The Information Science Department at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is home to eBird, a site where birdwatchers of all levels–from weekenders to academic researchers–can record their avian sightings and upload them for future use by scientists. The site serves a two-sided market: on one side, the birders who record and share their observations, and on the other side, the scientists who use that data for research. This project is notable for the level of interest it generates from users; for the range of revenue streams it draws from, including a corporate sponsorship and a franchising service for its core software; and for its home in a department that, despite its academic roots, encourages entrepreneurial activities. Through an examination of eBird, this case study approaches several larger questions for digital project leaders: How can academic digital projects think about increasing user interest? In what ways can a project maintain an open access core while generating revenue from premium services? And how might digital resource leaders approach the tension between project mission and revenue generation through a combination of sustainability strategies?


Sustainability Planning Tool