A core goal for Knowledge Exchange (KE) is that the European Research community more fully realises the opportunity for networked, collaborative, and digital scholarship
This agenda has many strands – open access, open data, open (or digital) science (or research), citizen science, data science (with its many meanings) – but can also include open education and open government. Knowledge Exchange has chosen the term “open scholarship” to embrace the broad range of efforts to make scholarship, with a focus on research, more inclusive, more accessible, more networked, and more effective.
To support this, Knowledge Exchange convened the KE Open Scholarship Advisory Group (KEOSAG) to examine progress towards open scholarship and the challenges of implementation. This report is the first output of that group. It provides a new perspective on the challenges of open scholarship and suggests possible actions that Knowledge Exchange and other stakeholders might take to support progress towards it.
Motivations for open scholarship
The ecosystem of scholarship is complex, made up of many stakeholders and actors with differing motivations. Our current understanding of these motivations is often limited to caricatures and generalisations. In particular, there is a tendency to conflate organisational, or stakeholder, motivations with individual motivations. There is broad support for the high level aspirations of open scholarship, and agreement that the community as a whole should be motivated to achieve these “macro” objectives, with objections to actual implementation based on issues for individuals (micro), or organisations (meso).
At the same time, we see individuals (micro) seeking change that is prevented by the incentives and culture of the communities (meso) they work in. A key to making progress is a deeper understanding of how the motivations of different actors are affected by the interactions between system (macro), individual (micro) and communities/organisations (meso).
A framework for open scholarship
To organise the work of Knowledge Exchange and others effectively this paper proposes an organisational framework. It has three dimensions: the stage of the research process, the “arena” of interest, and the level of organisation (micro-meso-macro). To give an example, the shift to earlier publishing of “working papers” or “pre-prints” in some disciplines can be described as shifting this activity to an earlier point in the traditional research life-cycle. This shift has implications in several arenas, so can be examined through questions of policy (macro-political), questions of sustainability models for traditional publishers and new infrastructures (meso/ macro-economic), social practice of communities (meso-social), and implementation of technology (at many levels).
The economy of open scholarship
One way of framing the challenges of understanding the complex motivations of actors and their groupings is a (political) economic lens. In addition, an analysis of existing Knowledge Exchange work suggests a relative lack of work in the economic arena. The complexities of goods and their exchange mechanisms are not well captured by classical economic analysis. Simplistic analogies of financial exchange can lead to simplistic political positions, for instance hardening a false public-private dichotomy when the focus should be on organisational governance and trust.
To develop economic analyses that are useful in building an ecosystem of open scholarship will require a more sophisticated understanding of the actors, their interactions and their incentives, and the value and goods being created, including value that is not readily quantifiable. Open scholarship has been hampered by the use of economic analogies to bolster existing political positions. It is time to build an economic understanding of what is achievable and how to build it, to develop new financial and sustainability models, new systems of funding and, where appropriate, new and improved regulation of the goods and services that are critical to the scholarly ecosystem.
Output and evaluation from the researcher’s perspective
It is often observed that the key to changing scholarly practice lies in incentives and therefore in the evaluation mechanisms that scholars experience. However, just as with our economic understanding there is only a superficial understanding of how scholars disseminate their work and how it is evaluated, how this differs across disciplines, organisations and geographies, and finally how all of these affect each other.
Practical interventions intended to improve the process of evaluation are rarely assessed for their effects, while critical work on research evaluation has generally been highly abstract. To move beyond “we need to fix the incentives” to questions of how and where this can be done will require a much greater understanding of how evaluation systems affect both the behaviour of individuals and the culture of communities.
Recommendations for Knowledge Exchange work on open scholarship
This report identifies a range of challenges and opportunities for progress towards open scholarship. Knowledge Exchange can play a specific supportive role in promoting progress towards open scholarship, acting as a convenor of expertise, a commissioner of research and a developer and implementer of new approaches and best practice in using them.
KEOSAG recommends that Knowledge Exchange develops three strands of work, focusing on strategic interventions where the strengths of KE in terms of knowledge and community are greatest. These are: