Putting Open Social Scholarship into Practice

Alyssa Arbuckle 

Alyssa Arbuckle ( is the Associate Director of the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab at the University of Victoria, where she is Operational Lead for the Implementing New Knowledge Environments Partnership and a co-facilitator of its Connection cluster. With her colleagues Randa El Khatib and Ray Siemens she is a Co-Director of the Digital Humanities Summer Institute. Alyssa holds an interdisciplinary PhD from the University of Victoria; her dissertation focused on open social scholarship and its implementation.

University of Victoria

Caroline Winter 

Caroline Winter is the Open Scholarship Facilitator in the ETCL (Electronic Textual Cultures Lab), where she contributes to various open scholarship initiatives including the Open Scholarship Policy Observatory and the Open Knowledge Program. She is also a PhD candidate in the English department at the University of Victoria, where she studies British Romantic literature with a focus on the Gothic.

University of Victoria

Ray Siemens 

Ray Siemens ( directs the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab, the Implementing New Knowledge Environments Partnership, and the Digital Humanities Summer Institute. He is Distinguished Professor in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Victoria, in English and Computer Science, and past Canada Research Chair in Humanities Computing (2004-15). In 2019-20, he was also Leverhulme Visiting Professor at Loughborough U and he is the current Global Innovation Chair in Digital Humanities at U Newcastle (2019-22).

University of Victoria

Tully Barnett 

Tully Barnett is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Industries at Flinders University in South Australia. She is an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award Fellow for a project called ‘Digitization and the Immersive Reading Experience”. She is a Chief Investigator for the ARC funded projects “Laboratory Adelaide: The Value of Culture” and ‘Slow Digitization, community heritage and the objects of Martindale Hall’. She is a member of the executive board of the Australasian Association for Digital Humanities and the advisory board of the Australasian Consortium for Humanities Researchers and Centres.

Flinders University

October 31, 2022 

It is difficult to consider open scholarship in the early 2020s without referencing the elephant in the room: the shared global context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This strange and challenging time illuminated many cracks in global-scale infrastructure and nation-level societal priorities, and it also shone a light on the critical importance of open access to research and data. Commenting on this situation in a December 2020 article for The Conversation, Ginny Barbour, Director of Open Access Australasia, argues that “making it the default that research is open so it can be built on is a crucial step to ensure we can address [...] problems collaboratively.” But, vital as such a call is, perhaps it is not quite as easy as simply deciding to make open the default in research, or in scholarship more broadly. As Martin Paul Eve and Jonathan Gray write in the introduction to their recent collection Reassembling Scholarly Communications: Histories, Infrastructures, and Global Politics of Open Access (2020), open access can be “intensely messy” (10). Further, they suggest, “open access is perceived through a set of contested institutional histories, argued over various theoretical terrains in the present, and imagined via diverse potentialities for the future” (Eve and Gray 2020, 10). Open social scholarship shares a similarly complex layering of histories, theories, and possibilities—increasingly apparent as open social scholarship grows and evolves across disciplinary and geographic divides.

Within this complex terrain of urgent calls for open access, convoluted academic histories, and multiple contexts of open scholarship and social knowledge creation, how do we put theory and values into action? This is one of the key questions that the Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) Partnership grapples with through their exploration and development of the concept of open social scholarship. An action-oriented approach, open social scholarship is “academic practice that enables the creation, dissemination, and engagement of open research by specialists and non-specialists in accessible and significant ways” (INKE Partnership n.d.). Open social scholarship builds on the already complex and layered concepts of open access, open scholarship, and social knowledge creation. Rather than accepting open access as the endgame for scholarly communication, open social scholarship asks what is possible and necessary beyond straightforward access to research output. Such an endeavour aims to shift the default from publishing research for relatively insular research communities (and sometimes into the ether) to fostering intellectual engagement and broad, inclusive communities around areas of shared interest.

Similarly, an open social scholarship approach recognizes that faculty members are far from the only stakeholders and participants in knowledge creation. Rather, we understand scholarly communication as a social ecosystem comprising intersecting communities of researchers, librarians and information professionals, publishers, and broader publics, as well as an epistemological ecosystem comprising multiple knowledges and knowledge-holders (Burke 2000, 2012). These ecosystems are global in scale and founded on infrastructure that includes not only technological components but also policy, information, and human and non-human actors.

