A note from our Executive Director
This past year can be best described as one of growth, transition, and calibration. At this point last year, we were hiring our first core staff members, approving an ambitious three-year strategic plan, and working with our inaugural Steering Committee to almost completely turn over our governance membership.
All of these pieces of organizational growth aligned to usher in a new phase of IOI – one where we had the runway and the permission to dive deep into building the evidence base, structures, and representation needed to support a vision rooted in challenging the systems of funding and supporting research at a fundamental level.
It’s a privilege to build out this work with and for those looking to increase opportunities for representation, participation, and sharing of knowledge, especially amidst so much volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity in the world.
As I reflect on a year of staff growth, governance evolution, and building out of processes and research products to address information and funding asymmetries, I also see the thoughtfulness, care, and courage that underpins each aspect of that work. This includes the feelings of exposure when it comes to shedding light on organizational needs and risks, of challenging models of funding and sustaining this space that we ourselves also rely on, of sharing our work openly for feedback and crafting processes to build on one another's work instead of tear it down, of managing increased amounts of collaboration across time zones, online, while also making sure we’re taking care of one another and our communities.
I’m incredibly grateful and proud to share with you the highlights below. They show our progress towards improving the funding and resourcing needed to sustain effective digital infrastructure necessary for research to flourish. They also showcase areas where we believe it’s important to challenge existing assumptions in the sector about our current infrastructure and landscape, to help provide actionable information to advocate for a healthier, more community-driven open infrastructure ecosystem.
I hope that you’ll join us over the next year as we continue to further a shared vision, roadmap, and strategy towards making open infrastructure the default in research. We remain committed to providing opportunities to learn with and from us – and we look forward to continuing to be inspired and informed by the research, infrastructure, and funding communities. The year ahead is one of continued experimentation and service, and we couldn’t be more excited to share with you what we have in store.
— Kaitlin Thaney, Executive Director, Invest in Open Infrastructure
Overview of our work in the past year
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.
We advance this understanding through:
- conducting research and analysis,
- providing strategic decision-making support to key stakeholders, and
- engaging with the community to run pilots and trial ways to put our research into practice.
In driving forward this work, we are committed to openness and transparency, as well as developing iteratively — continuously soliciting and incorporating feedback into our work products and processes.
In this review, we reflect on our work in the past year, and provide a snapshot of our leading activities in our main areas of work, with links to where you can learn more about them.
Research and analysis
We address the existing gaps in understanding to make the costs associated with open infrastructure development and maintenance accessible, verifiable, and actionable. Our research serves as a foundation for building more effective means to invest in open – in ways that are cost-effective, impactful, and aligned with the mission of the academy.
In the past year, we worked on the following research projects:
- Costs of Open Infrastructure, where we mapped the costs of open infrastructure by surveying public fiscal and organizational data and conducting in-depth interviews with funders, institutional leads, and open infrastructure service providers.
- Funding Open Infrastructure, where we improved our understanding of the open infrastructure funding landscape, through assessing the available funding data sources and aggregating this information.
- Future of Open Scholarship, where we partnered with a network of institutional decision makers to identify opportunities, leverage points, costs, and approaches to further open scholarship.
- Defining Open Scholarly Infrastructure, where we examined a body of literature to develop a framework for understanding the characteristics and dimensions of open scholarly infrastructure.
In addition, we hosted two research fellows: Anne Britton, who investigated Wikidata as a tool to map investment flows for open technology, and Teri Wanderi, who explored the impact of governments on the adoption of open infrastructure.
- Working with an initial list of 10 open infrastructure services, we prototyped a framework and key criteria to assess and describe open infrastructure - read more about the Catalog of Open Infrastructure Services in the next section.
- Through conversations with 19 open infrastructure providers, representatives of funding bodies, and institutional budget owners, we surfaced some of the “hidden” costs of running and maintaining open infrastructure services and points of resource scarcity.
- Through surveying public financial and organizational data, we gained an understanding of the various data sources available, and developed a vocabulary and framework to describe relationships between open infrastructure providers and supporters. These laid important foundations for further work into understanding the financial health of the open infrastructure ecosystem.
