Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy


1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 These solutions will also require significant investments of both time and money on the part of those institutions and individuals. As the JISC report notes, “Any e-journal preservation process is going to cost money. The costs include, among other things, storage hardware systems, processing and retrieval software (all of which require regular maintenance and updating), and people to watch over and develop the systems and services” (Morrow et al 11). This is of course true for all forms of digital scholarship, and the more process-intensive born-digital forms will, if anything, require more such attention. Preservation thus has significant budgetary implications for libraries and their broader institutions, as indicated by the report of the Blue Ribbon Task Force:

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 To accommodate the new resource requirements imposed by the long-term stewardship of digital assets, it is likely that many organizations, at least in the short-run, will need to shift funds from one allocation to another within an effectively fixed budget. For example, a library might reduce its investment in services and infrastructure surrounding its print collection in order to release resources to support increased investments in the long-term stewardship of its digital collections. (BRTF 16)

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 And, as the report also indicates, these investments must be ongoing; as preservation “is not a one-time cost; instead, it is a commitment to an ongoing series of costs, in some cases stretching over an indefinite time horizon” (18), it cannot be funded in a one-off, ad hoc fashion, but must instead be understood infrastructurally: “Organizations must secure sufficient resources to sustain their digital preservation activities beyond the next budget cycle or the end of a grant award” (12). Some institutions may hesitate to begin preservation programs in part due to anxiety about their projected costs, but as Lavoie and Dempsey have noted, the projections that have been undertaken to this point may have overestimated those costs, given their focus on the upfront expenses of starting up a new preservation program (“Thirteen Ways”). That said, ongoing preservation will require ongoing resources, and figuring out where those resources will come from — and what might need to be cut in order to make room for preservation — will not be easy.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 1 In making such choices, institutions will be required to weigh the costs of preservation less against preservation’s benefits than against the risks presented by failing to insure persistent access to digital resources. Traditional cost-benefit analysis could lead institutions to focus on the “what’s in it for us” aspect of preservation, leading them to withhold resources that seem better spent on meeting the institution’s own needs. By contrast, real risk assessment might force institutions to recognize their responsibilities to something beyond themselves: the risks involved are posed not institution by institution, but to the entirety of the scholarly enterprise, suggesting that the responsibility for mitigating such risks accrues to everyone, even if everyone cannot meet that responsibility equally. As Donald Waters has pointed out, preservation must be thought of as serving a public good (“Good Archives”). The problem with the public good, of course, is precisely the assumption that someone else will take responsibility for maintaining it; without a commitment by every institution to the preservation of our common scholarly record, it could easy fall victim to the “tragedy of the commons,” in which self-interest dictates taking more resources than one contributes. On the other hand, an equal danger to the public good of preservation is the assumption that others will be “free riders,” using preserved resources without contributing to their development. Even if preservation might be compared, in Waters’s essay, to the annual task of wall-mending, responsible preservation programs cannot and should not lead to the production of walled gardens. As Lavoie and Dempsey point out, one of the chief characteristics of a public good is “the difficulty in excluding those who do not contribute toward the provision of the good from enjoying its benefits” (“Thirteen Ways”). To some extent, we must create strong preservation practices and programs as though everyone were participating proportionately in them, and share their benefits with everyone equally, regardless of participation level.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 In this way, CLOCKSS might serve as a prime example, less because of its data model or its service structure than because of its assumption that a core group of large institutions who can help create a permanent scholarly archive should, in order to mitigate the risks posed to scholarship as a whole. The specific benefits that accrue to those participating institutions lie less in exclusive access to the resources they help to create than in their ability to help shape that common good: “CLOCKSS participants have the opportunity to be deeply involved in all aspects of our industry and help to keep the community’s best interests at the forefront” (CLOCKSS, “Benefits”). Providing adequate “community incentives” — incentives for institutions to act not just in their own self-interest, but instead in the larger public interest — will be required for any preservation program to succeed.[4.36] But the community itself must in some sense be the incentive; we must recognize that, by and large, the projects I’ve discussed in this chapter have not simply been produced by a community, but also for a community, and with the result, whether intended or not, of producing a community.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 And yet there remains the problem of labor; someone must take responsibility not just for the production of new forms of digital scholarship but for their preservation into the future, a job that will only get bigger as time goes on. As Christine Borgman notes, “Files must be mounted, computers must be maintained, software must be updated, data must be backed up and migrated, and people must be paid – even if no new data are added to the database” (Borgman 95). Libraries, presses, and information technology centers will all be required to devote employee time and expertise to such digital preservation, but institutions must devote sufficient resources to these units in order to support the employees involved. Doing so in a sustainable fashion, one that draws upon the potential collaborations across academic units, and across institutions, will require the most strategic thinking yet about the future structure of the university itself — the subject of the next chapter.

  • See BRTF 8, 20.
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    Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/plannedobsolescence/four-preservation/cost/