Overview of curation and preservation cost models

The 4C project carried out a review of ten existing curation and preservation cost models. A summary of these models and their capabilities is provided below together with links to additional details for each cost model. Terminological clarifications are provided below.  

Summary of Cost Models 

The 4C project has produced a summary of ten current and emerging cost and benefit models. If you follow the links in the summary table you will find a short description of each of the models and a presentation of their core features structured in tables to allow for easy comparison.  

The tables present among other things what information assets the models can handle, which activities they cover, which cost elements and variables they account for, and references for further reading. The intension of these summaries is to provide potential users with a quick overview of what models they may want to use or have a closer look at.

Terminology Clarifications:  

Account - record of past (ex post) financial transactions.

Accounting model - Set of basic assumptions, concepts, principles and procedures that determine the methods of recognizing, recording, measuring and reporting an entity's financial transactions

Activiity - measureable amount of work performed by systems and/or people to produce a result

Activity checklist - A checklist of digital curation activities that incur costs. Activities may be ordered in categories and different levels of sub categories.

Amortisation - mechanisms for distributing capital costs over the estimated useful lifetime of an intangible asset to indicate how much of the asset's value has been used.

Benefit model - representation that describes the benefits (financial and non-financial) and value of digital curation

Budget - record of estimated future (ex ante) financial transactions over certain periods of time.

Capital cost - cost incurred once, by acquisition (building space, equipment, materials) or by investments. Also known as investment cost or one-time cost.

Cost element - the units costs can be broken down into (e.g. one-time or recurring costs, capital and labour costs)

Cost model - representation that describe how resources, such as labour and capital, required for accomplishing digital curation activities relate to costs. Cost models can further be characterised by their cost structure and how they model cost variables.

Cost parameter - factor that help in defining the system being costed, including cost elements (e.g. capital/labour cost) and cost variables (e.g. quantity of assets, salary levels).

Cost structure - defines the way a model break down costs in elements according to the dimensions activity, resource and time.

Cost tool - implementation of a cost model in an electronic spreadsheet or costing program

Cost variable - factors that influence the cost, can be divided in service adjustments (e.g. quantity and quality of assets, and quality of curation services) and in economic adjustments (e.g. inflation/deflation, depreciation/amortization, and interest (discount rates)).

Digital curation - digital curation is a series of repository activities including ingest, data management, (archival) storage, preservation planning, access, common services, repository administration, as well as pre-repository (production and pre-ingest (appraisal, selection, preparation, rights), post-repository, and management activities.

Depreciation - mechanism for distributing capital costs over the estimated useful lifetime of a tangible asset to indicate how much of the asset’s value has been used.

Direct cost - costs associated with resources used for performing digital curation activities (e.g. costs of acquisition of storage media, costs of adding metadata), where the amount of resources spent can be directly measured. Also known as variable costs.

Economic model - representation that describes how economic processes around digital curation work; including the flow of resources (costs and revenues) within the economic lifecycle of digital information assets, and stakeholders (from the demand, supply and management side) interaction with this lifecycle.

Financial information - all types of information necessary for financial management (accounting and budgeting). It includes factual data on the cost (e.g. labour, materials and overhead), additional information describing what is being costed (e.g. assumptions and specifications), as well as information that relates to the benefits and value that the digital curation activities accrue and how these incentives influence economic behaviour and performance.

Fixed cost - costs, which do not vary with the amount of production. Often the same as indirect costs.

Full- time equivalent (FTE) - a unit that indicates the workload of a worker by expressing the ratio of the total number of paid hours during a period by the number of working hours in that period. Also known as annual work unit (AWU). Used to make workloads comparable.

Indirect cost - costs incurred by the usage of shared resources, such as general management and administration or common facilities and systems, where it has not been possible to distribute the cost on specific activities. Also known as residual cost or overhead.

Investment cost - see capital cost.

Labour cost - cost of wages paid to workers.

One-time cost - see capital cost.

Operating cost - see recurring cost.

Periodic cost - cost that are repeated and incur at intervals (e.g. some licenses).

Recurring cost - ongoing cost (e.g. from consumption of media, energy and labour). Also know as running cost or operating cost.

Resource cost - cost associated with a particular type of resource, capital or labour.

Running cost - see recurring cost.

Stakeholder - on the one side the roles of managers and administrators of digital repositories and other suppliers of curation services; and on the other side the roles of owners, producers and consumers (beneficiaries) of digital assets that have a demand for these services and a willingness to pay for the value that they represent.

Value - numerical, Boolean, ordered lists that are assigned to a parameter, or the result of a function.

Variable cost - costs, which vary directly with the amount of production. Often the same as direct costs.