The need for secure, robust digital research infrastructure has become especially pressing in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Taking a crisis-response approach, for instance, Invest in Open Infrastructure’s report from the Future of Open Scholarship Project calls for community-led and -developed infrastructure that can be adapted quickly to meet the needs of researchers, publics, and other stakeholders in the face of future global crises (Goudarzi et al. 2021). Committing to robust and sustainable systems is thus key for open social scholarship in the long term, in terms of technological capacity and stable funding. Human capacity is also essential in the form of expertise in infrastructure development and maintenance as well as the management, curation, and preservation of data across the disciplines (Bryant, Lavoie, and Malpas 2017; Cooper et al. 2020). Moreover, a cultural shift is needed in order for this kind of work to be recognized and valued as essential to the research enterprise and as scholarship in its own right.

Such a cultural shift recognizes the interconnected and interdependent nature of scholarly communication writ large. Alongside this shift is increasing momentum behind efforts to recognize multiple knowledges and ways of knowing. In addition, the research community is increasingly addressing long overdue efforts to acknowledge and end extractive and colonial research practices and infrastructures (Chan et al. 2020; Gaudry 2011). As one example among many, Indigenous communities and GLAM professionals are collaborating to revise harmful language in library and archives metadata to more accurately describe those communities and their cultures in their own terms (see, for example, Blair and Wong 2017; Farnel et al. 2018).

Policy is an important driver of open social scholarship in local and international contexts. Canada’s Tri-Agency Research Data Management Policy, released in 2021, codifies best practices for managing research data—including making it as open as possible and creating robust metadata—that enables data sharing and reuse, collaboration, and other forms of open social scholarship (Government of Canada 2021). Plan S was launched in 2018 as a European initiative but is now global in scale, with members from Africa, the Middle East, and the US; the first Canadian funder—the Fonds de recherche du Québec—joined in June 2021 (Gouvernement du Québec 2021). In 2021, UNESCO released its Recommendation on Open Science, providing a global framework intended to guide policy and practice from the individual to the international level (UNESCO 2021).

Running through all of these examples—and through open social scholarship as a whole—is the idea that collaboration is essential for the vitality and sustenance of research. Through collaboration, individuals and institutions can harness economies of scale for the benefit of all. For instance, the Canadian Association of Research Libraries, which represents 29 university libraries across Canada, collaborated with the European open science organization OpenAIRE to develop Canada Explore. Canada Explore is a portal for discovering and accessing Canadian research. In addition to achieving economies of scale, collaboration is essential for addressing challenges that are too formidable and complex to solve alone. As discussed above, the COVID-19 pandemic is the most salient example of collaborative open scholarship: one that has revealed its power and its unrealized potential for solving current and future health crises as well as existential challenges such as climate change.

In December 2021, participants came together for two days at an online event called Putting Open Social Scholarship into Practice to discuss these topics and more. Featured panelists, lightning talk presenters, session chairs, and audience members discussed and debated many key open social scholarship issues and trends. This event built on previous years’ meetings and discussions of both the INKE Partnership and the Canadian–Australian Partnership for Open Scholarship (CAPOS).1 Putting Open Social Scholarship into Practice was the third annual gathering of the CAPOS group and the ninth annual winter gathering of the INKE Partnership.2 It brought together over 150 students, librarians, researchers, and administrators from around the world to discuss open social scholarship, with specific focus on priorities for researchers and partners; community concerns; pragmatic approaches; publication; and considerations specific to the humanities, arts, and social sciences. Event presenters hailed from across Australia and Canada, as well as from Europe and the United States, and the event had registered attendees from all of these nations as well as Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. This participant group from around the world brought in a multiplicity of perspectives and experiences on the form, function, and facilitation of open social scholarship. This special issue encapsulates some of the key discussions from Putting Open Social Scholarship into Practice, with the hope that these conversations will continue beyond this publication too.

