Illustration by Jørgen Stamp CC BY 2.5 Denmark



The aim of this section is to help institutions understand, develop and implement digital preservation policies and strategies. These will help an organisation to set digital preservation goals, priorities and mechanisms that will also support the acquisition, life cycle management and dissemination of digital materials.

Policy and strategy are terms that are often used interchangeably or in different hierarchical sequence in different institutions. For consistency, the Handbook defines 'policy' as the highest level document and 'strategy' as the documents and procedures that support the implementation of the policy. In principle the development of policy precedes the development of strategy. In turn strategy may be developed or revised/reviewed on a regular basis, whereas policy may have a longer review cycle. Thus a policy serves the organisational need whilst individual strategies may serve different business units or divisions.

Policy and strategy documents provide a foundation upon which all activities around management of digital materials can be based. Policy and strategy documents that are well formed and consultative provide for high levels of both consensus and compliance in the day-to-day activities of managing digital materials. In turn, this provides for certainty that digital materials are being managed appropriately and to best effect. Policy documents also form the basis for cost planning and for funding applications. Strategy can be used as a flexible means to both adapt to changing situations and to demonstrate that learning that has been applied.

Within any institution there will be a range of stakeholders who have a stake in the life cycle management of digital materials. They may contribute to the management of those materials, they may create or manage metadata associated with those materials, or they may have management responsibility for collections. The end-users are also key stakeholders as their needs determine what is important for preservation. The views of stakeholders and their roles in relation to the management of digital materials must be considered at both the policy and strategy level.

You may find it useful to apply the iterative four-step management method of Plan–Do–Check–Adjust as a model for continuous improvement and effective development, implementation and revision of policies and strategies.


Digital preservation policy as part of the wider organisational context


If you are embarking upon, or thinking of embarking upon the creation of a digital preservation policy for your organisation, then it is necessary to start by investigating the context in which the policy will exist.

It is likely that a broad range of policy documents will already exist across your organisation covering a wide variety of issues such as staffing, information technology, risk assessment, and finance. There mayalso be a number of policies relating to more specific issues of records and collections management that will be relevant to digital preservation activities. It is essential to consider both the content and established style and structure of all relevant policies within the organisation as well as the how digital preservation policy will fit within the wider landscape. No single policy or strategy document can stand alone so to achieve support for and successful implementation of a digital preservation policy it is essential to embed it in the broader policy context.


Important considerations in developing policy and strategy


An important aspect of policy development is consideration of the specific needs of your organisation and its key drivers. Alignment with organisational business drivers ensures that strategy and its implementation are also aligned with business need. Policy and strategy documents should make explicit links with and between relevant and existing policies and strategies and build on existing practice. Collaboration, sharing and consultation with stakeholders are essential processes in the development of policy and strategy.

Digital preservation policies are ideally technology neutral, i.e. not dependent upon any one technology platform or system. However in reality this may be unachievable. In such cases they should be focused on principles, aims and objectives that the requisite technology can support.

In order to develop clear, coherent and robust documentation and processes it is essential to adhere to a set methodology and to establish a plan for review so that the policy and strategy remains relevant and current.

