ELPUB 2018 Funders' Roundtable
Connecting the Knowledge Commons:
From Projects to Sustainable Infrastructure
Research funders, inclusive of national agencies and private foundations, are increasingly cognizant of the multiple downstream benefits of an open research and communication ecosystem. The growing consensus is that opening research and broadening access to research results will increase the economic and societal impact of research funding, from improving public policy, to accelerating discovery, to greater participation in science by citizens, and extending social justice and equity for a stronger civil society.
While some funders have been experimenting with funding open initiatives and with open policy for research results and publications, others are still unsure, but are keeping a close eye on relevant developments, so that they can better determine whether open policies align with or purposefully extend the mission of their organizations.
Yet, funders do not always have shared vision and principles for supporting open initiatives, resulting in a fragmented landscape, with projects that are often funded on a short-term piecemeal basis, that struggle for sustainability after the seed funding period is over. The important issue of how disparately funded projects could be joined up as coherent and sustainable infrastructure to support open research across different communities has largely been left unanswered.
Funders have traditionally been reluctant to fund “infrastructure” projects, as they tend to require longer term support, while technological changes are happening at pace that are difficult to anticipate. So it is often hard to see their return on funding investment in the short term if funders choose to invest in infrastructure. And while higher education institutions and funders are reluctant to invest in common infrastructure, commercial entities are much more agile in seizing the opportunity, acquiring vulnerable initiatives and assimilating them into a controlled workflow that ties researchers and their institutions deeper and deeper into their platform. The acquisition of the many scholarly communication workflow tools and platforms by Elsevier is a clear case in point (Posada and Chen).
The primary theme of the ELPUB2018 meeting is how to Connect the Knowledge Commons by transforming projects developed in silos to a broad based common infrastructure sustained by collective resources and community governance. Funders are a key component of this transformation. But this is an uncharted territory and much remains to be determined.
The idea of a funders roundtable in the context of a scholarly communication conference with multiple scholar-driven initiatives is to begin to align better the needs of the scholarly community and the desire of funders to see results and real impact for their investment.
The Purpose of the Funders Roundtable is to provide a forum for:
- Funders to share experience and their rationale for supporting open initiatives, their implementation strategies, successes so far, barriers and challenges encountered.
- Discussion of potential co-funding strategies that would be mutually beneficial to the funders’ missions and to the advancement of a scholarly commons.
- Dialogues between developers, researchers, community oriented publishers and funders, who do not usually have a chance to fully understand each other’s needs and constraints.
- Design of the knowledge commons with not-for-profit publishers and technology partners with openness as the foundation and by design.
Tim Wilson, Executive Director for Research Grants and Partnerships, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Ross Mounce, Program Officer, Arcadia Fund
Melissa Hagemann, Senior Program Officer, Open Society Institute
Raed Sharif, Senior Program Officer, International Development Research Centre Canada