Providing strategic decision-making support
We support decision makers in assessing, building, and investing in open infrastructure, by translating research and analyses into usable resources, investment strategies, and toolkits.
In the past year, we shared:
- The Catalog of Open Infrastructure Services (COIs), designed to model a means of standardizing information about core open infrastructure services for decision makers and members of the community.
- A costs and benefits model for stakeholders to assess the financial impact of open infrastructure investments, along with recommendations for near-, medium- and long-term interventions to ensure the future of open scholarship and its infrastructure are more resilient and durable.
- Resources for building effective and accountable governance — open and reusable documentation and processes from evolving our governance.
The initial prototype of COIs served as a basis for funders, budget holders, and open infrastructure services to discuss more broadly and deeply the criteria and dimensions to assess and understand open infrastructure services. Since COIs’ launch in January, we have hosted four community sessions to gather community feedback and input on its roadmap. We shared our plans to expand COIs in May and launched an interest survey for organizations who are interested in supporting this effort. In the coming months, we will be working with an ethnographer, funders, and institutional budget holders to better understand and identify the value proposition of COIs.
We coordinate with stakeholders to increase the sustainability of the sector, as a trusted third-party and partner, outlining with key stakeholders interventions and plans to evolve funding and resourcing for the sector.
Over the past year, we focused on iteratively developing spaces, processes, and tools for us to more effectively and meaningfully engage with our stakeholders:
- In August 2021, we convened the Community Oversight Council, an independent, non-voting governing body of IOI, to surface themes, trends, and issues in the open research and scholarship infrastructure sector and adjacent spaces, to provide a collaborative, safe forum for discussions, and to advise and inform IOI staff and Steering Committee on mechanisms to ensure that IOI’s work is serving our community.
- In February 2022, we started biweekly updates on our blog to share what we are working on, who we are talking to, and what we are reading more widely.
- We held our first quarterly Collaborator Calls in April 2022, with the aim to create a collaborative space for stakeholders to co-design and advance a shared roadmap towards “open infrastructure as a default in research”.
- To broaden our perspectives and help grow awareness of diverse open infrastructure efforts, we developed the Open Infrastructure Tracking Project (OITP). We recently launched a Twitter account for OITP, with the aim to build towards a community-sourced newsfeed for open infrastructure-related news and commentary.
Last but not least, we’re exploring mechanisms to build community participation and engagement into our research and analysis work. We trialled a public comment period for our draft report on defining open scholarly infrastructure. We look forward to exploring further mechanisms to involve stakeholders and the broader community.
In the past year, we hosted 11 collaborator calls, community discussions, and information sessions that brought together over 120 members of research institutions, funders, governments, and policymaking bodies, open infrastructure services, and non-profit organizations. We also spoke at and took part in 8 events, including presenting at the UNESCO Open Science Infrastructures Working Group Meeting. In addition, close to 1,000 resources and articles have been tagged in the Open Infrastructure Tracking Project (OITP) and the number of OITP taggers has been gradually growing.
Moving forward, we are looking to co-design further convenings towards the end of 2022 for our funders and decision makers to collaboratively explore and pilot funding mechanisms for open infrastructure. Building on our successful collaborations with other organizations in the open research space in the past year, e.g. the Turing Way and Open Life Science, we strive to build partnerships with mission-aligned organizations to build a shared roadmap towards open infrastructure being the default for research.
Our strategy and team
We have been building operational capacity and functional governance to empower IOI to achieve our stated aims.
We welcomed Richard Dunks and Asura Enkhbayar as our first Research Data Analysts in August 2021. Richard was promoted to Director of Research and Strategy, and Anne Britton, Emmy Tsang, and Tania Hernández joined IOI as Project Coordinator, Engagement Lead, and Research Data Analyst respectively. The expanded core team combines knowledge and experience in information management, organizational strategy development, community building, academic culture, and non-profit governance. Our work was further strengthened by our research affiliates Saman Goudarzi, Samuel Moore, and Ravin Cline, who brought with them deep domain-specific knowledge in scholarly communication and governance that greatly benefitted our work.
