Insights into the sustainability choices of ten key OS infrastructure

30th November 2020News, Open Access, Open Data, Open Science

During the autumn of 2020, SPARC Europe published a series of interviews with ten leaders of OS infrastructure to shed light on the choices and challenges scholarly communication infrastructure have when looking to grow and sustain their operations, and innovate.

While funds remain scarce and fund-raising pathways are diverse, these infrastructures share how they have crafted financial sustainability choices that work for them from service inception to where they are today: be they not-for-profit or profit. 4TU.ResearchData, arXiv, Code Ocean, Dryad, EDP Sciences, F1000 Research, Figshare, Our Research, Mendeley and Redalyc shared their sustainability stories with us, and as a result, we have drawn up a list of key lessons that we feel underpin these financial sustainability decisions:

  • Know your purpose and let it be your guiding star. Have a well-articulated mission and vision and be clear on your target audience. And review these over time.
  • A crucial question every Open service should be asking themselves is this: Would the problem you are solving benefit more from competition or collaboration? This choice is almost irreversible because it most often impacts your legal structure.
  • Have a business plan and deeply understand how you will recover costs. Without this, it’s easy to become lost. You can’t just assume the university or another funder will take care of you. This plan should include a range of diverse revenue streams.
  • Be deliberate in how you are balancing your time, money and people. A common pitfall involves sinking too many resources in “fixing” the past; consciously approach the allocation of resources between “running today”; and innovating for tomorrow.
  • Choose your partners and governance deliberately and judiciously since they will help you achieve your mission and will reflect what you stand for to your users or customers.
  • Recognise that a wide range of competencies is needed to run a successful operation/organisation; from people management to accounting skills to technology. Be prepared to invest accordingly or be creative to tap into knowledge.
  • Outsource skills you lack in-house. Think hard about what makes sense to manage yourself and what to outsource. Remain open to using new technologies as a means to bring down costs.
  • Learn from others. Actively work to meet, share and learn from others. Think practical knowledge.

We hope that when OS infra or services – whether they are in the making, new or mature – read these findings together with the 10 case studies and the recent Scoping the Open Science Infrastructure Landscape in Europe report. These should help in devising effective, sustainable means to secure their services over time.

The Interviews, which support the Invest in Open Infrastructure initiative, can be found at

Download the capstone one-pager to distribute to colleagues.