Beyond Innovation: Emerging Meta-Frameworks for Maintaining an Open Scholarly Infrastructure
There are numerous free and community-based academic and cultural resources that are designed and built on open source or open access principles. Undertaken by not-for-profit mission-driven organizations, such services and technologies aim to introduce innovation to various stages of scholarly communication from designing research projects to publishing results. Today, amid growing concerns about their long-term durability and agility, there is renewed interest in sustainability, business models, revenue, and maintenance. In our previous post, we looked back at some of the recommendations that resulted from research on sustainability that Ithaka S+R conducted more than a decade ago and highlighted some recent studies that assess the condition and prospects of academy-driven initiatives offered in the digital scholarship space. In today’s blog, we’ll look into the nascent organizations that are forming to provide a meta-framework to a range of independent but like-minded initiatives by fostering networking, raising awareness, and advocating best practices for an enduring and effective service infrastructure.
Such meta-frameworks aim to foster networking, promote interoperability, advance best practices, and raise awareness about business models among different stakeholders to ensure an enduring and effective service infrastructure. Based on what’s available on their websites, the table below provides examples of such meta-frameworks that were formed to coordinate, align, and promote open services, technologies, and standards.
Examples of Initiatives that Coordinate and Promote Sustainable Open Scholarship Services
|Global Sustainability Coalition for Open Science Services|
|Provides a coordinated cost-sharing framework to support the long-term sustainability of non-commercial services that collectively provide an infrastructure for OA and OS initiatives.
Each year, non-commercial OA/OS services are invited to apply for SCOSS coordinated temporary funding intended to support service providers so that they may obtain a more secure financial footing.
The SCOSS board selects up to two services for funding based on criteria such as the service’s value to the community, governance structure, costs, sustainability measures, and future plans.
|Invest in Open Infrastructure (IOI)|
|Aims to coordinate the creation and development of a reliable, scalable, and interoperable open scholarly infrastructure to optimize the benefits of OS and OA tools that facilitate scholarship, research, and education.
Focuses on the non-profit sector to foster capacity building and reduce dependency on proprietary systems controlled by commercial enterprises.
Goals include providing an assessment framework to survey the landscape and coordinate financial resources from various organizations.
|Joint Roadmap for Open Science Tools|
|Collaboration to “develop a common vision, user stories, and roadmap to support open science research workflows, and better coordinate work across the community of open science projects.”|
|Network of Open Science Grassroots Networks|
|Facilitates information sharing, generates collaboration, and disseminates best practices across a diverse community with a focus on open science and community-building.
Initiated by the Center for Open Science as a discussion group and a crowd-sourced list of open science organizations.
|Open Source Alliance for Open Scholarship|
|Supports OS and open scholarship principles, connects actors that are working within and for the whole open source ecosystem, and promotes involving end users throughout the project development process.|
|European Open Science Cloud|
|Envisioned by the European Commission, aims to provide a supporting infrastructure to foster open science and open innovation in Europe and promotes global collaborations in research and innovation systems.|
Some of these meta-frameworks are motivated and energized by the prospect of contributing to the development of an open infrastructure as a viable alternative to proprietary and (what they consider) costly services developed and controlled by commercial providers. There is a range of terminology used to define this program space including open science tools, scholarly communication infrastructure, open science services, open infrastructure, and open science grassroots networks. Although they have multidisciplinary ideals, the term “science” (rather than a more inclusive term such as academic or scholarly) seems to be dominant in naming conventions. Similar to the initiatives they are trying to coordinate, one commonality among them is their reliance on limited and short-term revenue models through grants, gifts, or membership models with dependence on funding from the same base of academic and philanthropic institutions. It would be helpful to flesh out what it would take to compete with commercial entities with an assumption and conviction that OS and OA tools can offer better and more cost-effective services.
As different stakeholders consider supporting these important meta-frameworks, there are some questions they may want to raise to ensure the effectiveness and durability of these commendable undertakings:
- Is it feasible or desirable to bundle funding, assessment, best practices, and advocacy under a single meta-framework? What are the incentives for agility?
- How are they being funded? Do they have a transparent business plan and a governance model to communicate their goals and implementation plans?
- How can they broaden the stakeholder engagement beyond libraries, archives, and OS advocates (in other words, beyond the groups who are already committed to the cause but often lack adequate resources at a required scale)? How are the different disciplinary user communities brought into these initiatives?
- How do they factor in the hybrid nature of the scholarly communication ecology as scholars continue to rely on various open and commercial applications that are pertinent to their work? What are their plans for engaging in collaborations towards an effective and sustainable infrastructure?
The commercial sector has a proven path for bringing disparate components together into a more coherent framework or portfolio: buying up startups and successful independent firms, as Elsevier, Digital Science, Clarivate, and others have done, then integrating them together. The not-for-profit and academic community tend to prioritize inclusive governance. Due to this prioritization, mergers and acquisitions are difficult, time consuming, and sometimes outright impossible. An outstanding issue is how these meta-frameworks are going to offer viable solutions to bring not only funding and collaboration but also strategic agility to the open sector.