Digital resources need ongoing development, says study

Although many projects in the not-for-profit sector attempt to generate some revenue through subscription, pay-per-view and a range of licensing arrangements, their income still depends heavily on support from the institutions that host them. This is one of the observations of a new international study of digital resources.

The study, by the JISC-led Strategic Content Alliance and Ithaka S+R, looked at 12 different projects across the globe and how they are successfully identifying sources of support and generating revenue.

The report  argues that sustainability entails much more than simply covering the costs of putting a resource online, but also ongoing development to suit the evolving needs of its users. It presents a framework for thinking about sustainability and outlines the five stages of developing a successful sustainability model, from acquiring a deep understanding of users and their needs, to thinking broadly about the range of revenue models that might be possible.

According to Laura Brown, executive vice president of Ithaka S+R: ‘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. 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 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 USA. The full report and 12 case studies are available online and open for comment.

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