New report: Funding for Sustainability: How Funders’ Practices Influence the Future of Digital Resources

A new Strategic Content Alliance/Ithaka S+R report examines funding practices to provide insight on post-grant sustainability for digital resources

Ithaka S+R, funded by the JISC-led Strategic Content Alliance (SCA), released today Funding for Sustainability: How Funders’ Practices Influence the Future of Digital Resources. This report, written by Nancy L Maron and Matthew Loy, provides funders of digital resources and their grantees with an overview of current funding practices and highlights areas for potential improvement in defining and planning for post-grant sustainability.

Download the full report: Funding for Sustainability: How Funders’ Practices Influence the Future of Digital Resources (June 2011)

Read on to find out more

‘Sustainability’ is a pressing topic for many funders, but we found that this can mean different things to different people,” stated Maron, who leads Ithaka S+R’s research on sustaining digital resources. “We observed that funders articulate a range of desirable outcomes under the umbrella term of ‘sustainability.’ But, it was much less common for funders to require applicants to think deeply about the financial and other resources needed post-grant to reach these outcomes.”

According to the report, which is based on interviews with representatives from more than 25 funding bodies in Europe and North America, funders engage in a rich range of planning activities to address different aspects of sustainability, including technical, content-based, access and discovery, and audience impact requirements. But, many funders only engage with their grantees at the beginning of the grant period and, all too often, funders and project leaders alike rely heavily on a university or other host institution as a back-up plan for long-term sustainability.

“The need for guidance around this subject has never been so stark,” stated Stuart Dempster, Director of the Strategic Content Alliance. “As many of our peers in the funding community can attest, the path from initial funding to long-term sustainability has been a long and rocky road for digital resources, largely under-investigated and little understood. This report encourages funders to consider a sustainability framework for the types of resources that they support in an era of discontinuity.”

The report offers funders and project leaders a high-level process for working together at the proposal stage to set plans for sustainability, including establishing a clear definition of sustainability for a particular project, indentifying the steps needed to achieve the desired outcome at different stages of the project, and establishing metrics for measuring the project’s ongoing impact.

“This research will be of great immediate and practical value to the Heritage Lottery Fund as we consider how to ensure that our investment in digital heritage is sustained for future generations,” commented Karen Brookfield, Deputy Director of Research and Business Development, Heritage Lottery Fund. David De Roure, a sustainability expert at the Oxford e-Research Centre and national strategic director of Digital Social Research, added, “This report is set to have impact, not just because it’s based on a comprehensive consultation but also because it’s engaging, insightful and constructive.”

The report, written by Nancy L. Maron and Matthew Loy, is available at:

Funding for Sustainability: How Funders’ Practices Influence the Future of Digital Resources (June 2011)

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, BBC, Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (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 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. It pursues projects in programmatic areas that are critical to academic work: Sustainability of Digital Resources, the Role of the Library, Practices & Attitudes in Scholarly Communications, Teaching & Learning with Technology, and Scholarly Publishing. 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.

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2 thoughts on “New report: Funding for Sustainability: How Funders’ Practices Influence the Future of Digital Resources

  1. Pingback: Read Funding for Sustainability summaries at Strategic Content Alliance blog

  2. Pingback: A framework for post-grant sustainability planning at Strategic Content Alliance blog

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