Common ground in the global quest for open research

Abstract:  It’s hard to envision a system more global and more integrated than research. Many stakeholders affect and are affected by changes in the research ecosystem; the ecosystem differs in significant ways across the globe and between researchers, institutions and fields of study; and there are many questions that exclusive action can’t address. There are also broad ecosystem-level questions that need answering. For these reasons alone, global approaches to reform are needed.

The first step in this exploration isn’t to start looking for “solutions,” but to develop a better understanding of how our needs and interests overlap. By identifying the broad contours of common ground in this conversation, we can build the guardrails and mileposts for our collaborative efforts and then allow the finer-grained details of community-developed plans more flexibility and guidance to evolve over time.

What are these overlapping interests? First, the people in this community share a common motive—idealism—to make research better able to serve the public good. We also share a common desire to unleash the power of open to improve research and accelerate discovery; we are all willing to fix issues now instead of waiting for market forces or government intervention to do this for us; and we want to ensure that everyone everywhere has equitable access to knowledge.

There is also very broad agreement in this community about which specific problems in scholarly communication need to be fixed and why, and well as many overlapping beliefs in this community. OSI participants have concluded that four such beliefs best define our common ground: (1) Research and society will benefit from open done right; (2) Successful solutions will require broad collaboration; (3) Connected issues need to be addressed, and (4) Open isn’t a single outcome, but a spectrum.

OSI has been observing and debating the activity in scholarly communication since late 2014 with regard to understanding possible global approaches and solutions for improving the future of open research. While the COVID-19 pandemic has made the importance of open science abundantly clear, the struggle to achieve this goal (not just for science but for all research) has been mired in a lack of clarity and urgency for over 20 years now, mostly stalling on the tension between wanting more openness but lacking realistic solutions for making this happen on a large scale with so many different stakeholders, needs and perspectives involved.

Underlying this tension is a fundamental difference in philosophy: whether the entire scholarly communication marketplace, driven by the needs and desires of researchers, should determine what kind of open it wants and needs; or whether this marketplace should be compelled to adopt open reform measures developed primarily by the scholarly communication system’s main billpayers—funders and libraries. There is no widespread difference of opinion in the community whether open is worth pursuing. The debate is mostly over what specific open solutions are best, and at what pace open reforms should occur.

OSI has proposed a plan of action for working together to rebuild the future of scholarly communication on strong, common ground foundation. This plan—which we’re referring to as Plan A—calls for joint action on studies, scholarly communication infrastructure improvement, and open outreach/education. Plan A also calls for working together with UNESCO to develop a unified global roadmap for the future of open, and for striving to ensure the community’s work in this space is researcher-focused, collaborative, connected (addressing connected issues like peer review), diverse and flexible (no one-size-fits-all solutions), and beneficial to research. UNESCO’s goal is to finish its roadmap proposal by early 2022.

For a full discussion of OSI’s common ground recommendations, please see the Plan A website at

Plan A launch – OSI’s Plan A

“OSI announced the launch of Plan A today, an international, multi-stakeholder effort to reform the future of scholarly communication.

Plan A is the 2020-25 action plan of the Open Scholarship Initiative (OSI). The goals and outputs of this plan are designed to inform and align with UNESCO’s efforts to craft a global recommendation for open science in late 2021.”

OSI’s Plan A – A common ground foundation for the global future of scholarly communication

“Plan A synthesizes the significant themes and recommendations that have emerged via these OSI activities. Plan A recommends that the international scholarly communication community begin immediate and significant action to:

DISCOVER critical missing pieces of the open scholarship puzzle so we can design open reforms more effectively;
DESIGN, build and deploy an array of much need open infrastructure tools to help accelerate the spread and adoption of open scholarship practices;
WORK TOGETHER on finding common ground solutions that address key issues and concerns (see OSI’s “Common Ground” policy paper for more detail); and
REDOUBLE OUR COLLECTIVE EFFORTS to educate and listen to the research community about open solutions, and, in doing so, design solutions that better meet the needs of research….”