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Final Report for Ithaka S+R/SCA Case Studies in Sustainability

The report and case studies are available for download at: 

Two Years of Economic Uncertainty

JISC-led Strategic Content Alliance and Ithaka S+R release final 
report on their Case Studies in Sustainability, revealing how 
different business models fared during the economic downturn

6 October New York, NY and London, UK

Ithaka S+R, with funding from the JISC-led Strategic Content 
Alliance, released today "Revenue, Recession, Reliance: 
Revisiting the SCA/Ithaka S+R Case Studies in Sustainability 
<bitly.com/nC4zj1>," a report that reviews the impact of 
tumultuous times on the business models of 12 digital projects 
first profiled by S+R in 2009.

Some of the projects profiled include the UK's National Archives' 
Licensed Internet Associates programme, which has shown major 
revenue growth in recent years despite budget cuts felt by the 
entire institution; Cornell University's eBird, which has 
experimented with partnerships to develop new revenue generating 
offerings for users; and the University of Southampton's Library 
Digitisation Unit, which has made strategic choices to better 
align its mission with that of the university.

Nearly all of the projects profiled live under the umbrella of 
larger institutions.  One of the key findings to emerge is that 
many of these projects are relying on their host institutions for 
support to an even greater extent than two years ago. Whether 
this is a good arrangement and what this means for their future 
remains to be seen.

"While some project leaders have pursued an aggressive 
awareness-building strategy within their host institutions as a 
way of ensuring ongoing support, others have preferred to fly 
under the radar," commented co-author and Ithaka S+R program 
manager, Nancy Maron. "Either way, where host support is a major 
part of the sustainability plan, aligning project goals with the 
host's mission is especially important."

The report notes that difficult economic times have called for 
deep across-the-board spending cuts at many organizations, which 
can deny digital resource projects the capital investment they 
need just as they are beginning to grow. Many of the projects 
studied had the intention of contributing revenue to their host, 
but only some were successful in doing so, and even those were 
unable to fully support their ongoing costs.

"This research concentrates on organizations coming to terms with 
the long term liabilities incurred in digital projects and post 
grant funding," stated Stuart Dempster, Director of the JISC-led 
Strategic Content Alliance. "It's not just the actions the 
project teams have taken but the reasoning behind those choices 
that will help others start to determine which strategies, or 
parts of them, might serve as models for their own projects."

The projects that had the most success did not follow one 
particular business model but rather spent a tremendous time 
understanding all of their stakeholders - from their users to 
university administrators and volunteers.

"There is no single path to sustainability," stated Kevin 
Guthrie, president of ITHAKA. "Successful projects understand the 
value they offer to their most important constituents and are 
able to adjust their approaches to meet new challenges and 
changing conditions."

The cases covered include scholar-led initiatives (Electronic 
Enlightenment, eBird, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 
the Department of Digital Humanities at King's College London, 
the National Science Digital Library MSP2: Middle School Math and 
Science Pathway, the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae), library and 
museum projects (The National Archives, L'Institut national de 
l'audiovisuel, the University of Southampton Library Digitisation 
Unit, V&A Images), and publishing projects (Hindawi, 
DigiZeitschriften) with a diverse range of revenue models (e.g., 
subscription-based projects, endowment-funded resources, and open 
access digital libraries).

These case studies form part of a long term commitment by the 
Strategic Content Alliance to provide empirically-based evidence 
freely to education, research and cultural bodies in the 
development of digital content. This research is ongoing with the 
development of a new digital entrepreneurship syllabus due for 
delivery in summer 2012.


About Ithaka S+R

Ithaka S+R is a not-for-profit strategic consulting and research 
service that focuses on the transformation of scholarship and 
teaching in an online environment, with the goal of identifying 
the critical issues facing our community and acting as a catalyst 
for change.  Ithaka S+R is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that helps the academic community use digital 
technologies to preserve the scholarly record and to advance 
research and teaching in sustainable ways.

About the Strategic Content Alliance

The JISC-led Strategic Content Alliance is a unique collaboration 
initiative funded by public sector organisations, all different, 
but all deeply involved in the creation, management and 
exploitation of digital content for the common good. These are: 
JISC, British Library <http://www.bl.uk/>, BBC 
<http://www.bbc.co.uk>, Museums, Libraries and Archives Council 
<http://www.mla.gov.uk> (MLA), and the Wellcome Library. The 
Alliance aims to maximise financial and intellectual investment 
in digital content through a more systematic approach to pooling 
and co-ordinating activity.

About JISC

JISC is the UK's technology consortium for higher and further 
education - supporting UK research, teaching and learning to 
ensure it remains world class.