  1. Establish purpose. The first step is to establish the main purpose of the digital preservation policy, its scope and key aims. These will keep the process of policy development focused and its content coherent. Thought should be given at this stage to how the document will used, both as a tool for advocacy and to help guide the creation and implementation of strategy.
  2. Research. As expressed above, it is essential to understand the organisational context in which the policy will exist. Time should be spent investigating existing policy, understanding the organisation's business drivers and the needs of key stakeholder groups. This phase will also incorporate research into best practice for digital preservation policy and strategies, examining the tools and resources available as well as reading policies and strategies from other organisations. Many resources are available with suggestions of what to include in your digital preservation policy and strategy (see Resources).
  3. Identify elements and develop structure. Based on the research carried out in the previous phase, the main topics and issues to be addressed in the policy and strategy should be selected. Developing a clear structure for the documents is essential to ensure the documents are useful in practice and to facilitate easy updates and review. The structure should reflect any standards or existing best practice for policy and strategy documents within the organisation.
  4. Develop content. Policy content should be high-level and set broad aims and objectives. It should avoid identifying specifics such as details of particular technology solutions, although it may contain reference to commitments established on an organisational level. Information on practical application of the policy will be defined by relevant strategy documents. Content may also be aspirational in relation to aims and objectives but care must be taken not to set unobtainable goals. Recommendations on how to address specific issues within your policy and strategy are available from numerous sources (see Resources).
  5. Stakeholder review. It is essential to gain buy-in from various stakeholder groups to ensure your policy and strategy are both fit for purpose and will have support from across the organisation. Presentation of the draft documents to key stakeholder groups is an important part of the drafting process and any feedback provided should be considered carefully. This can also be a key step in advocacy for digital preservation within your organisation, allowing stakeholders to feel engaged with the process and to understand how digital preservation activities relate to their own work. (see Advocacy)
  6. Gain approval. Most organisations will require that new policy documents are officially ratified by your management board. Make sure to be aware of the process the organisation and any requirements that will need to be fulfilled. Once ratified the policy will carry more weight and as a result will be easier to implement as part of ongoing strategy.
  7. Regular reviews. Policy and strategy documents should not be static and must be responsive to changes in stakeholder needs, the wider organisational context and updates to best practice. A regular review cycle should be established but may also be triggered by significant changes in any of the areas mentioned above.
  8. Implementation. Establish an implementation plan to make policy and strategy a reality in terms of day-to-day operations. Remember they are a mean to an end, not an end in itself.



Digital Preservation Policies Study

This JISC funded study published in 2008 created a model framework for a digital preservation policy and accompanying implementation clauses based on examination of existing digital preservation policies. Although focussing on the UK Higher and Further Education sectors, the study draws widely on policy and implementations from other sectors and countries.

An additional output was a series of mappings of digital preservation links to other key institutional strategies in UK universities and colleges with the aim of helping institutions and their staff to develop appropriate digital preservation policies and clauses set in the context of broader institutional strategies. (60 pages).

Digital Preservation Policies: Guidance for archives

This guide published by The National Archives in 2011 explains the key characteristics of a digital preservation policy. It discusses why there is a need for a policy and how it supports digital preservation. The primary audience for the guidance is publicly funded archives. (16 pages).

Analysis of Current Digital Preservation Policies: Archives, Libraries and Museums

This report published in 2013 by Madeline Sheldon, a Junior Fellow with NDIIPP at the Library of Congress, discusses the current state of digital preservation policy planning within cultural heritage organizations. The collection of new or recently revised digital preservation policies or strategies, published during 2008 and 2013, resulted in a high-level analysis of the contents within those documents. A summary overview of the findings was also made available as a post on The Signal blog. (23 pages).

APARSEN D35.1 Exemplar good governance structures and data policies

This report summarises the level of preparedness for interoperable governance and data policies. It concludes with selected recommendations that should be taken into account when drawing up data policies concerning digital preservation. (2014, 43 pages).

SCAPE Catalogue of Preservation Policy Elements

The European Project SCAPE (2011 - 2014) was tasked with looking at policy and producing a catalogue of policy elements to assist those writing policy. This wiki gives some information on the background to the policy work and then has pages for each element which the SCAPE project suggested that organisations should consider when writing policy, with a focus of planning and watch activities. There is also the final report of this work made publicly available in February 2014 on the SCAPE website.

Published Preservation Policies

An extensive web directory prepared by the SCAPE project in 2015 listing digital preservation policies that are publicly available online for libraries, archives, data centers, and miscellaneous institutions.

Practical Policy Recommendations

Actionable policy elements from the Research Data Alliance including both human and machine readable versions of each example.

