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David Dawson, Minna Valtonen

Overview of national benchmarking reports
(March 2003)
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This overview is based upon detailed reports supplied by the following countries:

  • Belgium - Flemish Community
  • Finland
  • France
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom

These reports provide a picture of the current position on benchmarking in each of those countries, and indicate the plans that have been put in place. It is also possible to identify some of the results that are emerging from the benchmarking process.

The reports were requested by Minna Valtonen, working on the MINERVA Work Package 2 during February 2003.

Policy and Programme Overview

Digitisation policy/ies and programmes France,
Subsidisation decrees for digitisation projects Belgium -
No general digitisation policy for cultural heritage Finland,
Responsibility for cultural heritage shared
between state and regions, national decree
  • Finland:
    • government programme as the primary policy for digitisation, digitisation programme
      for library material in launching stage with level of funding not yet resolved

  • France:
    • policies: one / ministry; one on cultural heritage (Ministry of Culture); programmes:
      Ministry of Culture, national institutions, research sector, educational sector

  • Italy:
    • State policies mostly oriented to creation of new services; Italian Digital Library
      indicates priorities and areas for the digital conversion, national/regional framework agreements

  • Netherlands:
    • an outline digitisation policy has been published, and there are several existing programmes

  • Sweden:
    • systematic digitisation has just started, cooperation platform to be established for different
      sectors of memory organisations, institutions are working on their own policies

  • United Kingdom:
    • a range of policies and programmes in place, often to promote access and education
      as part of a wider agenda that has strong political support.

In France, Italy, Netherlands and the UK, there are several specified digitisation initiatives on political level. The Nordic countries have no general digitisation policy, although Finland is preparing one. Despite the lack of programmes and / or policies, institutions in Finland and Sweden have major digitisation projects. Belgium - Flemish Community has created possibilities for facilitating digitisation projects via e.g. the decree on private law cultural archiving. A cultural heritage decree is in preparation.

Policy for benchmarking

Belgium - Flemish Digitisation coordination group
Finland National benchmarking group, National preparatory group
France Ministry of Culture launching a campaign
Greece General Secretariat of National Statistical Service; research teams, government / EC funded; National Digitization Project
Italy National bench-marking group; government active
Sweden Cooperation of different sectors promoted
UK To be developed though co-ordination of funding programmes
  • Finland:
    • the responsible partner for WP 2, Benchmarking framework; preparatory group collected by Ministry of Education,
      meetings before NRG meetings

  • France:
    • integration of benchmarking in project call 2003, in order to evaluate impact of the programme's framework
      (criteria to be filled before funding)

  • Greece:
    • National Digitization Project - drawing the landscape of digitisation activities, extensive on-line benchmarking platform

  • Italy:
    • regular meetings of the national benchmarking group, benchmarking promoted by government

  • Netherlands:
    • benchmarking group including the main national organisations, co-ordinated by the Ministry of Culture,
      Directorate of Cultural Heritage

  • Sweden:
    • benchmarking used a little in projects, good experiences

  • United Kingdom:
    • benchmarking to be encouraged through funding programmes, though in many ways already implemented through compliance checking of projects.

Benchmarking has been implemented in many different ways, and for different purposes. In some countries, such as Greece, there has been a large amount of activity, but in most countries has progressed to the stage of piloting and development. In Italy the government is active in promoting benchmarking

The objective of Minerva is to spread knowledge and to promote the use of the benchmarking tool. This will result the Europe-wide benchmarking exercise that will be implemented in the Phase 2 of the MINERVA Benchmarking exercise. Although there might be little experience of benchmarking in countries such as Sweden, "the average opinion of these (benchmarked) projects seems to be that benchmarking as such could be a useful tool for improving quality by self measuring objectives, work plan etc."

Collection of benchmarking questionnaires

  1-4 5-10 >10
Projects   Finland,
Programmes Finland,
Productivity   France
  • Belgium:
    • plans for the organisation of data collection in April-May

  • Finland:
    • During April - May cultural institutions are encouraged to fill in additional online forms.
      Objective: 5 more questionnaires

  • Greece:
    • 34 collected questionnaires and in addition productivity questionnaires

  • Italy:
    • 30 collected questionnaires including productivity questionnaires, strong interaction with the respondents

  • Netherlands:
    • 7 questionnaires collected, enabling the Dutch National Group to observe the way that the indicators were used. This valuable experience will ensure the participation new organisations in the process

  • United Kingdom:
    • 5 questionnaires collected in order to trial the process.

Many Member States have not yet undertaken a benchmarking exercise. There are a number of reasons for this, including a lack of perceived benefit from participating in the early stages, difficulties in completed a long questionnaire and countries where digitisation initiatives are in early stages of development.

The experience of Greece is that a lot of institutions participated in the benchmarking practice but those who didn't know that they actually were taking part in such a practice filled in the questionnaires less completely. The ones that did know about the benchmarking practice were more willing to dedicate time and effort to it. In Italy the national benchmarking group stressed interaction with and guidance to the respondents, and in the UK, a combination of high-level expectation and personally contact ensured a high completion rate amongst the small number of programmes targeted. In the Netherlands the work undertaken so far has ensured the understanding and support of the cultural institutions, and to get the concept of benchmarking built in to the definition of new projects.

Results of the collected questionnaires

Majority of answers in the question
  IPR Management
Awareness of
technical and
good basic best good good basic
Greece no answer best best basic basic basic
good good good/best good good basic
basic basic best basic good good
good best best good basic good

  • Finland:
    • Over 50 % of projects will have their digital products online.

      Technical and content standards are strengths in Finland whereas management of digitisation is mostly taken care of alongside other duties and sustainable business models have not started to develop yet. IPR, digital and physical preservation seem to be on a good level in this sample of answers. In about half of the projects IPR issues were of less importance because digitising in Finland has begun mostly with out-of-copyright material from the library sector

  • Greece:
    • Management mechanisms and standards are strengths in Greece whereas digital and physical preservation as well as sustainability are not so developed. As in Finland, IPR appears to be of less significance, as digitisation has been of out-of-copyright materials. According to the Greek report, financial data was not willingly provided by projects

  • Italy:
    • The Directive of the European Parliament and Council will be harmonising some aspects of IPR. The strength in Italy is in technical and content standards. It is mentioned in the report that so far the awareness has been scarce. There have been some programmes which have promoted technical standards. Sustainability is on the same basic level as in the other countries

  • Netherlands:
    • Much attention is being paid to technical and content standards, this is the rationale behind the creation of the Netherlands Digital Heritage Association in 1999. Dissemination of knowledge about standards is gaining pace in the Netherlands. IPR is felt as an impediment to a broad user-friendly and public-oriented accessibility of cultural heritage material - e.g. some recent projects focussing on posters, cinema-posters and the archives of a design firm are hampered by IPR, or will run into legal trouble. The negative effects of IPR are not adequatly addressed. Management is generally taken care of alongside other tasks as there are many projects to manage. Digital preservation is appearing on the agenda rather hesitatingly, but a major shift in awareness is gathering momentum as large and important institutions like the National Library are fixing their attention to the problem. The care for physical preservation of objects has successfully migrated into the core of digitisation projects

  • United Kingdom:
    • The UK National Report addresses each of these areas in detail.
      Sustainability - one programme ensured the sustainability of the projects funded by the programme. This was achieved through central funding of server space, and related basic costs, and ensuring that the projects were of sufficient value as teaching resources to the host organisations that they would be maintained and updated, to some level at least.
      Technical Standards - the NOF-digitise Technical Standards have had a profound impact on the management of digitisation programmes, with most new programmes recognising the value and importance of standards.
      IPR - In some programmes, IPR issues were not addressed at a programme level, while in others, clear IPR guidelines were built into the application procedures and business planning that was undertaken by projects.
      Digital Preservation - superficially the situation here is good, with all but one of the programmes integrating preservation into the digitisation process. In reality, this is through the adoption of a technical standards framework that was designed to enable preservation. However, no real-life digital preservation services are developed ready to manage the materials in the longer term.
      Physical Preservation - many of the funding programmes are not addressing any of the wider implications of the digitisation process. This is as a result of two major factors - either as institutions fail to include physical preservation into their funding bids, and also because some funders specifically exclude the costs of conservaton or physical storage media.

It is striking that Technical and Content standards are regarded as meeting best practice in several Member States, whilst a survey of Technical Standards found few nationally-agreed Technical Standards in place. It appears that the areas causing particular concern are digital preservation, ensuring that digitisation is accompanied by programmes to ensure the physical preservation of the original materials and sustainability. This is linked to IPR, where it is clear that there is an understanding of the issues, but that it has not yet been possible to establish sound business models to ensure sustainability. Sustainability is currently most successfully being addressed by culture change within the cultural institutions - a management decision to create and maintain the new service within existing budgets and mechanisms.




Copyright Minerva Project 2003-04, last revision 2003-04-08, edited by Minerva Editorial Board.
URL: www.minervaeurope.org/structure/workinggroups/benchmarking/docindex/overbenchreports.htm
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