Increasing the investment and adoption of open infrastructure worldwide to further equitable access to research is the primary objective of Invest in Open Infrastructure’s (IOI) work. We sit at the intersection of a number of stakeholder communities – including funding bodies, service providers, and the research community – united in the belief that shared digital infrastructure is critical to accelerating open science and driving innovation. 

One of the key needs that has become clear through our engagements with these communities is for additional and coordinated funding across regions to develop more inclusive, viable, and affordable solutions to further open science. One of IOI’s  three core programs is focused on developing research-driven funding pilots to diversify the sources and mechanisms for funding open infrastructure to help ensure a healthy, resilient, and sustainable future for research and scholarship. 

The IOI Fund for Network Adoption, our current funding pilot, aims at providing catalytic, multi-year funding to networks of institutions and researchers (consortia, research and education networks, community coalitions, etc.) to identify and undertake practical steps towards furthering their adoption, implementation, and ongoing use of infrastructures enabling open data and content. We aim to bring dynamic funding to research communities and infrastructure providers, to ensure communities have access to the resources needed to further open research, and to serve as a bridge with providers to empower them to expand and accelerate the adoption and usability of their solutions in service of the research community.

Our ambitious goals can only be achieved through close collaboration with networks worldwide. We recognize the power of networks, the connections and experience they have built up over the years and the deep work and understanding they’ve developed about the needs of the communities they serve.

connections on a map
Photo by Omar Flores on Unsplash

Why work with networks?

Networks such as library consortia, National and Regional Research and Education Networks (NRENs, RRENs), and other community-based networks serving researchers have long played a role in providing services and collective benefits to the research ecosystem. From library consortia who began as means of sharing costs for content, to NRENs who began as supports to deliver critical access to connectivity, we see tremendous promise in working with those who have established relationships serving an array of research and learning institutions, often across national borders. We believe that working with networks can yield advantages that will help us hasten the awareness and subsequent utility of open infrastructure worldwide. Some of these benefits are outlined below: 

  • Working with networks serves as a multiplier factor, leveraging the existing infrastructure and influence of networks to multiply the impact of funding and mitigating risk by coordinating action over many institutions.
  • Working with networks facilitates a participatory funding process that allows us to be responsive to the needs of the communities served by networks. Aligning with pressing needs is a crucial condition for uptake and sustainability of open infrastructure.
  • Increased adoption on a network scale increases the sustainability of the open infrastructure ecosystem by driving increased use, awareness, and contributions (technically, financially, and socially) to open infrastructure services and providers.
  • Collaboration with networks also aligns with our ethos of always being community centered in our push to drive adoption of open infrastructure worldwide. Networks, by virtue of their representative nature, provide a key mechanism of being attuned to the needs of the wider community.
  • Focusing on networks introduces a new approach in the open infrastructure funding space and complements the funding aims of other open infrastructure funding and advocacy organizations focused on directly funding services and providers.
  • Developing synergies with networks also strengthens the infrastructure of the participating networks and pilots new models for coordinated adoption and investment in open infrastructure, with potential impacts beyond the timeline of the fund 
  • Collaboration with networks can provide qualitative and quantitative evidence on the needs and challenges of open infrastructure adoption for networks and institutions across diverse geographies, which can be used to create guidance for other networks and funders. 

We have kicked off a targeted network engagement process that will help us understand opportunities to catalyze the adoption of open infrastructure worldwide. 

In this phase of our network engagement strategy, IOI will prioritize networks: 

  • With a strong existing service relationship with their members, including a history of providing shared services to further open access to research and open research infrastructures. 
  • Whose members participate actively in the governance and decision-making of the network.
  • With a demonstrated commitment to open science and open research infrastructure, including efforts to expand the adoption of open and/or non-commercial research infrastructure solutions for network members.
  • Whose success in furthering the adoption of open infrastructure through this partnership may catalyze additional funding or provide new models for open infrastructure adoption for other networks.

IOI’s initial network engagement is focused primarily on Africa, Latin America, and North America, building on IOI’s existing work and allowing for deeper understanding of regional context, as well as ensuring the inclusion of networks from regions historically under-resourced in open infrastructure development. Working across multiple regions is intended to facilitate collaboration and exchange of learnings across geographic and cultural contexts, enabling a more global understanding of the challenges in adopting open infrastructure.

Why work with IOI?

Our mission is to help institutions and funders better invest in the open technology and systems that research and scholarship rely on. Over the past years, we have been building a broad understanding of investment trends and needs in open infrastructure globally, and developing deep relationships with various stakeholders in the fields. We work to provide targeted, evidence-based guidance and support to institutions and funders of open infrastructure. By working with us, you’re contributing to honing and refining the guidance, research, and networks we’re developing to improve investment in and adoption of open infrastructure globally. 

If you would like to chat with us further to discuss opportunities for collaboration at a network level, please fill in the form below, and we will get back to you promptly.

Posted by Jerry Sellanga, Emmy Tsang and Sarah Lang