The Future of Research Communications and e-Scholarship

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Modified: Thu, 26 May 2022 13:48:43 +0000
Published: 26 May 2022


The principles of the scholarly commons set the norms for activities in the scholarly commons. They start from the vision that scholarly communication needs to be as open and participatory as possible, and lay out the rules needed to achieve that. 

The principles can be used as:

  1. a framework for an agreement between researchers, funders, publishers, librarians, citizen scientists and others active in science and scholarship on how to make research open and participatory for anyone, anywhere
  2. a guide to decide how to practice and support research
  3. a basis for badging of activities as commons-compliant, by individuals and organizations

The principles are ambitious: they describe what to strive for, what that means in more concrete terms, and what is important in order to get there. At the same time, the principles are not confining: individuals and organizations can differ in the commons-compliant practices they adopt and in the speed at which they do so. For example, while scholarly objects should be open, FAIR and citable, there may be reasons for researchers (especially in social sciences and humanities) to remain anonymous, and the commons should accommodate for that.

Also, the commons can thrive alongside other systems of scholarly communication – in so far as these do not prohibit participation in the commons. For example, the commons does not deny or preclude the existence of external reward systems (e.g. criteria for promotion and tenure), but those should not limit making research openly available and accessible.

The principles themselves do not describe what the scholarly commons should look like and how it should be organized and governed. That is up to participants to decide, using the principles to guide their practices. This can involve choosing existing systems and platforms to carry out and disseminate research, as well as creating new solutions. 

The principles are a beginning, not an end: they can only become meaningful when individuals and organizations in various disciplines and cultures critically consider them and try to answer the question: are we ready to define the scholarly commons?


Principles of the scholarly commons

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P1. The scholarly commons is an agreement among knowledge producers and users.

This means that:

  • The commons is developed by its members through their practice
  • There is global commitment and participation in the commons’ long-term viability and preservation

P2. Research and knowledge should be freely available to all who wish to use or reuse it.

This means that:

  • The commons is open by default
  • Scholarly objects and content in the commons is  FAIR:  findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable by humans and machines

P3. Participation in the production and use of knowledge should be open to all who wish to participate.

This means that:

  • The commons welcomes and encourages participants of all backgrounds
  • The commons is open to all participants who accept its principles




In order to effect these principles, participants in the commons agree that:

R1: The rewards for participating in the commons are access, opportunity and attribution

This means that:

  • Provenance of objects in the commons should be transparent and persistent
  • The commons has no intrinsic hierarchies, rankings, or reward systems

R2: The commons is agnostic regarding form and technology

This means that:

  • The commons exists independently of technology, funding, and business models that support and enable it
  • The commons accepts all contributed objects that adhere to its guidelines on an equal basis regardless of form, genre or approaches

R3: (Use of) external systems or technology, including reward systems, must not harm the commons.

This means that:

  • The form research is disseminated in is determined by the needs of the research itself
  • All activities and outputs that take place in in the commons remain in the commons