On March 25, the Strategic Content Alliance hosted a Peer Review Workshop on the topic of the Case Studies in Sustainability project conducted this year by Ithaka.
Last year, Ithaka’s report on Sustainability and Revenue Models for Online Academic Resources outlined a range of economic models in use as well as several important organisational and cultural factors that helped leaders of digital projects to succeed.With the funding of JISC and the Strategic Content Alliance, Ithaka then researched case studies from organisations in the UK, France, Germany, Egypt and the United States and presented them at the workshop.
Notes from the lively meeting are available to read and download (as a Word document) below, along with Kevin Guthrie’s Powerpoint presentation.
A wiki was set up for the event and that attendees are very welcome and encouraged to post any thoughts/ feedback here. The link is still active at: https://wiki.jisc.ac.uk/display/sca/Case+Studies and the usernames/passwords sent to all attendees before the event can still be used to access the wiki.
Download the notes from the workshop as a Word document:
Notes from the SCA/Ithaka sustainability case studies workshop
Download Kevin Guthrie’s Sustainability Case Studies presentation (Powerpoint)
Kevin Guthrie’s Sustainability Case Studies presentation (Powerpoint)
Read on for the workshop notes…
ITHAKA PEER REVIEW MEETING 25 MARCH 2009
Notes prepared for the Strategic Content Alliance Team
Chris BATT OBE, Director and Sarah Fahmy, Manager Strategic Content Alliance
ITHAKA SUSTAINABILITY WORKSHOP
REGENT COLLEGE 25TH MARCH 2009
WELCOME – SARAH PORTER
Sarah Porter welcomed everyone to the day on behalf of the JISC. She explained that while JISC had an annual operating budget of £120m two thirds of the budget was invested in infrastructure, leaving only £40m for funding research and development activities. It is expected that without new approaches to sustainability this balance will continue to shift towards infrastructure costs and as a result the work that Ithaka and others have been doing is important to JISC’s strategic planning.
We are all aware of the changes in people’s behaviours and expectations and to be relevant to audience needs JISC must continue to respond, to innovate. The question is how to apply new sustainability models to make the money go as far as possible. The subject of the day is therefore at the core of the JISC agenda and the kind of co-operation currently taking place with Ithaka will continue.
OVERVIEW OF THE PROJECT – KEVIN GUTHRIE
Kevin began by introducing the Ithaka team who had been working on the project and also thanked all of the people involved in the case studies for their co-operation. He explained that their expectation of the workshop was that through collective thinking it would be possible to produce themes and lessons learned – “turning raw data into useful stuff”. The workshop is an integral part of the development process.
At the heart of the project is finding ways to move away from the cycle of repeated grant making to parent institutions to sustain digital services. Key questions addressed include:
• What is the nature and range of approaches in the case studies?
• What is the value that the approaches are able to deliver to the audiences served and to the parent organization?
• Is it possible to turn individual approaches into transferrable models?
Kevin reported on the outcomes of the first report, published in 2008. These included methods of discovering exemplars that could match to other projects, how different is the sector to the commercial environment, and defining a range of different models for further study.
The current work has moved that theoretical approach to practical application, testing out the generalized models against 12 carefully selected case studies. Over 90 projects were considered and those chosen were selected for their track record, the variety of media involved and their willingness to participate. The critical step before producing the final report, and a key element of the workshop, is establishing a methodology that when applied to different project approaches is able to produced useful comparisons.
As feedback from the first break-out session crossed over all case studies in some cases, this section aims to solely report on the feedback of rapporteurs.
The group that considered the National Archives project felt that the pragmatic approach taken to ‘get stuff out to people’ had made it possible to get a very large amount of genealogical data into the public domain without any production costs to the TNA. Commercialism has driven content selection since their partnership approach calls for a commercial partner who can see a financial return for their investment. There remain in the model some risks concerning mechanisms for enabling citizens to exercise their right to have access to certain resources.
There was a wide-ranging discussion on the general observations and principles that encompassed a number of case studies, but without individual reference.
Issues arising from this discussion included:
• Pragmatism- in some cases it is necessary to ‘do it quick and do it dirty!’
• Relationship with the host institution is paramount to not only tolerate projects but create a sense of enthusiasm and ‘buy-in’
• No ‘one size fits all’- human and technical resources were key in delivering potential solutions
• No matter the funding model employed, it appears that a large sum of initial funding was necessary for the initial ‘set-up’
• Scholarly led projects hide enormous costs in terms of labour as many of these projects are ‘labours of love’
• From the outset, it is necessary to be pragmatic in terms of whether the project is finite or ongoing depending on discipline and current or potential content
• The necessity of separating product development on a finite or on-going basis with marketing and sales. Projects need to be clear of an audience and a ‘market’ from the outset.
• Would publishers such as Oxford University Press be willing to undertake further projects and would this affect the nature of projects undertaken due to the commercialization of the content?
BREAKOUT SESSION 2
The groups on this occasion were formed by pairing two of each of the four groups in the first breakout. The group was asked to consider what are the lessons learning from the projects currently under review. These included the need to experiment to find out what will work and the problems faced in trying to find resources to make risk taking feasible. Building communities of users and producers is essential. There were concerns expressed about the tagging of records by users as occasionally user-generated content skews the focus of the search function when an ‘equality of search’ is preferable. However, the value of user-generated content cannot be over-stated, taking into account the powerful example of eBird and the trend towards more open engagement – Wikipedia and the Powerhouse museum in Sydney were quoted as examples – and that users were generally careful and thoughtful in their contributions. It was noted that money is not always where value can be found.
Partnerships will underpin all developments whether internal to the developer organisation, external with other producers or with funding partners. There was also discussion about the need to demonstrate value especially within the context of open access services.
An interesting point was made that the private sector had been involved in creating and investing in social media creating a wide range of metrics on which to base marketing and future consumer engagement. Perhaps the public sector should be looking to this methodology to determine an ‘audience’ and increase and maintain content visibility as well as the possibilities for sharing. This may prove to be a further manifestation of a ‘service mentality’ that was becoming prevalent in the public sector.
Kevin Guthrie presented a short summary of the proceedings of the day based on the input of the Ithaka team who had facilitated the breakout sessions. He presented a slide that summarised the key features to be observed in models supporting open access:
• Services that are paid for on top of raw/free content
• Licencing content to third parties
• Lowering of costs from increasing the contributor base e.g. user tagging
• In-kind contributions from host organizations
• Premium content separate from the free stuff
• The value of open access to drive more visitors to the institution
• Analogue productions (DVDs, etc)
• User input to content improvement thus enabling new products
A second table was presented focusing on the important issues relating to the building of communities of interest.
• It is important to invest in a good delivery platform
• There is a need to experiment through prototypes
• It is not just about money – loyalty and shared mission are important
• Must know what community the institution is trying to build – what will that community be able to contribute?
• Create incentives for action – what can I do for you?
• All internal content systems to the host organisation must be integrated i.e. sales and marketing, editorial etc
Finally, the importance of partnerships was repeated. These include commercial monetization, the use of others’ infrastructures and relying on peer-to-peer networks that are facilitated by portals such as Europeana.
Kevin thanked everyone for their contributions to the day.