manages one of the pre-eminent digital preservation services in the country: Chronopolis. Chronopolis provides long-term archival storage of data, using active management processes and constant monitoring. It's a system that's been certified as a Trustworthy Digital Archive by a standards body, and is widely recognized as a leading organization in the digital preservation field.
Find out more about Chronopolis