Our inaugural Steering Committee kickstarted and supported the process of evolving our governance. This included the formation of a Governance and Nominating Committee, whose members played a crucial role in reflecting on the composition and function of our Steering Committee and in recruiting the 11 members of our current Steering Committee.
A large part of the second half of the year was devoted to strategic planning with various stakeholders to define the present and map the future of the organization. Beginning with our first organization-wide strategy retreat in February, we started to build out a strategic roadmap for the rest of 2022, with the first 90 days focused on understanding our role and aspiration and the broader space, and the second phase of 180 days on harnessing that knowledge to effect change.
As our team grows and our work becomes more complex, it is essential that we continue to build clear policies and processes and iterate openly. This not only improves our efficiency as a team but also ensures that we act by our values of transparency, openness, and accountability. To that end, resources we have developed include:
- An orientation packet, which serves as an orientation to our organization structure, priorities, strategies, and resourcing.
- A documentation hub on HackMD, where we document and share our operational processes and policies, from job descriptions to tools we use.
- Charters and policies for those who work with us, e.g. our Steering Committee Charter and Conflict of Interest Declaration policy.
Our supporters and partners
We would like to express our gratitude to our past and current supporters – without whom none of this work would have been possible.
IOI is supported through a mix of philanthropic support and financial commitments from institutions, consortia-based organizations, and more. A full list of funding received to date is available on our funding disclosure page.
Active funding sources
- Mellon Foundation – “Exploring the Hidden Costs of Open Infrastructure”
- Grant amount: $135,125 USD
- Duration: January 2021-February 2023
- What this funds: This grant provides funding for a Research Data Analyst, software development support, and partial funding for IOI’s Executive Director.
- Arcadia - Invest in Open Infrastructure grant
- Grant amount: $3.47M USD
- Duration: June 2021-May 2024 (Year 1: $936,000 USD)
- What this funds: This grant provides support to grow and sustain IOI’s core team over the course of three years (Executive Director, Director of Research & Strategy, Engagement Lead, Research Data Analysts, Project Coordinator, Relationship Manager), as well as support for contractors and professional services such as software development, legal and financial expertise, administrative assistance, and research/design support, as needed. In addition, this support provides travel and meeting resources, funding to enable equitable participation via honoraria and stipends, and support for comprehensive fiscal sponsorship provided by Code for Science & Society (CS&S).
Our core funding currently consists of two active grants from the Mellon Foundation and Arcadia. In addition to these funding sources, we have approximately $206,750 USD in reserve from unrestricted contributions to support IOI’s operations made by Schmidt Futures, the Libraries of the Big Ten Academic Alliance, Stanford Libraries, EBSCO, North Carolina State University Libraries, Iowa State University Libraries, and the University at Buffalo Libraries.
For more on how we’re funded, including a full list of our support to date, visit our website.
As a sustainability-focused non-profit, we are keenly aware of the strains that exist on the current funding landscape for open infrastructure non-profits. We are dedicated at IOI to exploring revenue models that both align with a values-base that employs trust with our partners and is centred on transparency, openness, and clear value-add — and that’s reflected in the institutional funding we’ve garnered since 2020 to directly support decision makers and administrators. We continue to explore business models that both diversify our support levels and work with institutions, government funders, philanthropic entities, and others to ensure our offerings are best addressing unmet needs to improve funding and resourcing for open infrastructure in research and education.
We are grateful to our Founding Circle set of supporters, a model we’re piloting with institutional and organizational supporters, for their ongoing donations to IOI. For more information about joining the Founding Circle, please visit our website.
This year, we will be deepening our research and testing of a variety of funding models for IOI that are in service of our mission to grow the investment and adoption of open infrastructure in research and scholarship. This includes exploring earned revenue and support models, feasibility studies into collective funding mechanisms to pilot, and more, while remaining steadfast in our commitment to transparency, openness, and accessibility.