The INKE Partnership is a North American-based research network with the goal of fostering open social scholarship, as referenced above. For over a decade, the INKE Partnership has brought together experts and leaders with the aim of realizing open, inclusive, and publicly engaged scholarship that serves both academic interests and society at large. This group includes researchers, partners, librarians, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and research staff from across Canada and Australia. Coordinated by the Canadian Social Knowledge Institute (C-SKI)3 at the University of Victoria, the INKE Partnership works to address challenges in scholarly communication by providing broad access to research, community training, public engagement, and policy recommendations. This public-facing work helps to make open social scholarship in Canada both viable and usable.

CAPOS is a collaboration between Canadian and Australian researchers, policy makers, libraries, computing organizations, research groups, and postsecondary institutions to advance the understanding of, and resolve crucial issues in, the production, distribution, and engagement of scholarship that is open and digital. This partnership draws upon both countries’ positive track records of participating in and influencing the international consideration of open social scholarship issues. CAPOS works towards implementing elements of open scholarship policy and practice from the international sphere in national, regional, and local contexts—work that is possible because of the complementarity of governmental and academic institutional structures and legal frameworks in Canada and Australia. In sum, CAPOS aims to make open scholarship more efficient and more impactful for the specific national contexts of Canada and Australia, while feeding back into and participating in larger, global conversations around the creation, sharing, and preservation of research outputs.

INKE Partnership and CAPOS goals and objectives run through this special issue. Deb Verhoeven casts a critical eye on the very concept of openness in academia and calls on the community to approach open scholarship questions conscientiously in “Scholarship in a Clopen World.” In “Open, Collaborative Commons: Web3, Blockchain, and Next Steps for the Canadian Humanities and Social Sciences Commons,” Talya Jesperson and Graham Jensen consider how emerging technologies like blockchain might interact with in-development digital research infrastructure, and John Maxwell thinks through the role of community-oriented peer review in “The Care-ful Reviewer: Peer Review as if People Mattered.” Zoltan Kacsuk, Magnus Pfeffer, Simone Schroff, and Martin Roth provide a glimpse into applying open standards to a digital humanities project in “Harmonizing Open Licenses among Online Databases of Enthusiast Communities: Challenges Encountered in the Legal Integration of Databases in the Japanese Visual Media Graph Project.” Finally, in “From Pamphlet Wars to PDFs: The Shadow History of Research Publishing by Organizations,” Amanda Lawrence digs into the development of scholarly publishing.

Conference recordings

In addition, conference presenters shared recordings of their lightning talks prior to the event proper. Readers can access many of these recordings here to develop a fuller understanding of community discussions at Putting Open Social Scholarship into Practice:

This special issue draws together diverse contributions that reflect a range of topics connected to open social scholarship. The INKE Partnership and CAPOS communities, comprising various members across differing professional and disciplinary lines, are taking a close look at their work and asking themselves how they might undertake it in more open and more social ways—how they might put open social scholarship into practice.


Arbuckle, Alyssa, Alex Christie, and Lynne Siemens, with Aaron Mauro and the Implementing New Knowledge Environments Research Group, eds. 2016. Special Issue, Scholarly and Research Communication 7 (2). Proceedings of the INKE-hosted gathering “New Knowledge Models: Sustaining Partnerships to Transform Scholarly Production,” 19 January 2016, Whistler, BC, Canada.

Arbuckle, Alyssa, Constance Crompton, and Aaron Mauro, eds. 2014. Special Issue, Scholarly and Research Communication 5 (4). Proceedings of the INKE-hosted gathering “Building Partnerships to Transform Scholarly Production,” 5–6 February 2014, Whistler, BC, Canada.

Arbuckle, Alyssa, Rachel Hendery, Luis Meneses, and Ray Siemens, eds. 2020. Special Issue, Pop! Public. Open. Participatory 2. Combined proceedings of the INKE-hosted gathering “Open Scholarship for the 2020s,” 14–15 January 2020, Victoria, BC, Canada, and the CAPOS-hosted gathering “Knowledge Creation in the 21st Century,” 6–7 December 2019, Newcastle, NSW, Australia.

Arbuckle, Alyssa, Graham Jensen, Tully Barnett, and Ray Siemens, eds. 2021. Special Issue, Pop! Public. Open. Participatory 3. Proceedings of the INKE and CAPOS-hosted gathering “Engaging Open Social Scholarship,” 8–10 December 2020, online.

