The purpose of the Collaboration to Clarify the Costs of Curation (4C) project was to help organisations make better decisions and smarter investments in relation to curating and preserving their digital assets. Whilst the starting point for the project was ‘cost’ and cost modelling, it was clear from the outset that the point of making an investment is always to realise a benefit, so the work also needed to examine the benefits in relation to the costs. By extension, this involved thinking carefully about related concepts such as ‘risk’, ‘value’, ‘quality’ and ‘sustainability’.

The project was conceived of and proposed as a two year EC-funded ‘Co-ordination Action’ whose formal period of funding ran from 1st February 2013 until 31st January 2015. The type of project it was and the constraints on its duration are important factors to understand, both from the point of view of what the project achieved; but also in terms of how ambitious its aims were—and indeed continue to be.

One of the principal outputs of the project is a Roadmap document which sets out a five year (2020) vision for the community including detailed actions and a schedule for achieving that vision (

As a ‘Co-ordination Action’, the primary objective was to ensure that communities of practice across the domains of education, research, industry, commerce, government and cultural heritage were aware of relevant existing resources and able to engage and derive value from them. One of the particular wishes of the EC FP7 Cooperation Programme was to try and encourage small to medium enterprises (SME’s) across Europe to engage more deeply with the digital preservation agenda, either by enhancing or improving existing tools and services, or by creating new ones which in turn would help customer organisations to sustain the digital assets in their care. The 4C Project addressed these challenges in a number of different ways.

One important decision (which was designed into the original proposal) was to go much further than simply promote and explain previous work. The 4C team very actively engaged with existing work, to synthesise it, reconfigure some of it, and then present it afresh to the community using innovative techniques. For instance, very detailed work was done to analyse and evaluate ten existing cost models and to point out gaps that need to be bridged in order to increase the uptake of cost & benefit modelling (

The 4C Cost Concept Model ( builds on the above analysis and provides a framework to support the creation, implementation and benchmarking of future cost models. It includes a nested model for digital curation (p.42 of the report) which strongly recommends placing the concept of a sustainable digital curation service right at the centre of a supply and demand framework. This model then joins up with the 4C work on setting out the business case for digital curation services (, and also links to the Digital Curation Sustainability Model ( This represented an extensive community engagement process on the part of the 4C Project to evaluate an existing resource (the Economic Sustainability Reference Model) but which resulted in a new ‘forked’ version of the sustainability model being defined.

A novel output of the project was the Cost Comparison Tool (CCT) which is hosted on the Curation Costs Exchange community platform ( The CCT is where stakeholders can go to submit their costs according to a simple 4C specified schema, after which they can then compare their costs with other participating organisations and their own historic information ( This innovative approach provides stakeholder communities with a new methodology and actual capability for comparing costs in a way that did not exist beforehand. In addition to the innovative creation of resources, the 4C Project also committed to communicating and engaging with the various target stakeholder communities using the most outward-looking and dynamic approach possible.

Branded as an ‘Open and Social’ project, 4C adopted a consultative and participatory attitude and tried as hard as possible to listen carefully to stakeholder opinions and reactions. Committing to such an approach over a relatively short (2 year) project duration required the team to work closely and intensely. In addition to extensive.

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