Sustaining the digital investment

Lorcan 1 min read

The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access was launched last year by the National Science Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in partnership with the Library of Congress, JISC, CLIR, and NARA.
It is jointly chaired by Fran Berman of the San Diego Supercomputer Center and by my colleague Brian Lavoie.
After considerable consultation, the Task Force has produced its interim year one report [pdf]. From the summary …

There is no general agreement, however, about who is responsible and who should pay for the access to, and preservation of, valuable present and future digital information. Creating sustainable economic models for digital access and preservation is a major challenge for all sectors, and the focus of investigation of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access. …

… During 2008, as the Task Force heard testimony from a broad spectrum of institutions and enterprises with deep experience in digital access and preservation, two things became clear: First, the problem is urgent. Access to data tomorrow requires decisions concerning preservation today. Imagine future biological research without a long-term strategy to preserve the Protein Data Bank (PDB), a digital collection that drives new insights into human systems and drug therapies for disease, and represents an investment of 100 billion dollars in research funding over the last 37 years. Decisions about the future of the PDB and other digital reference collections — how they will be migrated to future information technologies without interruption, what kind of infrastructure will protect their digital content against damage and loss of data, and how such efforts will be supported — must be made now to drive future innovation.

Second, the difficulty in identifying appropriate economic models is not just a matter of finding funding or setting a price. In many institutions and enterprises, systemic challenges create barriers for sustainable digital access and preservation. [Sustaining the digital investment: issues and challenges of economically sustainable digital preservation pdf]

The report brings together testimony, case studies, and a framing analysis. One of the interesting aspects of the working group is the range of expertise it assembles, across disciplines and institution types.

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