Preserving software

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Digital content faces a growing challenge. Significant effort is invested in generating digital content, such as data and software, but relatively little work is devoted to sustaining and curating it. A new study by a partnership between Curtis+Cartwright Consulting Limited and the Software Sustainability Institute will clarify the benefits of sustaining digital content, and provide practical guidance in how to achieve it.

The first stage of our work with the preserving software project is now complete. If you would like to learn more, view the useful resources that were created during the project. Further information is also available on the project's blog.

The preserving software work has generated a benefits framework and a series of briefing papers which are available from this website under resources.

The study’s goal is to raise awareness of sustainability issues and build sustainability into the process of software development – with a special focus on the education and research sectors. By consulting developers, the study will determine the best ways to ensure sustainability of digital content. These methods will be publicised to enable development teams to make better informed decisions about the future of their software.

Without an investment in sustainability, digital content decays and the effort invested in generating it is wasted. The benefits of sustainability are clear, but the best ways of achieving it are still being determined. A recent JISC report described this problem “Software preservation is... a relatively new topic of research and there is little practical experience in the field of software preservation per se”. This highlights a recent focus on sustainability amongst funding councils, which are keen for digital content to be preserved since this represents better value for the money invested in research.

The study will provide answers to questions such as:

  • What is software preservation?
  • Is software preservation just software maintenance?
  • Why do we need to preserve software?
  • Does all software need to be preserved and, if not, what does?
  • How does good software engineering fit in with software preservation?
  • Who will pay for this?
  • Can we preserve software by making it open source?
  • Can we preserve software by putting in our repository?
  • How else can I preserve software?
  • For how long does software need to be preserved for?
  • What do I do next?