Skip to main content
SearchLoginLogin or Signup

Surveying the Open Scholarship Policy Landscape

Published onJan 14, 2023
Surveying the Open Scholarship Policy Landscape

As momentum behind the Open Scholarship movement has increased over the past several years, policy has emerged as a key issue. In particular, questions about open scholarship policy include: How and to what extent does policy advance open scholarship? What effect does policy have on individuals and their work? How does policy affect open scholarly practices?

This Open Scholarship Press Collections Policy document surveys current literature about open scholarship policy, offering a snapshot of the field of policy analysis and criticism. It does so with the goal of mapping the contours of this field and identifying the major critical pathways, recognizing that, as a snapshot, it cannot capture the entirety of the field in detail.

This resource builds upon the Open Scholarship Policy Observatory, a hub for information and resources related to all aspects of open scholarship that includes a collection of policy documents as well as policy analysis. The Open Scholarship Policy Observatory is an initiative of the Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) Partnership’s Policy Cluster, co-facilitated by Tanja Niemann and Lynne Siemens, and is coordinated by the Canadian Social Knowledge Institute (C-SKI), based in the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab (ETCL) at the University of Victoria. It follows and reflects policy developments related to open scholarship in Canada and beyond, analyzing policy changes and their relevance to researchers, information professionals, librarians, faculty, and policymakers. Its roots in the Open Scholarship Policy Observatory lend this bibliography a Canadian focus and an interest in the humanities and social sciences (HSS), but it takes a broad view, considering open scholarship as an international and interdisciplinary movement. The Observatory was created in recognition of the development of numerous and increasing numbers of open access policies and mandates, as well as confusion about the various routes to open access and which approach works best (Milligan et al. 2019).

Open scholarship is an umbrella term that refers both to open scholarly practices, such as open peer review, and their outcomes, such as open access publications. Although open scholarship is sometimes referred to as “open science,” it is not discipline specific, comprising all disciplines and a variety of interrelated practices and principles. What began more than 20 years ago as small-scale and local has evolved into a global movement, but one that advances unevenly and, in many ways, uneasily (Tennant et al. 2019a).

Because open scholarship encompasses so many things, it is difficult to define. George Veletsianos (2016) describes it as “the wide and broad dissemination of scholarship by a variety of interconnected means (e.g., technology, licensing) aiming to broaden knowledge and reduce barriers to access to knowledge and information” (16; see also Veletsianos and Kimmons 2012). In “Foundations for Open Scholarship Strategy Development,” Jonathan Tennant et al. (2019a) define it as “the process, communication, and re-use of research as practised in any scholarly research discipline, and its inclusion and role within wider society” (sec. 3). This definition reflects the complexity of the phenomenon itself: as Tennant et al. (2019a) point out, there is no one definition, framework, policy, or declaration that captures the movement as a whole: it is a complex of people, organizations, ideas, values, practices, and outcomes. They usefully describe open scholarship as a “boundary object,” which Samuel Moore (2017) defines as “a concept that has a specific understanding in a local community of practice but is rigid enough to maintain its definition across communities too” (para. 5). Understanding it as a boundary object allows for flexible definitions and conceptions of what constitutes open scholarship while maintaining enough of a common understanding to make the term meaningful.

As outlined in “Foundations for Open Scholarship Strategy Development,” a foundational policy strategy document drafted by an international team of open scholarship practitioners and stakeholders, scholarship is founded upon the ideal of “advancing our collective knowledge to the benefit of all humankind,” but this ideal is under tension from the complex and often competing values and structures within which scholarship is performed, such as competition for jobs and publication opportunities (Tennant et al. 2019a, sec. 1). Open scholarship seeks to “realign modern research practices with this ideal” so that openness becomes the norm (sec. 1). Although the movement is diverse, its proponents share the belief that “increased adoption of Open Scholarship practices (and more generally, simply open practices) is generally a good thing” (sec. 4).

Open scholarship can be understood as comprising two main categories, which we might also think about as axes: “knowledge and practices and principles and values” (Tennant et al. 2019a, sec. 4.1.3). Along the “knowledge and practices” axis sit the components of open scholarship, such as open access and open data; along the “principles and values” axis are ideas such as “participation, equality, transparency, cognitive justice, collaboration, sharing, equity, and inclusivity.” In addition to categorical structure, Tennant et al. (2019) draw on five schools of thought that Benedikt Fecher and Sascha Friesike (2013) proposed as a way of understanding open science:

the infrastructure school (which is concerned with the technological architecture), the public school (which is concerned with the accessibility of knowledge creation), the measurement school (which is concerned with alternative impact measurement), the democratic school (which is concerned with access to knowledge) and the pragmatic school (which is concerned with collaborative research). (Abstract)

As might be expected of such a complex movement, there are tensions within it, many having to do with geographical and disciplinary differences as well as the varying needs and priorities of its stakeholder groups, which include researchers and institutions as well as funding bodies, publishers and other industry groups, and policymakers (Tennant et al. 2019a). Some of the strongest tensions are related to licenses and licensing practices, the various models of and routes to open access, the responsibility for and control of infrastructure, and the “role of policy mandates in driving openness” (sec. 4.2.3). That said, Tennant et al. (2019a) identify policy as one of the movement’s strengths, noting that “it remains important that the imperative and agenda for Open Scholarship remains recognised at the highest political levels” (sec. 6). However, problems arise when top-down policies, such as those dictated by international and national funding bodies, are not accompanied by resources (e.g., appropriate infrastructure) to ensure their successful implementation. Bottom-up policies, such as those developed by institutional libraries or even individuals, tend to be opt-in and not enforced or enforceable (Tennant et al. 2019a).

Open scholarship is facilitated and made possible by digital technologies, but openness is not inherently digital, and those digital technologies are not necessarily open. Noting that digital technologies have enabled scholarly journals to have a broader reach through open access, for instance, John Maxwell (2015) argues that scholarly communication as a whole needs to move away from models based on the paradigm of print production and embrace a “Web-based publishing model” (4). Moving toward this “network paradigm” (4) allows us to reconsider not only the forms of scholarly publication—reimagining, for instance, what an article or a monograph look like—but also what it means to publish. The print paradigm is founded on the idea of making something public by printing it; now that the challenge is no longer how to make works public but how to make them relevant and findable, publication under a network paradigm refers to “not the production of books but the production of a public for whom those books have meaning” (Stadler 2010).1 In order to create this public, scholarship—scholarly practices and their outcomes—must be social (Maxwell 2015).

The term policy is already broad, and it is applied here broadly as well to encompass not only formal international, national, and institutional policy statements but also formal and informal policies about the issues and topics that constitute open scholarship (e.g., open access, open data) and adjacent issues (e.g., copyright; review, tenure, and promotion). Policy alone is not enough to effect change, however: as MacCallum et al. (2020) note, “OA policy is a tool that must be partnered with additional resources in order to increase impact,” such as training of librarians and scholarly communications practitioners (9). Moreover, a cultural shift is necessary in order for open scholarship to become the default scholarly mode; this will involve dispelling persistent myths about the nature of open access and open scholarship, such as the myth that open access journals are not peer-reviewed and are largely predatory. It will also involve shifting how we value scholarship from a model of exclusivity, in which publishing in the most exclusive, subscription-based journals confers the most scholarly value, to one of open inclusivity, what Kathleen Fitzpatrick (2019) calls “generous thinking” (see also MacCallum et al. 2020). In outlining the scope of the field, the authors of this scan recognize that policy plays a role in many areas of the scholarly ecosystem and is not always named or understood as policy. While policy is part of a complex of interrelated fields, disciplines, and stakeholder groups, the focus of this scan is on the role of policy in the scholarly communication ecosystem.

One significant theme in this bibliography is the vital role played by libraries, librarians, scholarly communications practitioners, and the field of library and information science (LIS) more generally in the open scholarship movement. As noted in Advancing Open: Views from Scholarly Communications Practitioners (MacCallum 2020), a report by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL-ABRC), openness is a fundamental value of library and information science, and information professionals have been and continue to be instrumental in advancing open access and open scholarship, both by supporting it locally, such as through institutional repositories, and by supporting large-scale infrastructure initiatives. The advocacy work performed by librarians and information professionals, such as negotiations with publishers, has also driven open scholarship forward.

