Sustainability Myths

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A presentation from the JISC conference New Strategies for Digital Content, 18 March 2011, LondonBy Nancy Maron


What to Withdraw: Print Collections Management in the Wake of Digitization

Sustainability Myths:Updates to the Ithaka Case Studies in Sustainability

Nancy MaronIthaka S+RMarch 18, 2011


Ithaka S+R works with initiatives and organizations to develop sustainable business models and conducts research and analysis on the impact of digital media on the academic community as a whole.

JSTOR helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive of over 1,000 academic journals and other content. JSTOR uses information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship.

Portico preserves scholarly literature published in electronic formmore than 10,000 e-journals and 28,000 e-booksand ensures that these materials remains accessible to future scholars, researchers, and students.Our Services

2Five areas of study

Role of the Library

University Publishing

Teaching and Learning

Practices and Attitudes

Sustainability of Digital ResourcesWhen we think about sustainabilityWe are concerned with the long-term viability of digital resources, so that they continue to provide value to those who use them.

Specifically, our work has focused on the strategy and business planning needed to do this, rather than on issues of the specific technologies this may require.

We realize that not every digital resource requires an elaborate sustainability plan. The needs of a single journal article, for example, will be different than those of a complex database.

4Sustainability is

.the ability to generate or gain access to the resourcesfinancial or otherwiseneeded to protect and increase the value of the content or service for those who use it.

For those digital resources that will requireongoing support5A multi-year, international approach

A survey of revenue models and mindsetsSustainability and Revenue Models for Online Academic Resources (2008) followed by 12 case studies and a summary report.Sustaining Digital Resources: An On-the-Ground View of Projects Today (2009)With funding from JISC/SCA, NEH and NSF.With funding from JISC and the Strategic Content Alliance

6Ithaka S+R Case Studies in Sustainability (2009)12 digital resources in the UK and abroadProjects based in academia and cultural heritage organisationsInterviews with project leaders on their strategies for engaging users, forging partnerships, and generating revenuesThumbnails of financial dataWork commissioned by the JISC-led Strategic Content Alliance, with assistance from NEH and NSF

Budget Snapshots

CostsRevenuesBudgeted versus Unbudgeted CostsWhat steps were strong projects taking? Empower leadership to define the mission and take actionCreate a strong value propositionCreatively manage costsEstablish realistic goals and a system of accountabilityCultivate diverse sources of revenue 9Why did we decide to go back now?Just as we were finishing our research, financial crisis struck (fall 2008)

Since then, the landscape for funding in higher education and cultural heritage has changed quicklyIn the US, budget cuts for NEH ($22mil), IMLS ($20mil); NSDL program at NSF ($16.5mil)In the UK, deep cuts to HE sector; quangos closed; funding reducedPolitical upheaval: One case study in Egypt

We wanted to see how the models had held up, and where weaknesses might be starting to show

10To update the case studies we: Re-interviewed the principal investigators at each project

Asked what has changed in the past two years

Followed up on initiatives that were in early stages in 2008

Revisited our hypotheses about what actions are most important in order to develop projects that are built to last.

Note: Our findings are preliminary. Final case studies will be published later this spring

11How are the projects faring today?Many projects have faced severe budget cutsRevenue models underperformingA project based on partnership, at risk when partner is at riskAn endowment model, not hitting targetsLow cost labor model (Cairo), at risk due to political upheavalas well as some bright spotsZeroing in on core value, and shedding the rest. Southamptons decision to focus efforts on fine digitization and sell off high speed scanner Renaming to better communicate its function with audienceFrom BOPCRIS to Library Digitisation Centre

Creative a strong value proposition by paying close attention to users and making tough choices

13Continuing to add new content and implement interface changeseBird (and INA) Partnering with a third-party mobile app developer; developer bears start-up costs and project takes revenue share

Simply staying operational is not the goalWe try to plan for one big innovation per year

Creatively managing costsand investing in affordable innovation.

14As library budgets decline, finding alternate channels for revenue from audiences that value the resourceStanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Started individual membership model, providing Kindle- and iPad-ready formatted PDFs of entries

Seeking to reach users in new parts of the worldDigiZeitschriften: in Asia, Israel, and elsewhere

Cultivating diverse sources of revenueeven when the landscape is challenging.

Outreach activities seen as mission-critical, both to external and internal stakeholdersElectronic Enlightenment: Road show campaign to engage with more usersOther projects communicating with administrators, continuing to serve on funding agency review panels, and other means of staying in touch with the community.

Establishing goals and accountabilityand communicating those goals to administrators and funders.

Overall, what strategies seem most important?Host support is more important than everCreative and diversified revenue strategiesStrong value propositionBased on an understanding of user needsAligning costs with value propositionCommunicating this to stakeholders6 Myths of SustainabilityMyths?Assumptions? Wishful thinking?or true?

Here are some of the beliefs we have heard, which weve seen challenged in recent times

18Myth #1: This project will be inexpensive to sustainWhere weve heard thisDigitization projectsCommunity-contributed projectsInstitutional repositoriesWhat were seeingCosts for ongoing care are often not considered early enough in project planningCost stressors for libraries supporting IRsso it doesnt need a sustainability plan.Define GOALSBuild plan to secure needed REVENUE Determine needed RESOURCEIdentify ACTIVITIESBut some basic steps are well within reach for any projectMyth #2: Not disappearing = sustainabilityWhere weve heard thisFunder language that sets too low a barProjects that emphasize simply longevity over longterm impactWhat were seeingProjects that may be findable online, but are not being updated, and are quickly falling out of use. The recent case of Transcribe Bentham I dont envisage Transcribe Bentham ever disappearing from the Web Its the backup we can give it which is in danger of disappearing toward the end of the yearthat active involvement and relationship with users which the research staff has built up.

--Philip Schofied, DirectorFacing Budget Woes, Prominent Crowdsourcing Project Will Scale Back, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 11, 2011Or is this precisely the set of activities that will be needed if this resource is to remain valuable to its users?22Myth #3: Deposit = sustainabilityWhere weve heard thisClosed ended projectsResearch projectsFundersWhat were seeingLow deposit compliance ratesShuttered services (AHDS)Recent news about the sunsetting of the National Science Foundations NSDL program (and funding for its platform via Technical Network Services) 23Myth #4: The host institution will take care of itWhere weve heard thisThis is often the default sustainability plan for digital resource projectsFunders, too, rely heavily on the ongoing largesse of host institutionsWhat were seeingThis is often the case today, but with universities under increasing budget pressure, will it hold?How can project leaders express their value to the host? 24Myth #5: Outreach is a luxury we cannot affordwhen budgets are tightWhere weve heard thisFunders cutting spend on communications activitiesSome projects with small staff or budget cutsWhat were seeingElectronic Enlightenments road show effort and press marketing partnership SEP and other outreach efforts25Myth #6: My core audience would be horrifiedif we charged anythingWhere weve heard thisMuseums, libraries and archives with long-standing public access or preservation missionsOrganisations providing digital content for K-12 teachingResources that depend on volunteers for contributed contentWhat were seeingINAs freemium modelBrainpop and other online teaching resources that target teacher materials budgetsSEPs individual membership model

26Some concluding thoughtsThere is no one right sustainability model. Projects often experiment to find what will work best and devise hybrid models.

Taking a good look at what ongoing activities and costs will be is a good first step in sustainability planning.

Creating value for users and other stakeholders is vital, regardless of the specific revenue models in place.

Many projects rely heavily on host support, but it is not clear that these arrangements are formal or reliable.

Making the switch from a research project to an operational resource is one of the most difficult but important challenges projects face.27

28Thank you.