May 27, 2022

New Issue Brief From Ithaka S+R: “Challenges to Higher Education’s Most Essential Purposes”

A new Ithaka S+R issue brief titled “Challenges to Higher Education’s Most Essential Purposes” was published today.  It was written by Kevin Guthrie, President of Ithaka.

The brief discusses a number of challenges facing higher education and is  organized into the following sections:

  • Educating Students to Lead Productive Lives
  • Conducting Research and Creating New Knowledge
  • Serving as Engines of Opportunity and Social Mobility
  • Protecting and Supporting Diverse Points of View
  • Defending Important Values
  • Sources and Sustainability of Financial Support

In the “Conducting Research and Creating New Knowledge” section, Guthrie writes:

The development of networked technologies has had a dramatic impact on scholarly communications and the research process. The first phase of that change–digitized information distributed via the network–has led to much wider dissemination of scholarly content around the world. The second phase of that evolution, enabled by the fact that the marginal cost of delivering content is nearly zero, has been downward pressure on the willingness to pay for content, leading to the emergence of the open access movement. There is increasing expectation that content should be delivered without charge to support its widest possible access and dissemination.\


Challenges facing colleges and universities as they are surrounded by “Big Data” include:

The largest datasets are not controlled by universities. Unfortunately, the largest datasets are often not available in the public domain or accessible by universities; they are held by corporations like Google, Facebook, and Amazon. It has been said that Google’s effort to re-enter China is driven largely not by a desire for advertising revenue, but by a need to gain access to more data. With the insatiable need for data to feed the machine learning algorithms and to pursue answers to challenging problems in new ways, universities are finding themselves struggling to gain access to the raw materials for creating knowledge.

Attracting top talent. Even the largest research universities are finding themselves at a disadvantage when trying to recruit top research talent. Professors are leaving the academy for jobs in industry, not only because of the potential to earn more money, but also to have access to the resources and data necessary to work on the most interesting intellectual problems.

Potential to collaborate. Increasingly colleges and universities are positioning themselves to engage collaboratively not only with other universities, but also with private enterprise in order to get access to more data and compete to be at the cutting edge of research and discovery.

Read the Complete Issue Brief (HTML)
Read the Complete Issue Brief (12 pages; PDF)

Also New Today from Ithaka: “Technology, Georgia Tech, and the Future of Learning: An Interview with Charles Isbell”

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( 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, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.