January 22, 2022

New Report From Strategic Content Alliance/Ithaka S+R: "Funding for Sustainability: 'How Funders’ Practices Influence the Future of Digital Resources'"

Title: “Funding for Sustainability: How Funders’ Practices Influence the Future of Digital Resources.
Authors: Nancy L. Maron and Matthew Loy

From News Release:

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.

“ ‘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.”

Title: “Funding for Sustainability: How Funders’ Practices Influence the Future of Digital Resources.
Authors: Nancy L. Maron and Matthew Loy



About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.