The Economics of Sustaining Digital Information

I’m in Washington to attend the US Symposium of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access.

Symposium programme –

This is the end of a two year process of enquiry and analysis where  14 experts have had a series of meetings to consider what the economic implications are, and what economic frameworks are required, to ensure that all of the expensively acquired knowledge that we commit to digital formats is available for as long as we need it … or in some cases, even longer! – given that there is a great deal of information around that subsequent generations might find useful even though we have no clear idea what we should do with it!

The panel of experts is mostly drawn from the US although the UK has been represented by Paul Ayris (UCL) and Chris Rusbridge (DCC). The final report is now available at:

The report focuses on four types of information: scholarly discourse; research data; commercially owned cultural content; and collectively produced web content, and uses these categories to frame some recommendations for a range of different stakeholders. These are presented as a number of bullet-pointed lists and tables which can (and no doubt will) be extracted from the report by way of summarising some of the detail contained in the main body of the text.

For those of us not au fait with the language of economics, hearing digital materials referred to as ‘non-rival depreciable durable assets’ makes you stop and think for a moment … but as the concepts are explained and the principles become clear, this well written report starts to give you a slightly new take on the long-term management of digital resources.