Invest in Open Infrastructure

An effort to enable durable, scalable, and long lasting open scientific and scholarly infrastructure to emerge, thrive, and deliver its benefits on a global scale.

Invest in Open Infrastructure: A Concept

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We invite the community to respond to the ideas in this document using the embedded Hypothesis annotation interface.

Preamble, The Why

We imagine a world in which communities of researchers, scholars, and knowledge workers across the globe are fully enabled to share, discover, and work together. It is clear that the needs of today’s diverse scholarly communities are not being met by the existing largely uncoordinated scholarly infrastructure, which is dominated by vendor products that take ownership of the scholarly process and data. We intend to create a new open infrastructure system that will enable us to work in a more integrated, collaborative and strategic way. It will support global connections and consistency where it is appropriate, and local and contextual requirements where that is needed.

The Issue

Open Infrastructure (OI) includes projects and organizations that support open scholarship, research, and education, and are most often built on open source software, and usually are non-profit in nature. During this time period, some projects and services have come and gone. Others have stood the test of time. Still, it remains challenging to initiate, grow and sustain key projects and services to deliver this scholarly open infrastructure as a viable alternative to proprietary, and costly services developed and controlled by commercial providers. A critical need, related to sustainability, also exists for capacity building to support the administrative and operational needs of projects and small organizations. We also need to reduce or even eliminate the unhealthy dependency on proprietary systems. Furthermore, we need to provide routes to sustainability that will prevent open infrastructure from being controlled by commercial enterprises in order to survive. Our community has learned how essential it is to ensure that future investments are made on good practice and with the health of an overall OI system in mind. While conversations on open scholarly infrastructure are not new, only over the last five years has an OI system matured to the point where meaningful work on technical and operational alignment can take place.

Today, there is a convergence on the issue of collaboration on OI from all sides. Pressure to act now comes from recent acquisitions in the scholarly infrastructure space. The coming of Plan S, the European Open Science Cloud, the US National Academy of Science’s Open Science by Design, AmeliCA, all speak to the need to collaborate to have real impact in Open Access and Science. Europe is investing in the development of digital infrastructure. However, the implementation of Open Access and Science policies are dependent on a stable and sustainable infrastructure. Without strategic development to sustain and grow operations, successful policy implementation cannot be guaranteed. At the same time, the long-awaited maturity of the tools for open research and scholarship create a unique moment for investing in OI. Grassroots movements (examples: Joint Roadmap for Open Science Tools, Open Source Alliance for Open Scholarship, and OpenCon’s impact on early career researcher engagement with open practices) are creating alignment across people and organizations in open scholarship for the purpose of building and sustaining open infrastructure for research and scholarship.

The time is right to work together. The interests and ambitions of global researchers, combined with moves by top-level policy makers, and new alignment across OI organizations are converging to create a moment where we can begin to realize our common mission and vision: to create a shared infrastructure for enabling 21st-century scholarly communications.

It is clear that the needs of today’s diverse scholarly communities are not being met by the existing scholarly infrastructure, which is dominated by vendor products that take ownership of the scholarly process and data as well as by North Atlantic dominance and digital colonialism. The goals of these vendors is largely to generate profit, which stands in stark contrast to the values of mission-driven educational and research organisations where innovation and open access are central. These products favor vendor lock-in and monopoly models by nature, despite a clear incompatibility with the scholarly values of our communities. The dependence of research and scholarship on digital infrastructure has grown. In the scholarly community, there is a new awareness of the opportunities of open infrastructure (including governance for user communities and contextual relevance alongside the retention of resources within scholarly communities) and new engagement as well as a sense of urgency to work together to support stable, sustainable, interoperable and open infrastructure.

The Vision

A global strategic framework, led by engaged stakeholder communities, supporting open infrastructure, supporting a viable, diverse, efficient, thriving and healthy system that serves as the stable foundation of scholarly communications in the 21st century.

To move OI forward, it is time to create a strategic, global body — The Framework — with a mandate to facilitate and shepherd a shared strategy and agenda across international stakeholders. The Framework will work to reach the higher goal of having a viable ecosystem of open, interoperable community-led and -supported infrastructure to support scholarship, research, and education that provides full and adoptable solutions for the global scholarly community.

The Mission

To enable a durable, scalable and thriving open scientific and scholarly infrastructure serving the needs of global communities.

The Framework

The Framework will serve a number of essential functions for stakeholders concerned with the maintenance and development of this infrastructure:

  1. Research and Reporting: tracking projects, infrastructure services, existing mechanisms for community supported infrastructure, funding data and funder needs; and exchanging knowledge on this research on open infrastructure.
  2. Definition: establishing criteria for OI, defining the workflow of scholarly communication, and identifying areas of redundancy and gaps.
  3. Collaboration: building agreement among stakeholders, creating a healthy, competitive environment where end-to-end solutions that meet stakeholder needs and meet OI criteria can be identified and packaged.
  4. Advocacy and Engagement: communicating principles, priorities, good practices and practical tools.
  5. Matching and Assessment: Develop and maintain a methodology for matching what is needed to what is available, prioritizing collaborative solutions. The framework would help to identify areas for investment in the connections between projects that will create more fully adoptable solutions, and promote investment therein.

The Framework will act as a global resource that supports OI maturity, stability and success. It increases the impact and reach of funders’ strategic investments. The Framework will also inform funding activities, described below, dedicated to the same higher goal.

Funding Open Infrastructure

While some funding for open scholarly infrastructure already exists, the impact of these funds can be increased by pooling financial resources and strategically aligning impact goals across different types of funds. Collective and coordinated funding will provide the vehicle for this.

Through a deliberate and inclusive process, we are designing a range of mechanisms for investing in an open research system. The goal is to leverage existing resources while targeting areas of core project support and collaboration. Through strong community collaboration and coordination, we will enable informed decision-making based on quality. We will magnify the impact of existing investments and inspire additional investments to support the creation and sustenance of a competitive, dynamic open knowledge space.

Our Definition of Open Infrastructure for Scholarly Communications