Monday, February 11, 2013

Sustaining Our Digital Future Institutional Strategies for Digital Content

Sustaining Our Digital Future: Institutional Strategies for Digital Content. Nancy L Maron, Jason Yun and Sarah Pickle. Strategic Content Alliance. January 29, 2013. (PDF, 91 pp.)
The shift with digital media in scholarly communications is transformative; data sets, dynamic digital resources, websites, digital collections,  crowd sourced or born digital content: there are challenges and opportunities, along with questions about who is responsible for maintaining them, and how to maximize the value of the content.

Some findings:
  • project have received support from the host institution, but few have plans for ongoing support.
  • There are potential partners on campus, but project leaders do not seek them early
    enough when critical decisions are being made.
  • Digital projects across campuses may be hosted by many groups, which poses challenges for discovery. There is often no single place for users to find digital projects and some projects can too easily slip from view.
  • Current funding styles do not support ongoing operation
  • „Campus-wide solutions are beginning to emerge, but even these tend to address just the basic “maintenance” issues of storage, preservation and access.
  • „Focus is often on creating new content, with little thought about ongoing efforts to enhance the content or update user interfaces.
  •  Perform an early and honest appraisal to find which projects are likely to require support after completion:
    1. Digital content requiring just “maintenance”: plan that the content will be deposited and integrated into some other site, database, or repository.
    2. „Digital resources requiring ongoing growth and investment: These require early sustainability planning, including identifying institutional or other partners and careful consideration of the full range of costs and activities needed to keep the resource vibrant.
  •  Be realistic in assessing the future needs of the resource at its outset and in continuing support.
  •  „Identify campus partners early on.
  •  „Consider how central your project is to the overall mission of the institution.
  • „Consider if projects could be drawn together to create a deeper network of support, both for “maintenance” projects and those with the potential to really grow.
  • Develop ways to help users find decentralized content and to reach out to content users. These could start as an inventory of all of the digital holdings or common catalogs.
  • „Determine where scale solutions pay off, where experts are best placed to champion a project, or create common storage, usage and preservation systems for an organization.
  • Continue to identify and support ongoing development of the “front-end”, including user needs, interface development, and content enhancement. Pay attention to the changing needs of users and determine what enhancements the digital resource will require.
Libraries, museums, technology departments, and digital humanities centres are among the players that have begun to emerge as potential leaders of greater coordinated digital support on university campuses. Libraries have begun to consider the support of digital resources to be a critical part of their missions. Some universities provide advisory support to project leaders and libraries provide help for digital projects, from help to understand grant requirements, co-developing projects, providing hosting, curation, and preservation expertise.

 Sustainability and Use: 
  •  Research data platforms: At some institutions major initiatives are underway to develop research data platforms. The goal of the platform is not just preservation and storage but access and reuse. The first step is to have a platform. From there they can test and refine the service for researchers depositing data sets, library  curated collections, and university departments.
  • "A coherent digital policy from early review, guidelines on costings and deposit standards, to forecasting what ongoing activities will be needed and who will carry them out, would ideally remove much of the risk of “digital time bombs” while obliging both project leaders and university leaders to take a moment to envision the ongoing impact they want these resources to have, and how to best achieve that."
  • Unlike universities (who often play the role of reluctant, passive, or simply unaware host, to a great deal of digital content created by their scholars) museums and libraries tend to be the ones initiating this work and are eager to build and maintain these collections.
  • Despite the benefits of centralisation, the mere presence of a catalogue and centralised
    repository does not ensure greater usage of or engagement with its holdings.
  • Many institutions devote considerable attention to the upfront creation of content, but not nearly as much to its ongoing enhancement or reuse, resulting in collections that are certainly present in the main catalogue, but otherwise exist only as capsules of content, frozen in time.
  •  Once the project is finished, management of the digital resource is not always clear.