Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, December 11, 2006

Knowledge as a commons

Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom (eds.), Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice, MIT Press, 2006.  From MIT's blurb:

Knowledge in digital form offers unprecedented access to information through the Internet but at the same time is subject to ever-greater restrictions through intellectual property legislation, overpatenting, licensing, overpricing, and lack of preservation. Looking at knowledge as a commons --as a shared resource-- allows us to understand both its limitless possibilities and what threatens it. In Understanding Knowledge as a Commons, experts from a range of disciplines discuss the knowledge commons in the digital era --how to conceptualize it, protect it, and build it.

Contributors consider the concept of the commons historically and offer an analytical framework for understanding knowledge as a shared social-ecological system. They look at ways to guard against enclosure of the knowledge commons, considering, among other topics, the role of research libraries, the advantages of making scholarly material available outside the academy, and the problem of disappearing Web pages. They discuss the role of intellectual property in a new knowledge commons, the open access movement (including possible funding models for scholarly publications), the development of associational commons, the application of a free/open source framework to scientific knowledge, and the effect on scholarly communication of collaborative communities within academia, and offer a case study of EconPort, an open access, open source digital library for students and researchers in microeconomics. The essays clarify critical issues that arise within these new types of commons --and offer guideposts for future theory and practice.

Contributors:  David Bollier, James Boyle, James C. Cox, Shubha Ghosh, Charlotte Hess, Nancy Kranich, Peter Levine, Wendy Pradt Lougee, Elinor Ostrom, Charles Schweik, Peter Suber, J. Todd Swarthout, Donald Waters


  • These articles arose from the Workshop on Scholarly Communication as a Commons, hosted by the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University, March 31-April 2, 2004.  But the book is more than a volume of conference proceedings.  We were asked to write out full-text articles before showing up, and we revised them thoroughly for publication in light of the workshop and post-workshop conversations themselves.  As a result, the book has more heft and coherence than most conference proceedings, thanks especially to Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom, the workshop organizers and book editors.
  • All the preprints are OA through Digital Library of the Commons (DLC), the OA repository for commons research hosted by Indiana University.  If you run a search in DLC on an author or title from the book's Table of Contents, you'll find the OA preprint.  I don't know how many postprints are OA at different sites around the web, but mine is:  Creating an Intellectual Commons through Open Access.   MIT is providing OA to the preface, glossary, and index.