Another important theme is that, although the scholarly communications ecosystem is global in scale, it is heterogeneous, with significant variations among local environments. This means, among other things, that solutions that work well in one context do not necessarily work in another. MacCallum et al. (2020), for instance, note that although Canada is aligned in principle with Plan S, a European open access initiative, its engagement with open scholarship is newer, and it has not yet developed the infrastructure—financial, technical, or cultural—necessary for implementing such a sweeping transformation.

A third, related theme that emerges is that there are significant tensions within the movement. These include, for example, whether a top-down or bottom-up approach to open scholarship is best, whether revolutionary or evolutionary change has the greatest chance of success, and what role commercial publishing should play in the transformed ecosystem, if any.

A final theme that emerges is that open scholarship is inherently social and collaborative. MacCallum et al. (2020) point out, for example, that the only way to successfully advance open scholarship in Canada is to work collaboratively and transparently with all stakeholders, including researchers, scholarly communications practitioners, information professionals, and national organizations such as funding bodies and scholarly associations.

Informed by Tennant et al.’s (2019a) description of the field of open scholarship and Fecher and Friesike’s (2013) five schools of open science, this bibliography is organized into four sections. The first, Foundational Policies and Policy Frameworks, includes foundational policies that have informed the open scholarship movement and its constituent movements. The Open Scholarship and the Open Scholarship Movement section comprises resources about the movement’s history, values, and progress. The Scholarly Communication section includes resources describing the scholarly landscape and how it has changed over time, the role of libraries in open scholarship, various publication and business models at play, and the issue of open monographs. The Infrastructure section presents resources addressing digital research infrastructure, funding models, bibliometrics, intellectual property, identity management, linked open data, and research data management. The Collaboration and Community section includes resources related to knowledge mobilization and translation, community engagement, public scholarship, and crowdsourcing and citizen science. The final section, Policy Development, Implementation, and Analysis, contains resources related to open scholarship practices, institutional policies, national and international policy, and social justice. Although each resource in this bibliography appears within a single section, this is done with the recognition that the sections overlap and intersect in complex and meaningful ways.

Many annotations represent original research, written by Caroline Winter and Jesse Thomas Kern and formally published in this scan for the first time. Other annotations are drawn from previous annotated bibliographies and research scans compiled by members of the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab (ETCL). Entries drawn from “Open Social Scholarship Annotated Bibliography” (El Khatib et al. 2019) are marked with +. Entries drawn from “An Annotated Bibliography of Social Knowledge Creation” (Arbuckle et al. 2017) are identified with †. Unpublished annotations originally developed by Vitor Yano or Anna Honcharova through Mitacs Globalink internships in the ETCL (2018–2019) are marked by *; unpublished annotations developed by Alan Colín-Arce during his 2021 Mitacs Globalink internship in the ETCL are noted with Δ; unpublished annotations developed by Tyler Fontenot are noted with ▲. In addition, some annotations appear in other bibliographies in the Open Scholarship Press Collection: those written by Alyssa Arbuckle for the Community Annotated Bibliography are noted with ¤, and those written by Graham Jensen for the Connection Annotated Bibliography are noted with ζ.

This annotated bibliography is an output of the Open Scholarship Press. For related work, please see the Community, Connection, and Training bibliographies.




Annotations drawn from “Open Social Scholarship Annotated Bibliography” (El Khatib et al. 2019)

Annotations drawn from “An Annotated Bibliography of Social Knowledge Creation” (Arbuckle et al. 2017)


Annotations developed by Vitor Yano or Anna Honcharova


Annotations developed by Alan Colín-Arce

Annotations developed by Tyler Fontenot


Annotations developed by Alyssa Arbuckle for the Community Annotated Bibliography


Annotations developed by Graham Jensen for the Connection Annotated Bibliography

No comments here
Why not start the discussion?