Research at Risk

Cost-Benefits Analysis in the JISC Managing Research Data Programme, 2009-11

In the #jiscmrd Programme, the Research Data Management Infrastructure projects, plus HALOGEN one of the RDM Planning Projects, produced benefits case studies; some of the more institutionally oriented projects have additionally produced business cases.  This material has been synthesised by Neil Beagrie as part of his Support Role.  That report is now in its final draft and will be made public on – or shortly after – 28 July.

It is fair to say that it was a very challenging task for projects to establish effective benchmarks at the outset.  The most comprehensive approach – activity-based costing recommended by the Keeping Research Data Safe approach – is perhaps too resource intensive even for this size of project.  Similarly, with only an 18 month duration, the projects were to short to be able fully and comprehensively to compare the effect of the interventions they made.  Nevertheless, a number of immediate and potential benefits were identified.  These will be detailed in the forthcoming report.

For the time being it is worth drawing attention to some useful material already available from some of the projects.


The Sudamih Project final report contains summaries of cost-benefits analysis and business cases for the Training Initiatives (Research Data and Information Management for Humanities Researchers) and the Database as a Service: at pp.19-26.

Headline findings are:

1) Given the relatively low cost of running training courses to improve RDM and information handling skills, one only need to postulate a very small efficiency saving in researchers time as a result of the course in order for the course and the creation of materials to be shown to ‘pay-its-way’.  This is approach is a little speculative – but the conclusion rests on strong evidence that information handling and research data management practice fall well short of ideal and result in significant wasted effort and time.  Training is the most obvious tool to improve this. (pp.22-3).

2) The cost savings of moving the Oxford Roman Economy Project over to a centrally managed and supported Database as a Service are estimated to be 37%, in the form of staff time in database creation and maintenance, as well as infrastructure costs. (pp.25-6).

The work of the SUDAMIH project to create a Database as a Service platform is being extended under the University Modernisation Fund/JISC VIDaaS (Virtual Infrastructure with Database as a Service) Project:

Sudamih Benefits Case Study:

Full Sudamih Training Business Case:


The core technical output of the I2S2 Project was to develop the I2S2 Information Model and to implement this within the STFC’s ICAT Lite ‘personal workbench for managing data flows’.  This allows the user to manage data, to capture provenance information and to “commit data” for long-term storage.

I2S2 has done a lot of work to identify anticipated benefits.  The most significant is the reduction of time to access derived data or results data from roughly one day (through a manual processes) to five minutes through the I2S2 ICAT system.

Other benefits are laid out in the I2S2 Benefits Case Study:

IS2S has also put in place benchmarks which will allow benefits to be measured as the pilot system is further implemented.  These are laid out in the Benefits Use Case document: