Open Infrastructure in times of crisis: How IOI can help
08 April 2020, Kaitlin Thaney
This past month, we’ve seen a whole new set of challenges present themselves for the research ecosystem in the face of a global pandemic. Universities across the board are closing the doors and rapidly assessing what they can move online. Libraries are grappling with closures, and increased demand for remote access to their collections.
Funding models that have long propped up higher education, research, and scholarly communications are in flux due to volatility of the markets, budgeting uncertainty at the university level in preparation for what’s to come, and those with means are scrambling to make emergency grants to the most shovel-ready projects and affected communities. The global economy is coming to a grinding halt.
Meanwhile, the research community is in overdrive, working on measures to triage and overcome the biggest public health crisis in our lifetime.
The time for a convergence on open infrastructure is now. We are seeing radical calls for openness and collaboration (1, 2, 3 …) as a means of survival and necessity in the fight against COVID-19; advancing the state of research is now seen as essential in the fight for humanity.
The need for open infrastructure is not new, but only heightened in these extraordinary times as we work to quickly, thoroughly, and efficiently combat this global health crisis and support the research enterprise. Too much of the scholarly landscape is controlled by commercial entities driven by financial motives and designing for vendor lock-in. We believe open infrastructure is mission critical in enabling open science, research collaboration, and the sharing of information to benefit society.
I wanted to share more about how Invest in Open Infrastructure is working to contribute to these efforts and hopefully strengthen the entire open research ecosystem, in response to these extraordinary times.
How IOI can help
Invest in Open Infrastructure (IOI) was launched to create a strategic, global body dedicated to furthering a network of open, interoperable community-led and -supported infrastructure to advance scholarship, research, and education.
We are currently ramping up efforts to help support university decision makers, consortia, and funders globally to sustain research and knowledge sharing amidst these uncertain times.
Here are a few key functions we are spinning up in the near term to help:
- Targeted research for funders & decision makers. Part of IOI’s work lies in providing targeted recommendations for mid-term and long-term investment to support high impact, at-risk projects and organizations. We see this classification as bringing to light the critically enabling research tooling whose disappearance would jeopardize essential research for COVID-19 or are unsubstitutable for entire disciplines, facing strain from overuse in this moment or at risk of disappearing for lack of long-term institutional support and/or funding.
- Assessment criteria. We are developing a model and criteria to assess critical infrastructure investment and cost in this space, building in concert with existing efforts where possible to increase impact;
- Serving as a trusted partner. We envision IOI playing a role in serving the community of funders, users and infrastructure providers by coordinating efforts across the space and providing guidance for projects looking to best position themselves and their communities for durable futures.
We also commit to sharing these learnings with the community of open research projects frequently and transparently as we get moving.
A focus on critical infrastructure
Here at Invest in Open Infrastructure (IOI) we’re asking a few key questions about critical research infrastructure to help us make sense of the now, to give us an idea of what the near future may hold, and to better scope what our reality could be once the dust settles. We were founded to help ensure that open infrastructure is not only a viable alternative to commercial tools, but a durable, sustainable, and smart option.
We are especially focusing for now on “critical research infrastructure”, defined as the projects, tools and services emerging as essential for combating this public health crisis. IOI is particularly interested in tooling to advance open, collaborative research – and never before have we seen a need for shared, accessible tools, content, and knowledge on a global scale as we do today.
Below are a few key questions we’re asking as we work to chart a way forward:
- What is emerging as critical infrastructure? What tools, projects and services are we seeing people converging on?
- Where are we seeing strains on the research system right now? What is most at-risk?
- Where are there gaps? What bottlenecks remain?
We’ve also outlined a number of categories for activity that we’re monitoring. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but designed as a high-level frame to get us started.
Infrastructure that enables:
- Open access to information and knowledge discovery,
- Robust real-time analyses and data sharing,
- Dissemination, communication, and rapid review of information,
- Global coordination and curatorial efforts,, collaboration, and shared decision making,
- And, research to be put into action / mobilization layer.
We’re looking for examples as we continue to spin up our efforts and we would love your help. We’ll be sharing out more in the coming weeks. For now, please feel free to reach out directly. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.