July 15, 2009, New York and London. Tens of millions of dollars, pounds and euros are invested each year by government agencies and private foundations to develop and support digital resources in the not-for-profit sector.
As institutional budgets tighten, will these digital resources be able to survive and thrive? A new study, released today by Ithaka S+R and the JISC-led Strategic Content Alliance, illustrates the varied and creative ways in which leaders of digital initiatives, particularly those developed in the higher education and cultural heritage sectors, are managing to identify sources of support and generate revenue.
Ithaka Case Studies in Sustainability consists of twelve examples of digital resource projects and a final report, 'Sustaining Digital Resources:
An On-the-Ground View of Projects Today', written by Ithaka S+R analysts Nancy L. Maron, K. Kirby Smith and Matthew Loy.
The work was jointly funded by JISC's Strategic Content Alliance in the UK and the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation in the United States. The full report and case studies are available online and open for comment at:
The case studies provide a rare glimpse into the strategies of twelve digital initiatives across Europe, the Middle East and North America - ranging from an online scholarly encyclopedia of philosophy to an image licensing operation at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Each case is extensively researched, drawing from interviews with key stakeholders of the organisation, and details the costs and revenues that each project generates, while illustrating the decision-making process that underlies these strategies.
Dr Malcolm Read, JISC's Executive Secretary said, "These case studies demonstrate the innovative and dynamic approaches for universities and others to sustain digital resources online in the most cost effective way."
The final report serves as a guide to the cases, and argues that sustainability entails much more than simply covering the costs of putting a resource online. Equally important is ensuring the ongoing development of the resource to suit the continually evolving needs of its users. The paper presents a framework for thinking about sustainability, outlining the five stages that successful projects must undertake in developing sustainability
models: from acquiring a deep understanding of users and their needs, to thinking broadly about the range of revenue models that might be possible.
The studies also demonstrate that, while many projects are attempting to generate some revenue through subscription, pay-per-view, and a range of licensing arrangements, their overall financial picture still depends heavily on receiving direct as well as in-kind support from the institutions that host them.
The work is part of a long term examination into the sustainability of digital content, supported by the JISC-led Strategic Content Alliance in the UK, and builds upon the 2008 Ithaka Report, Sustainability and Online Revenue Models for Online Academic Resources.
"Supporting digital content online is a challenge every sector is grappling with and we are just now starting to see patterns emerge in terms of how these initiatives are being financed and managed," according to Laura Brown, Executive Vice President, Ithaka S+R. "We hope that by examining projects that appear to be thriving, we can begin to identify models that will work best to support these tremendously valuable resources."
The projects that served as subjects for the case studies include:
BOPCRIS Digitisation Centre, Hartley Library, University of Southampton (UK) Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London (UK) DigiZeitschriften, Göttingen State and University Library (Germany) eBird, Information Science Department, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University (US) Electronic Enlightenment, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford (UK) Hindawi Publishing Corporation (Egypt) Inamédiapro and ina.fr, L'Institut national de l'audiovisuel (France) Licensed Internet Associates Program, The National Archives (UK) Middle School Portal 2: Math and Science Pathways, National Science Digital Library (US) Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University (US) Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, University of California, Irvine (US) V&A Images, Victoria and Albert Museum (UK)
Read more about JISC and the work of the Strategic Content Alliance at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/contentalliance