Dr Scott Turner, Senior Lecturer, Computing, School of Science and Technology

 At the moment there are number of organisations that have had significant investment to produce web-based material, but what happens when some of those organisations are closed? We are seeing cuts in funding or changes in governmental policy, which results in the closure of some of these organisations.

What happens to the web resources when the organisations  are no longer in existence? There has often been public money used to develop these resources - from that perspective it would be a shame to lose them. Also, the resources might be needed or someone may actually want to take over the maintenance of the site at a later date. How do we make these sites more sustainable? Is there anyway we can move sites to somewhere that is free to host the webpages, and can be left there or modified when needed?

JISC, the UK’s expert on information and digital technologies for education and research,  are currently funding three projects to look at this area through a programme called Sustaining at ‘risk’ online resources.  One of these projects is being run at The University of Northampton, looking into rescuing one of the the recently closed East Midlands Universities Association’s online resources, which  lists many of the knowledge transfer activities of East Midlands universities. The project looks at migrating the site to a free hosting option.

The sustainable maintenance of usually public funded web resources is one thing, but perhaps a feature that is not immediately clear is their value in their own right as a record. Even if these sites are never added to, maintaining them means a snapshot of the activities of partnerships, issues, the kind of activities carried out, is available for future use. Websites – when combined with blogs, social networking, and comments -  are starting to be seen as a rich source of archive information;  if you like, providing a digital legacy. A recent article by Sumit Paul Choudhury (New Scientist, 23rd April 2011) discussed this digital legacy from a point of view of personal websites, blogs and social networking. This also applies to the legacy of organisations and projects, providing more than just the content that is explicitly on the site, but perhaps details of how particular subjects were viewed or geographical areas of expertise at a particular point in time.

Will we seeing more people ‘digging’ through websites in the future, in the same way archaeologists dig in the ground?

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