Last month, IOI hosted our first Community Conversation based on the State of Open Infrastructure Report. IOI hosted a panel discussion on the findings from the first chapter on the Characteristics of Selected Open Infrastructures. IOI's Gail Steinhart and Sarah Lippincott, two authors of this chapter, described the methodology and key findings. Bianca Kramer (Sesame Open Science) and John Maxwell (Simon Fraser University) joined the panel to discuss the impacts and future applications of this chapter's findings from their perspective. 

The event began with Sarah Lippincott explaining the data collection process for the report. The data originated from Infra Finder, IOI's flagship tool for discovering and evaluating open infrastructure solutions. Infra Finder contains detailed information on 57 open infrastructures, forming the backbone of the report. While the gathered data is modest in size and scope, primarily covering the US and Europe, IOI hopes that future iterations of this report will include information from more geographically and categorically diverse infrastructures as participation in Infra Finder grows. 

Gail Steinhart provided an overview of the chapter's core findings, dividing her insights into several categories. The findings highlight the importance of transparency, community governance, and the need for better-aligned funding mechanisms. As the open infrastructure community evolves, these insights will guide future developments and support strategies.


Panelists Bianca Kramer and John Maxwell discussed the chapter's emergent findings with Sarah and Gail. Two of the critical points of the discussion are summarized below. 

Infrastructure as a complex system

John emphasized the need to view infrastructures not as isolated tools but as complex, interrelated systems. He stressed the importance of recognizing the dependencies of open-source tools on commercial services like GitHub and cloud infrastructures, highlighting the relational nature of infrastructures.

Sarah acknowledged the challenge of making the interconnectedness of open tools visible and easy to use, while Gail emphasized the importance of understanding interoperability among infrastructures. Bianca added that mapping dependencies and compatibility among tools could enhance understanding of the broader ecosystem, moving beyond viewing infrastructures in isolation. She also stressed the need to maintain the visibility of open infrastructures to ensure their sustainability.

Visibility of Open Infrastructure

From our audience (John Kunze), we received an insightful question: how do we highlight the importance of infrastructure, which often becomes invisible due to its seamless operation? He suggested creating compelling narratives that make the invisible visible by illustrating how detrimental things would be without this infrastructure. John Maxwell referenced Deb Chachra's book "How Infrastructure Works" for its excellent storytelling on the subject. Bianca Kramer agreed, sharing her experience with SCOSS's efforts to convey the significance of open infrastructure for their funding campaigns. 

Gail suggested that there is a need to focus on desired outcomes, and those outcomes could guide research questions and improve communication efforts.

Next steps and action points

Our conversation turned to follow-up actions based on the insights in this State of Open Infrastructure Report chapter. The panellists advocated for increased collaboration, broader coverage, and a values-based approach to supporting and selecting open infrastructures.

John Maxwell emphasized the political aspect of supporting open infrastructures, noting a general lack of trust in institutions. He suggested that stakeholders communicate more and recommended a broad, inclusive conference to foster collaboration. He also highlighted the need for funding models that support operational costs, not just innovation.

Bianca Kramer underscored the importance of recognizing existing infrastructures rather than creating new ones, advocating for greater visibility and support of what is already available. She stressed the need to engage stakeholders in discussions about what data is most useful for their decisions, suggesting the use of eligibility criteria as conversation starters.

Gail Steinhart reflected on areas for improvement, including broader and more complete coverage, particularly in digital preservation and research data infrastructure. She mentioned the challenges in assessing financial health due to sensitivities around proprietary information but acknowledged its importance.

Sarah Lippincott highlighted the report's value in encouraging values-based decision-making and procurement processes. She suggested that tools like Infra Finder can help normalize considering organizational practices and stakeholder relationships in decision-making processes.

You can watch a recording of the entire community conversation on our YouTube channel.

Next Steps

We invite you to join IOI's next community conversation on Grant Funding. Join us for an in-depth discussion on grant funding data from the State of Open Infrastructure report on July 17, 2024, at 1 pm UTC, featuring experts Gail Steinhart, Cameron Neylon, Karl Huang, and John Mohr. Register now

Posted by Jerry Sellanga