Arbuckle, Alyssa, Aaron Mauro, and Lynne Siemens, eds. 2015. Special Issue, Scholarly and Research Communication 6 (2), 6 (3), 6 (4). Proceedings of the INKE-hosted gatherings “Research Foundations for Understanding Books and Reading in the Digital Age: Emerging Reading, Writing, and Research Practices,” 8 December 2014, Sydney, NSW, Australia, and “Sustaining Partnerships to Transform Scholarly Production,” 27 January 2015, Whistler, BC, Canada.

Arbuckle, Alyssa, Luis Meneses, and Ray Siemens, eds. 2019. Special Issue, Pop! Public. Open. Participatory 1. Proceedings of the INKE-hosted gathering “Understanding and Enacting Open Scholarship,” 16–17 January 2019, Victoria, BC, Canada.

Barbour, Ginny. 2020. “Science Publishing Has Opened Up During the Coronavirus Pandemic. It Won’t Be Easy to Keep it That Way.” The Conversation, 27 July 2020.

Blair, Julie, and Desmond Wong. 2017. “Moving in the Circle: Indigenous Solidarity for Canadian Libraries.” Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research 12 (2).

Bryant, Rebecca, Brian Lavoie, and Constance Malpas. 2017. “The Realities of Research Data Management Part One: A Tour of the Research Data Management (RDM) Service Space.”

Burke, Peter. 2000. A Social History of Knowledge: From Gutenberg to Diderot. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

———. 2012. A Social History of Knowledge II: From the Encyclopédie to Wikipedia. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Chan, Leslie, Budd Hall, Florence Piron, Rajesh Tandon, and Lorna Williams. 2020. “Open Science Beyond Open Access: For and With Communities. A Step Towards the Decolonization of Knowledge.” The Canadian Commission for UNESCO’s IdeaLab.

Cooper, Alexandra, Carol Perry, Andrea Szwajcer, Minglu Wang, and Shahira Khair. 2020. “Institutional Research Data Management Services Capacity Survey: Executive Summary.”

Eve, Martin Paul, and Jonathan Gray, eds. 2020. Reassembling Scholarly Communications: Histories, Infrastructures, and Global Politics of Open Access. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Farnel, Sharon, Denise Koufogiannakis, Ian Bigelow, Anne Carr-Wiggin, Debbie Feisst, Kayla Lar-Son, and Sheila Laroque. 2018. “Unsettling Our Practices: Decolonizing Description at the University of Alberta Libraries.” The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion 2 (1/2): 98–101.

Gaudry, Adam J. P. 2011. “Insurgent Research.” Wicazo Sa Review 26 (1): 113–36.

Goudarzi, Saman, Katrina Pugh, Vanessa Rhinesmith, Heather Staines, and Kaitlin Thaney. 2021. “Designing a Preparedness Model for the Future of Open Scholarship.” Zenodo.

Gouvernement du Québec. 2021. “The Fonds de Recherche Du Québec Support Open Science by Joining COAlition S.” Gouvernement Du Québec (blog). June 21, 2021.

Government of Canada. 2021. “Tri-Agency Research Data Management Policy.” Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. March 15, 2021.

Huculak, J. Matthew. 2019. “The Methodologies of Open Social Scholarship.” KULA: Knowledge Creation, Dissemination, and Preservation Studies 3 (1): 1.

INKE Partnership. n.d. “About INKE.”

Meneses, Luis, Alyssa Arbuckle, and Ray Siemens, eds. 2019. Special Issue, KULA: Knowledge Creation, Dissemination, and Preservation Studies 3(1). Proceedings of the INKE-hosted gathering “Beyond Open: Implementing Social Scholarship,” 10–11 January 2018, Victoria, BC, Canada.

UNESCO. 2021. “UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science.” SC-PCB-SPP/2021/OS/UROS. Paris.

  1. See for more information on CAPOS. 

  2. For the proceedings from previous gatherings see Arbuckle, Jensen, Barnett, and Siemens 2021; Arbuckle, Hendery, Meneses, and Siemens 2020; Arbuckle, Meneses, and Siemens 2019; Meneses, Arbuckle, and Siemens 2019; Huculak 2019; Arbuckle, Christie, Siemens, et al. 2016; Arbuckle, Mauro, and Siemens 2015; Arbuckle, Crompton, and Mauro 2014. 

  3. See