Invest in Open Infrastructure is an initiative dedicated to improving funding and resourcing for open technologies and systems supporting research and scholarship. We do this by shedding light on challenges, conducting research, and working with decision makers to enact change.
Invest in Open Infrastructure (IOI) was founded on two core premises:
- Open, community-owned infrastructure is necessary for research to thrive; and,
- The way we fund and resource open projects we rely on is insufficient, and working against our aims to build a healthy, collaborative ecosystem.
We strive through our work to shed light on the challenges and ultimately, improve funding and resourcing for the open infrastructure that research relies on.
Our aim at IOI is to provide targeted, evidence-based guidance to institutions and funders of open infrastructure to help them become wiser about where to invest. The end result: improve the funding and sustainability of the sector, in ways that are in line with the values of the academy and not one that is co-opted or controlled by commercial interests.
Defining "Open Infrastructure":
- By “infrastructure” we mean the sets of services, protocols, standards and software that the academic ecosystem needs in order to perform its functions throughout the research lifecycle — from the earliest phases of research, collaboration and experimentation through data collection and storage, data organization, data analysis and computation, authorship, submission, review and annotation, copyediting, publishing, archiving, citation, discovery and more.
- "Open infrastructure" is the narrower sets of services, protocols, standards and software that can empower communities to collectively build the systems and infrastructures that deliver new improved collective benefits without restrictions, and for a healthy global interrelated infrastructure system.
History of the project:
Invest in Open Infrastructure (IOI) arose as a concept and coalition from the 2018 Joint Roadmap for Open Science Tools (JROST) conference, held in Berkeley, CA. That event brought together over 86 participants from over 50 organizations in the open research sector, including developers, institutional leaders, publishers, and funders.
Between August 2018 and March 2020, IOI existed solely as a volunteer effort, led by a 20 person Steering Committee of leaders in this sector. In late 2019, the effort secured initial funding from Schmidt Futures and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, leading to the hiring of IOI’s inaugural Executive Director (Kaitlin Thaney) in March 2020.
Why this, why now?
The way we have historically sustained the development of open source technology in research has relied on grant funding and institutional support, both financially and in terms of project governance and staffing.
Today, funding for open infrastructure is not coordinated. This has led to three key issues that negatively impact open infrastructure’s sustainability and resilience. First, the lack of coordinated strategy has led to a perceived scarcity of funds in the landscape, which drives both users and talent to the corporate spaces that appear more stable. Second, beneficiaries of open technology have not been incentivized to contribute back in a way that invests back in the system. And lastly, for those with budgets investing in the space, there’s a lack of guidance on where best to direct those funds that maximize impact, resilience, and lead to product excellence.
To date, conversations around investment strategy are often left in the hands of a chosen few administrators at an institution, removed from the needs of the research community. As a result, decisions are easily swayed by commercial vendors who appear to offer efficiency, stability, and continuity. More often, these vendors lock institutions into expensive, non-mission-aligned contracts that act against the broader aims of access and knowledge sharing in the academy.
And this is just the beginning. It continues to be a struggle to understand how much funding has been allocated by top philanthropies in open research technology and systems over the past five years and for what, let alone how much is being allocated to supporting open technology development and maintenance at the institutional level. The costs of open infrastructure remains difficult to calculate, and as a result, piecemeal support often limits a project’s potential to corner the market and scale operations.
We aim to address the existing gaps in understanding to make the costs associated with open infrastructure development and maintenance accessible, verifiable, and actionable. That research and information is a critical foundation for our work in shedding light on more effective means to invest in open in ways that are cost-effective, impactful, and aligned with the mission of the academy.