In our last post, we shared more about our ongoing work to model a system of reporting key data and findings about open infrastructure projects to help further adoption and investment. We talked about our efforts to build a knowledge base of existing funding data, as well as a foundational list of tools and infrastructure for analysis.
Today, we wanted to share more about how we’re examining the open infrastructure and open technology landscape to further equitable, just, and accessible infrastructure, and what’s emerging as our key criteria. These criteria are designed to center community, reliability, and transformative influence into our analysis. Below we elaborate on those attributes.
Key criteria we’re tracking
Our work builds off a significant body of work looking at values, principles, and means of assessing alignment in the open technology and scholarly communication spaces. We’re inspired by decision-making frameworks and guidelines, including but not limited to the Principles of Open Scholarly Infrastructure, the Values & Principles Frameworks from Educopia, the STAR Team Charge from the University of California, SPARC-COAR Good Practice Principles, and the criteria from the French National Open Science Fund, among others.
These frameworks serve as a baseline for our analysis as we work to categorize key attributes around a project’s commitment to openness, transparency, equity, interoperability, and community responsiveness. We also have identified an initial criteria to explore to further examine an open infrastructure’s influence on the community (or communities) it's designed to serve and research and scholarship as a whole.
The criteria below represent our first cut at examining infrastructure for transformative influence, or a demonstration of the intention and ability to create change towards our vision of an equitable, just, and accessible infrastructure for all.
There are many different ways for transformative influence to surface in projects but for starters, we are focusing on three larger areas derived from our understanding that infrastructure is fundamentally entangled with the community:
(1) Reliable technologies: From ownership towards stewardship
Stories of the discontinuation of relied-on services due to the failure of infrastructure organisation as businesses or the simple lack of profitability to the shareholders, demonstrate why responsible community infrastructures need to be built on reliable technologies. To ensure that a diverse set of interests are served with the long-term benefit of the community in mind, the underlying technologies need to be forkable and as independent as possible from the owners at any point in time. We therefore suggest a model of technology stewardship rather than ownership would be better suited to meet the needs of responsible community infrastructures for research and scholarship. Such a model of technology stewardship would include open and reusable technologies and data at the heart of infrastructures which implement and contribute to open standards, public documentation for technical processes involved in the development and operations of the technology, an implemented data management plan, and minimal external dependencies on proprietary software, data, or standards.
(2) Trustworthy organisations: Prioritizing stakeholders over shareholders
With (or without) a reliable technological base in place, the question emerges how and why a community should put their trust in certain infrastructures, especially when it’s unclear whether the interests of shareholders are prioritized over those of the stakeholders. Thus, for communities to build on trustworthy infrastructures, we propose to support those that center community interests and community responsiveness in their organisational structure. This might include affording governance to stakeholders, operational transparency & mechanisms of accountability, a community-driven mission that is aligned with community needs rather than profit generation, and regard for the rights of other stakeholders such as employees and users. This also moves beyond the non-profit vs for-profit binary, in examining how an organization operates to fulfill its mission and serve the community, the health of leadership structures, and community responsiveness.
(3) Equitable & inclusive services: Removing (infra)structural barriers
As previously stated, IOI understands that infrastructure is fundamentally entangled with community. This means an infrastructure is not only determined by its technological and organisational structure but also by the needs and intentions of the communities it serves. In centering community, we are also centering questions of power and justice through the lens of services. It is, therefore, important to question who designed the services an infrastructure offers and for whom. Acknowledging the legacy of colonialism and imperialism in research and scholarship, we ask which communities and practices have been and are still excluded to develop inclusive designs for infrastructural services. Similarly, embracing an intersectional, feminist lens, projects can attempt to address and remove further (infra)structural inequities based on race, gender, sex, class, sexuality, or disability to ensure equitable access to those services. Finally, community engagement should not be a one-way street of knowledge extraction but instead constitute an exchange of knowledge and power.
We’ll continue to iterate and share our thinking about this important work over the coming months as it evolves. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks.