Why support open infrastructures?

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Adopt and adapt these talking points to advocate for sustaining open infrastructures, which are the non-commercial providers of scholarly communication resources and services, including software, that support a fully open and equitable scholarly communications ecosystem

The Global Sustainability Coalition for Open Science Services (SCOSS) is a network with a mission to provide a new co-ordinated cost-sharing framework to enable the broader OA and OS community to support non-commercial services. The SCOSS Family of infrastructures includes Research Data Alliance (RDA) and Software Heritage as its two newest organisations included in a fifth pledging round. SCOSS Family members all share similar values, in that access to information should be free and core services should be accessible. 

Through a series of online sprints, the SCOSS Family has developed four compelling arguments about the importance of supporting Open Infrastructures for scholarly communications. We have phrased these arguments as talking points that can be reused, remixed and adapted.

While these four arguments can each stand on their own, they also work together, just like the ecosystem of open infrastructures. Since each infrastructure differs in size, mission, goal or service, with its own specific users, some arguments will ring more true or have more priority over others. With each argument also broken down into several talking points, compelling advocacy can be tailor-made to suit any non-commercial infrastructure’s communications needs. We encourage you to use these in your efforts to highlight the importance of a particular infrastructure, or as you campaign to encourage others to make in-kind or financial contributions.

Puzzle pieces that link the four advocacy points together

Open infrastructures add balance to a system often dominated by commercial actors

  • Not all countries and contexts have scholarly ecosystems where commercial entities dominate, but non-commercial infrastructures provide community-centred alternatives to commercial entities. They serve the interests of their supporting stakeholders. 
  • Open Infrastructures are generally not for sale and will not change their services for commercially-motivated purposes.
  • Open Infrastructures are mission-driven rather than profit-driven, which means their services align closer to a community’s priorities. Any surplus is frequently invested back into the organisation or service to improve and develop it according to the needs of its users and supporting stakeholders. Open Infrastructures can be more easily adaptable and responsive to community needs, demonstrating more flexibility in a rapidly changing scholarly communications sector.

Open infrastructures can interoperate, building a network of open information 

  • Open Infrastructures and open-source tools allow for flexible open science workflows. They can more easily transfer information between systems worldwide by following open standards. 
  • When Open Infrastructures use persistent identifiers, and expose them through open APIs, we can power cross-platform content discovery. 
  • In the case that a platform ceases to operate or no longer fulfills a user’s needs, data can easily be extracted and migrated.
  • Open Infrastructures also tend to collaborate, and work on solutions to improve or integrate systems or workflows between structures. 

Open infrastructures are accountable to the community, not to shareholders

  • Open Infrastructures are built for a community of users, often with a shared interest in Open Science. They are frequently accountable to that community rather than to a corporation. 
  • Open Infrastructures work for and exist to serve a community and therefore the community is often consulted when big changes are proposed.
  • Since Open Infrastructures are closely linked to their communities, and adapt accordingly, this means that they  evolve according to community needs. 
  • Open Infrastructures serve diverse communities, not just academic communities. Some operate in local communities, whereas others operate with global communities. Given the different levels of complexity, Open Infrastructures are strongly positionedto forecast when changes are required.
  • Open Infrastructures often share a common vision and have a strong idea of purpose and scale. They can focus on doing a few things really well rather than trying to do everything to become the most dominant player in the ecosystem. 

Open Infrastructures are more transparent in terms of their finances and governance

  • Open Infrastructures’ transparency about their finances and governance correlates positively to the effort that they make to comply with international standards of quality, like the POSI principles.
  • Open Infrastructures face much scrutiny regarding their finances and governance and are therefore more open to sharing this information, often conducting self-assessments (like the Principles of Open Science Infrastructures) to instill trust in the community. 
  • Open Infrastructures are not often profit-driven, which means any surplus resources are invested back into improving and developing their services according to the needs of their users and supporting stakeholders.
  • Thanks to Open Infrastructures’ typically smaller scale of operation, they can more easily and quickly resolve concerns and issues, often publicly, compared to commercial infrastructures.

From talking points to actions

The above four points are not an exhaustive list of reasons for supporting or partnering with an open infrastructure, and there are many more advantages to doing so. Taken together or selected to suit the communications needs of unique circumstances, these talking points reflect the significant work being done to create an open and equitable scholarly communications ecosystem. 

These advocacy points can interoperate in the same way that Open Infrastructures can. If you take a closer look at the SCOSS infrastructures in the network, you’ll see that they all walk the talk of these four advocacy points.

All SCOSS organisations rely on financial contributions from their communities to sustain their services. If you use any of these services and/ or have funds to support open, not-for-profit initiatives, consider funding these organisations so they can continue to do the crucial work required to create a truly open and equitable scholarly communications ecosystem.