Skip to content

Comparing Staff Time for Maintaining Access to Ephemeral Resources vs Archived Data

The BTAA Geoportal provides discovery of geospatial resources via a catalog of aggregated metadata. This metadata includes access to the resources via external links. If the source organization removes, replaces, or migrates the resources, our links break, and we fail to provide access.

One solution to this problem is to archive the data. This would involve depositing the resources into a university-managed spatial repository and providing stable linkages.

This document compares the staff time required for maintaining access to these resources as external, ephemeral links or by archiving them in a spatial repository. It does not estimate costs for building a spatial repository or additional staff or training that it might require.

Intangible costs

User Attrition

  • Users may not revisit the site if they click broken access links
  • Users may attempt to save records that they cannot find later

Community Reputation

  • We cannot share majority of records back to OpenGeoMetadata in good faith, because of the maintenance required
  • BTAA records are not seen as complete by some community members (few web services or stable download links)
  • The project may be contributing to the vexing phenomenon of “link rot”

1. Maintaining Access to Ephemeral Resources

Method 1: Batch replacement of collection

Comparison Re-accessioning (data portals with metadata APIs)

  • Developing & maintaining comparison query scripts (Metadata Coordinator, Spatial Analyst & Curator)
  • Running query scripts
    • Monthly re-accession of ArcGIS Open Data Portals (Graduate RA)
    • Quarterly re-accession of Socrata (Graduate RA)
    • Periodic re-accession of CKAN Data Portals and custom portals (Metadata Coordinator)
  • Metadata cleanup and enhancement (Graduate RA, Metadata Coordinator)
  • Transformations (Metadata Coordinator)
  • Deleting orphaned records (Metadata Coordinator)
  • Uploading replacement records (Metadata Coordinator)
  • Validation and error checking (Metadata Coordinator, Selected Task Force Members)

Broken Link Scans (web services, maps, resources listed only on file servers)

  • Development of the URI Analysis script (App Developer)
  • Running script monthly (App Developer)
  • Creating report (App Developer)
  • Analyzing report (Metadata Coordinator, Spatial Analyst & Curator)
  • Distributing some investigative work to Task Force (Metadata Coordinator)
  • Fixing links manually, usually one by one (Selected Task Force Members)

  • Chart: Estimate of time per staff member devoted to maintaining 6085 ephemeral records (2018 staff practices) *

| Staff | Batch replacement of collections

Estimated Time | Manually Fixing Broken Links 

Estimated Time | Annual Total Hours | 5 year forecast | | --------------------------- | ------------------------------------------------ | --------------------------------------------- | ------------------ | --------------- | | Metadata Coordinator | 8 hours per week | 2 hours per week | 500 | 2500 | | Graduate RA | 12 hours per week | - | 600 | 3000 | | Spatial Analyst & Curator | | 12 hours per year | 12 | 60 | | App Developer | - | 1 hour per month | 12 | 60 | | Assigned Task Force Members | 10 hours per year | 10 hours per year | 200 | 1000 | | | | | Total: 1324 | Total: 6620 |

  • Calculations based on reported time

Annual and 5 year Totals

  • Total number of ephemeral metadata records: 6085 records
  • Total number of staff hours devoted to maintaining: 1324 hours per year (0.64 FTE)
  • Five year forecast without growth: 6620 hours
  • Combined labor required: 12 minutes per record per year

2. Archiving Resources in a Spatial Repository

Labor Requirements

Initial ingest

  • Harvesting resource (Digital Preservation Analyst, Graduate RA)
  • Converting to preservation format if necessary (Digital Preservation Analyst, Spatial Analyst & Curator)
  • Writing metadata (Digital Preservation Analyst, Graduate RA, Task Force Members)
  • Depositing in spatial repository with automatic publishing to geospatial server and geoportal (Digital Preservation Analyst)


  • Format conversion as needed (Digital Preservation Analyst)
  • Metadata updates as needed (Digital Preservation Analyst)


Spatial Data Infrastructure

Note that this solution would necessitate the construction of an Spatial Data Infrastructure technology stack, whether homegrown or contracted out

Estimate of anticipated time devoted per item for 6085 archived resources*

Staff Initial Ingest (Year 1) Maintenance (subsequent years)
Digital Preservation Analyst 10 minutes 4 minutes
Graduate RA 15 minutes
Spatial Analyst/Curator 5 minutes
Assigned Task Force Members 5 minutes 1 minute
35 minutes/record 5 minutes/record

*Calculations based on anticipated time spent per item.

Annual and 5 Year Totals

  • Total number of archived resources: 6085
  • Total number of staff hours devoted to archiving (Year 1): 3550
  • Total number of staff hours devoted to maintenance (subsequent years) = 487
  • Combined number of staff hours devoted to maintenance (Years 2-5): 487*4 = 1948
  • Combined labor over five year forecast without growth: 5498 (0.52 FTE)