FSD Bulletin

Issue 30 (2/2010)

ISSN 1795-5262

Front page
Previous issues
Editorial staff

» latest issue

FSD Bulletin is the electronic newsletter of the Finnish Social Science Data Archive. The Bulletin provides information and news related to the data archive and social science research.


Finnish Social Science Data Archive
E-mail: fsd@tuni.fi

Privacy Policy

FSD Operates According to OAIS Reference Model

Mari Kleemola | Figure by: Tuomas J. Alaterä

Open Archival Information System, OAIS, is a reference model for archives engaged in long-term preservation of digital data. The model outlines the involved activities and parties as well as responsibilities on a general level. OAIS is an ISO standard (ISO 14721:2003). The Finnish version of the standard (Viitemalli pitkäaikaissäilytysarkistolle (SFS 5972)) was published in March 2010. The FSD evaluated its archival and dissemination procedures early this year. The results indicated that the operations of the Data Archive fulfilled the responsibilities set out in the model, but there are also challenges and opportunities for improvement. The article is based on Information Services Manager Mari Kleemola's internal memo.

The OAIS reference model, originally developed for storing satellite pictures, has rapidly become a cornerstone in the archiving of any digital data. In Finland, for example the Finnish National Archives Service's VAPA project related to the acquisition of a reception and service system and the National Digital Library project's long-term preservation solution are based on the reference model. Additionally, the European data archives' new research infrastructure CESSDA ERIC has its basis on the model.

An OAIS-compliant organisation has to support the information model of the standard and fulfil the responsibilities defined in the standard. The FSD has compared its operations with the OAIS standard in order to examine the functioning of its processes and to improve the prerequisites for national and international cooperation.

Data Archive and OAIS Information Model

The original target of preservation is called Content Information in the OAIS model. It is an Information Object, which is the basic concept of the OAIS standard. Each Information Object consists of a Data Object together with its Representation Information.

When the content and the related preservation information are bound together, it results in an Information Package. There are three types of Information Packages:

  • Submission Information Package, SIP
  • Archival Information Package, AIP
  • Dissemination Information Package, DIP

An Information Package can be found in the archive based on the Descriptive Information attached to the package.

The FSD archives quantitative and qualitative digital research data and additional material related to them. The data are described using the DDI format. The DDI description includes Representation Information, Preservation Information, and Descriptive Information. Descriptive Information published in the data catalogue of the FSD website enables finding the data. The figure below portrays the FSD's Archival Information Package (AIP) for a quantitative dataset. Submission Information Package and Dissemination Information Package can be defined in a similar manner.


FSD Fulfils OAIS Responsibilities

OAIS defines six minimum requirements or responsibilities that an OAIS-conformant archive must fulfil. The organisation must

  • negotiate for and accept appropriate information from information producers,
  • obtain sufficient control of the information provided to the level needed to ensure long-term preservation,
  • determine, either by itself or in conjunction with other parties, which communities should become the designated community and, therefore, should be able to understand the information provided,
  • ensure that the information to be preserved is independently understandable to the designated community,
  • follow documented policies and procedures which ensure that the information is preserved against all reasonable contingencies, and which enable the information to be disseminated as authenticated copies of the original, or as traceable to the original, and
  • make the preserved information available to the designated community.

The Data Archive's tasks are defined on a general level in the regulations of the University of Tampere. The FSD's archive formation plan contains more specific information on the Archive's tasks, including ingest criteria, archival process, information system, and data protection practices. The internal manual contains detailed practical instructions. Research data are processed and described in compliance with the international standards and formats in the field. The designated community is able to find information on the data on the FSD website, and data are also actively marketed.

The FSD thereby fulfils all six OAIS responsibilities. This was to be expected, since the Data Archive has been established to function as a repository for digital data in particular. Similar results have been reported for example by the UK Data Archive and the American ICPSR.

Process Observation Provides Tools to Develop Operations

Besides the information model and responsibilities, the OAIS standard presents a detailed functional model consisting of six main entities: ingest, archival storage, data management, administration, preservation planning, and access. Additionally, an organisation has to provide common services, such as various technical support services.

The OAIS reference model provided a new point of view for observing the processes of the Archive. The observation resulted in a strengthened conception that things have been done the right way in the FSD. No serious defects were found. However, processes can be further clarified and improved, and for example Preservation Information could be structured more.

In the FSD, operations are emphasised slightly differently compared to the model. Ingest has been described only briefly and acquisition practically omitted, whereas they are central processes in the FSD. On the other hand, the model presents administration and preservation planning in a much more complicated manner compared to the FSD.

Future Challenges

The observation revealed some future challenges. The OAIS model emphasises the management of ownership and copyright. In the FSD, these issues have been thoroughly investigated, but the Archive has to continue focusing on them in the future as well. Another future challenge is a potential change in the designated community. It might not be economically sensible to restrict the use of research data generated with public funding only to scientific research purposes, because the data could also be utilised by decision-makers, journalists, and commercial bodies. However, they do not always possess the knowledge and skills required to use the data, and in that case the FSD should invest more in presenting the data, instructing the use of the data, and advising users.

The FSD is still a relatively small archive, and therefore the proportion of administration needed in the long-term preservation of digital data is not as great as the OAIS model suggests. As the Archive grows, it must be prepared to adopt more complicated administrative processes which in turn lead to increased expenses.

Of course, the Archive does not necessarily need to take care of everything itself, and outsourcing some operations must be considered in the future. In addition, it is necessary to continue evaluating operations with the help of existing standards and criteria.

FSD Is OAIS-compliant

Based on the conducted observation, the FSD is well compliant with the OAIS standard. The minimum responsibilities defined in the model have been fulfilled, and the six functional entities mentioned in the model are identifiable in the Archive's operations. The awareness of the Archive's compliance with the OAIS standard facilitates comparing and consolidating operations with other organisations engaged in the long-term preservation of digital data.

Compliance with the OAIS standard was not a surprise. The FSD's operations model is based on the examples of American, British, and German pioneers in the field of data archiving that have been operating already for decades. Nowadays, the FSD actively participates in the international cooperation and thereby influences the practices and standards in the field.


More information and sources:
» Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems: Reference model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS). CCSDS 650.0-B-1 Blue Book, January 2002. Online PDF document: <http://public.ccsds.org/publications/archive/650x0b1.pdf> [cited 15.6.2010].
» Beedham H, Missen J, Palmer M, Ruusalepp R (2005). Assessment of UKDA and TNA compliance with OAIS and METS standards. Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), United Kingdom. Online PDF document: <http://www.jisc.ac.uk/uploaded_documents/oaismets.pdf> [cited 15.6.2010].
» Vardigan, Mary & Whiteman, Cole (2007). ICPSR meets OAIS: applying the OAIS reference model to the social science archive context. Archival Science 7:73-87. PDF. Online journal: <http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/60440/1/Vardigan.Whiteman.Applying%20OAIS.pdf> [cited 15.6.2010].
» Viitemalli pitkäaikaissäilytysarkistolle. OAIS-standardin suomalainen versio. SFS 5972. Vahvistettu 2009-12-14. Helsinki: Suomen Standardoimisliitto, 2010.
» Tietoarkiston arkistonmuodostussuunnitelma
» The National Digital Library project
» Arkistolaitoksen SAHA-hankekokonaisuus (ml. VAPA-hanke)