Introduction

Invest in Open Infrastructure (IOI) was founded with the belief that in order for open infrastructure to flourish, we need to advance our collective understanding and strategy for sustaining its use and adoption in institutional settings.

Scholarship is at its best when communities of researchers, learners, and scholars can share, discover, and collaborate. The current system for scholarly research and knowledge production is mired in the increasing consolidation of tools and services, opaque surveillance economies, and monopoly control.

This leads to market conditions that crowd out open, community-governed alternatives, further locking in inequities that act against communities served, and inhibiting equitable participation in and access to knowledge.

Our organization is focused on shifting that dynamic, and ensuring that viable alternatives exist that are more aligned with and governed by the communities they serve. We believe additional investment is needed to sustain shared open infrastructure globally, and we seek to provide guidance as to where best to direct that support and how to unlock and coordinate new funding sources.

We define infrastructure as the systems, protocols, and software that research and scholarship rely on. Open infrastructure further builds on that definition, looking at the narrower set of open source solutions that facilitate the creation and dissemination of open content, and empower communities to deliver new, improved collective benefits without restrictions to participation, engagement, or usage. These solutions are open source by design, employ open standards, are designed to interact and interoperate with other open services, and are governed by community needs. This frame is aligned with the definition of open infrastructures included in the text of the UNESCO Open Science Recommendation, which states that shared research infrastructures “should be not-for profit and guarantee permanent and unrestricted access to all public to the largest extent possible.”

This Strategic Plan describes how the Steering Committee and IOI Leadership see our path towards making open infrastructure a competitive, viable, and cost-effective choice for institutions. It lays out five key goals, each with its underlying rationale and key objectives. This is meant to serve as a frame for the high level direction of the organization for the next three years.

Process

This document was created in collaboration with IOI’s Steering Committee from January to April 2021. We then opened a comment period and invited a group of 50+ leading funders, institutional stakeholders, advocacy groups, and infrastructure providers to provide feedback. This group included representatives from six continents and 15 countries.

The refined version of this document was reviewed and approved for posting by the IOI Steering Committee on June 25, 2021.

This Strategic Direction is subject to annual review and refinement by IOI Leadership in collaboration with IOI’s Steering Committee. Have questions? Get in touch.

Vision

We envision a future where open infrastructure is robust, easily adoptable, and readily available globally to provide alternatives to cost-prohibitive commercial solutions that operate against the best interest of the community. In this future, libraries, universities, institutions, and the global research community act together as a powerful force to ensure that infrastructure supports research, learning, collaboration, and innovation.

Mission

IOI works to sustain effective digital infrastructure needed for open knowledge to flourish.

Strategic Goals & Objectives

In order for an open, equitable and inclusive knowledge creation ecosystem to flourish, we need to advance our collective understanding, financial commitments, and strategy for sustaining the sector.

The goals below speak to IOI’s work ahead in conducting research to provide strategic support and investment guidance to those looking to adopt, build, and sustain open infrastructure, and putting that work into action through convenings, pilots, and global coordination.

Goal 1: Increase our collective understanding of the funding and infrastructure landscape by conducting research.

IOI employs a research-driven approach to increase our understanding of the current landscape and sector, shed light on costs and models, and analyze where investment will be most impactful for the greatest good.

Our work is grounded in research around open technology in research settings. We study open infrastructure, the flow of capital, and economics of information technology in scholarship, and craft reports and analyses to share those findings with decision makers, tool providers, and members of the research community.

Key objectives:

  • Develop a framework for prioritizing open infrastructure needs for investment, including criteria for evaluating and assessing projects and providers, a defined scope to maximize effectiveness and ensure the greatest impact, and a draft set of indicators.
  • Build a research and analysis team to investigate current levels of investment and need, and develop a research agenda to support our work.
  • Identify data sources to monitor and analyze in order to understand current levels of investment, funding needs, and impact of investments (ie., degree of openness of research activities, additional investment, shifts in behavior/use of tools).
  • Gain a better understanding of the current players and their roles in the space in contributing to IOI’s vision, from funding bodies and programs to infrastructure providers and hosts.
  • Analyse funding and project data to identify key trends such as gaps, concentrations, and existing biases. Generate research and analyses to better understand the cost structures, existing models and needs for open infrastructures, and current levels of investment/conditions for funding.

Goal 2: Further a shared agenda for investment in open infrastructure.

The work of IOI does not — nor do we believe it should — operate in isolation. Increasing and sustaining open infrastructure investment at an ecosystem-wide level calls for global cooperation and coordination, among governments, funding frameworks, consortia, and aligned programs and initiatives working to advance openness and equitable participation in research and scholarship.

This work is crucial to our success (and to the health of the sector) so that together we can further increase attention and resourcing to shared infrastructure needs, heighten the resilience of our systems by expanding and diversifying the pool of those investing in open infrastructure that’s interoperable, and better our outcomes by challenging our assumptions and biases by coordinating with experts and partners around the world.

