Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ithaka report on sustaining online academic resources

The Ithaka project has released a report called “Sustainability and Revenue Models for Online Academic Resources.” The Chronicle of Higher Education explains the core issues succinctly and bluntly:

"So you got a startup grant to get your digital monograph, e-journal, or wiki up and running. What kind of impact will that nifty new project have, and how will you keep it going once the grant money runs out?"
I've seen many, many digital scholarly projects in varying states of their life cycle. New projects flush with enthusiasm, cash, and vision. Projects where a limited scope is envisioned that grow beyond the scope with no plan or resources identified for scalability. Projects in that panicky stage where the money has just run out, hoping for institutional support for the future. Projects where someone has responsibility for care and feeding as an added side job with no recognition of what it might entail. Projects where no staff remained to keep the content -- even just the links -- current, degrading from a vibrant site to a side note. Projects set up using technologies that become problematic for support after time passes. Projects that take up institutional resources but get little or no use. And institutions stretched to the limit of what they can support, having to make very difficult decisions about what to do with the resources on its servers.

The report presents a lot of discussion about identifying targeted users and user needs, and revenue models. The report is aimed more at sustainability for new initiatives than scholarship, but it's worth reviewing by folks in both communities.

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