Case studies

A Digital Preservation Policy for Parliament

The purpose of this Policy published in 2009 is to state and communicate the principles that guide the UK Parliament's activities to secure the preservation of its digital information resources. Further policy documents, procedures, standards, and guidance will be developed in future to address specific aspects of the Strategy. (17 pages).

Hampshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS) Digital Preservation Policy

To address the risk of losing digital materials, HALS has developed a digital preservation policy and strategy. The policy outlines the Record Office's approach to digital preservation, whilst the aim of the strategy is to describe this approach in more detail, including technical specifications where appropriate.

DPC case note: Cabinet papers - policy as a measure of commitment

This case note from The National Archives examines the relationship between policy and practice in digital preservation. Grant giving organisations should request copies of applicant's digital preservation policies when funding data creation, as these are an indication of the organisation's commitment to long-term access. The National Archives has digitised a significant volume of the UK's Cabinet Papers, and have a carefully considered policy framework for the long term management of digital resources. May 2010 (3 pages).

DPC case note: Welsh journals online: effective leadership for a common goal

This Jisc-funded case study examines a complex digitisation project at the National Library of Wales, an example of an organisation where there are many stakeholders and many different skills are required. Nominating a single senior member of staff as the lead officer for digital preservation and allowing them to work across different sections of the institution mitigated the risk of uncertainty around responsibility for preservation actions. June 2010 (3 pages).

British Library Digital preservation strategy 2013-2016

The British Library's Strategy includes four priorities. Each priority is accompanied by a series of actions. These priorities are aligned with the Library's overall approach to Collection Care and its five principles of sustainable stewardship: to predict, protect, prioritise, preserve, and enable.

Strategic Priority 1: Ensure our digital repository can store and preserve our collections for the long term
Strategic Priority 2: Manage the risks and challenges associated with digital preservation throughout the digital collection content lifecycle
Strategic Priority 3: Embed digital sustainability as an organisational principle for digital library planning and development
Strategic Priority 4: Benefit from collaboration with other national and international institutions on digital preservation initiatives

Further details of each can be found in the full version of the strategy in a linked pdf document (16 pages).

Wellcome Library's Preservation Policy

The purpose of the Wellcome Library's Preservation Policy is to provide a comprehensive statement on the preservation and conservation of the Library's collections. It is intended to cover all material in all formats. The policy contains three parts that cover general statements, the management of physical materials and the management of digital materials.(25 pages).

UK Data Archive Preservation Policy

This policy published in 2014 outlines the principles which underpin the main activities of the UK Data Archive (the Archive) the active preservation of digital resources for use and re-use within its core user community. From a preservation point of view this policy generally conforms to the OAIS Reference Model, with additions and alterations which are specific to the materials held within the Archive. The Archive has a series of strict requirements for its digital preservation activities. These requirements are laid down in this policy, and the manner in which these requirements can best be achieved in relation to regulatory requirements, archival best practice, information security and available funds is also detailed below. Consequently, the Archive's preservation policy is based upon open and available file formats, data migration and media refreshment. (16 pages)

Digital Preservation Strategies for a Small Private College

The POWRR Project (2011 – 2014) investigated, evaluated, and recommended scalable digital preservation solutions for libraries with smaller amounts of data and/or fewer resources. Well established "best practices" in digital preservation (DP) do little to address day-to-day realities in repositories that cannot dedicate funds or staff to DP workflows. Meg Miner, Illinois Weslyan University, discusses what can be done to ensure good stewardship for born digital and digitized institutional records before a complete preservation system is in place. 2015 (13 pages).

University of Edinburgh - Developing a Digital Preservation Policy

A great presentation and case study by Kirsty Lee at the University of Edinburgh to the DPC Making Progress in Digital Preservation workshop in October 2014 explaining the methodology that she is using to build a digital preservation policy at Edinburgh. (14 pages)