Key objectives:

  • Collaboratively develop a shared roadmap and agenda for investment in open infrastructure for research and learning.
  • Coordinate with aligned funding initiatives and programs working to dedicate resources to open infrastructure, to ensure our work is additive and amplifying wherever possible existing and adjacent efforts to sustain the open infrastructure ecosystem.
  • Advocate for sustained investment and focus on ensuring open infrastructure alternatives are available widely, with minimal barriers to participation, access, and cost.
  • Grow uptake and investment in open infrastructure by institutions and funders globally, via coalition building and targeted outreach to institutions and funders to activate their interest, use of, and investment in open infrastructure

Goal 3: Provide strategic support & investment guidance for those looking to adopt, build, and sustain open infrastructure.

We provide strategic support for decision makers (e.g., funders, budget holders, institutional leaders, consortia, service and infrastructure providers) to help them assess, build, and invest in open infrastructure for research and learning. IOI plays a critical role in working to translate research and analyses into usable resources and strategies for those funding, building, and using open infrastructure in research and learning. We see an opportunity in making discussions about investment strategies, funding, and sustainability more accessible and approachable to a broader audience, and we aim to create resources and toolkits that make that possible.

This can take a number of forms — from guides and checklists to help in vetting open infrastructure services or vendors, to toolkits that make conducting cost/benefit analysis more accessible. Our approach draws from the best of finance and the business sector, while also ensuring what we produce for the community is approachable, actionable, and reusable.

Key objectives:

  • Assess and match infrastructure projects, community needs, and pools of capital and investment opportunities to advance the sustainability of the sector.
  • Identify areas for collaboration, interoperability, and coordinated development.
  • Generate investment recommendations for open infrastructure based on the framework for prioritizing need and impact.
  • Develop shared principles and “better business practices” for open infrastructure providers and vendors, building on community input and existing work around values-based models.
  • Define indicators to assess progress towards improving the health, maturity, and sustainability of the ecosystem.

Goal 4: Enable collective, coordinated action to pilot solutions and enact change.

We convene key stakeholders to test and pilot solutions and to act together to advance the development of the sector and enact change. IOI actively partners with key stakeholders across the landscape. We work with partners to study the state of the landscape and outline interventions, and we develop and implement plans that evolve funding and resourcing for the sector.

As a part of that, we will work to propose, support, and pilot interventions with and for the open research communities. This includes (but is not limited to) funding pilots (like the JROST Rapid Response Fund), community-driven technology oversight and action, events like the  Joint Roadmap for Open Science Tools (JROST) Conference, as well as smaller roundtable discussions to mobilize specific pieces of work, and workshops. We also view our role as partnering with complementary initiatives to help test, trial, and pilot new interventions — from funding mechanisms to assessment/evaluation pilots —  as they arise.

Key objectives:

  • Develop guidance and action plans to shed light on and advance better business practices, including position statements, dependency maps to better assess risk, and working with the community to increase accountability and oversight of shared open infrastructure
  • Host events around open infrastructure, including building off the 2020 Joint Roadmap for Open Science Tools (JROST) Conference and open community calls/webinars.
  • Convene smaller “roundtable” focused discussions to advance recommendations surfaced through research. Provide space for members of the open infrastructure community to share knowledge, common challenges, and collaboration opportunities.
  • Test new models and interventions to put research into action, including funding and assessment pilots.
  • Partner with complementary initiatives to increase the reach, impact, and service to communities.

Goal 5: Build organizational capacity and effectiveness to deliver on our mission.

To achieve the objectives above, IOI needs to build operational capacity and functional governance to empower the organization to achieve our stated aim. This includes scaling our operational and research capacity through staffing, building a robust pipeline of support, building functional governance to support decision making, and further evolving our processes to ensure operational excellence.

Key objectives:

  • Building robust funding pipelines and stability by establishing diverse revenue streams, and maintaining 8-12 months of runway in the bank when possible, with a stretch goal of multi-year funding.
  • Scaling operational capacity through staffing and in-kind support, building out the core IOI team and network of trusted contractors, ensuring equitable recruitment and hiring practices, and implementing effective onboarding and offboarding for team members and contributors.
  • Amplify organizational capacity via collaborations with aligned initiatives.
  • Building functional governance to support decision making. This includes reviewing our existing Board/Advisory structure, outlining expertise and representation gaps and working with the Governance & Nominating Committee to fill them, embedding an anti-racist and anti-discriminatory structure to our recruitment (following on work with DeEtta Jones & Associates), and building out supporting documentation (i.e., Board handbook, conflict of interest policies, term limits, public facing documentation on our governance structure).
  • Further evolve processes to ensure operational excellence, building out our goal setting and review processes, our advisory groups and their roles in decision making, and our own performance and organizational metrics.
  • Ensuring equity and access are at the core of our work, building out anti-racist and anti- discriminatory governance practices and membership; embedding our values into our work and prioritizing access, equity and global representation; and acknowledging and working intentionally to address systemic biases that exist in open technology and higher education.
Posted by Kaitlin Thaney