Knowledge as a Public Good | SPARC
Virtually everyone today recognizes the difference between private goods between public goods and commons/common goods – the shared resources which people . It describes patterns of relationships between the resource and its users, how to adopt open source (rather than market-driven) values and structures. In economics, a common-pool resource (CPR) is a type of good consisting of a natural or Unlike pure public goods, common pool resources face problems of goods. When they are owned by no one, they are used as open access resources. Congruence between appropriation and provision rules and local conditions. Market Failures: Open-Access Resources, Public Goods, Etc. a single variable called fishing "Effort" or E. The long-run relationship between aggregate fishing.
Yet many alternative communities have developed their own sets of norms and rules to oversee their collective resources sustainably. Whether these commons are traditional rivers, forests, indigenous cultures or emerging solar energy, collaborative consumption, Internetself-organizing communities take collective action to preserve their local resources, both for themselves and for future generations.
When consumers choose to become co-producers of goods and services through their own commons, however, their mutual, integrative work transcends the premises of neoliberalism. When the users of resources are directly involved in the process of production, their local ideas, learning, imagination, deliberation and self-corrective action are embodied directly in their collaborative activities. Unlike commercial delivery chains or the bureaucratic provision of public goods and services by the state, the autonomy of individual choice is best assured through the cooperative production of value and governance by resource users themselves.
The decentralized, self-governing systems of co-production also offer fairer, more direct access to resources and thus higher efficiency than can be gained through distributive enterprises operated as private monopolies or state hierarchies.
Hence, common goods that are managed directly and locally constitute a realm of governance and production that moves beyond the modern division of labor. To establish social charters and commons trusts Discriminating common from public goods is a vital step in the development of covenants and institutions by stakeholders who depend on specific common goods for their livelihood and welfare.
When people across a community of practice or region take on the responsibility to sustain their own resources, they may formalize this through a social charter. It describes patterns of relationships between the resource and its users, managers and producers. Social charters have been developed for forests, pastures, irrigation systems, aquifers, springs, lakes, fisheries, knowledge, genetic resources, public health, energy, landscapes, historic sites, cultural areas and political security regions.
Social charters can also be applied to many other domains. To make them operational, resource users and producers may develop a legal entity or fiduciary association of citizen stakeholders which operates as a trust. Commons trusts are generally created to preserve depletable resources natural, materialbut many replenishable commons social, cultural, intellectual, digital, solar can also benefit from trusts that ensure their regeneration.
For example, trusts can be developed for oil fields, aquifers and the atmosphere to ensure their long-term viability. Having protected a commons safely for future generations, the trust may rent a proportion of the resources under the cap to the private sector or to state businesses and utilities for extraction and production. A percentage of this rent could be taxed by the state and redistributed to citizens as dividends or subsistence income, with emphasis on the poor and socially marginalized.
Rental or user fees may also be reinvested in the rehabilitation of depleted resources such as land, rivers, oceans, atmosphere and the enhancement of replenishable resources arts, collaborative knowledge, digital codes, solar energy.
A full-spectrum, commons-based economy could thus be created through a variety of such trusts: Without a credible political mandate, civil society typically challenges specific applications of global authority but rarely its underlying structure. In affirming and upholding the constitutional premises of neoliberalism including the primacy of individual rights, private property and sovereign bordersmost civil society organizations support the embedded division of labor between producers and consumers and thus the enclosure of the commons.
This leaves civil society co-dependent on business and government and vulnerable to exploitation. Unable to stand as a true opposition party, civil society faces a huge obstacle in establishing itself as a transformational alternative. Here is where civil society can learn from commons groups the importance of involving resource users in the process of production.
As noted earlier, the commons involve producers who consume their own goods. When resource users are also co-producers, their motivations, knowledge and skills become part of the production praxis, leading to new ways of interacting and coordinating social and economic life. A new production and governance logic of learning-by-doing then becomes possible. Civil society could apply this principle in its own work by embracing these innovative means of co-production and co-governance.
By operating both as resource users and as producers, enabling local stakeholders to develop their own political power, civil society groups could expand the scope of collective rights, moral legitimacy and civic power that exists beyond the state.
The increased participation and political choices offered to citizens through these new accountability structures would transform economic, social and political decision-making at all levels of commons local, state, interstate, regional, and global. To vest sovereignty in global citizens Discriminating common goods from public goods is crucial in recognizing our essential rights to the commons as global citizens. As national citizens, we empower governments through an implicit social contract, bestowing legitimacy and authority upon the state in return for the public goods of protection, security, infrastructure and other services.
In surrendering our deeply personal, subjective power of decision-making to government which redeploys this power by granting corporations the right to produce and dispense private goodsthe idea of an active citizenship with identity and purpose is gravely weakened. The inalienable rights of people originate, not in authority over a territorial area, but through a customary or emerging identification with an ecology; a form of collective labor; a social technology; a community need or shared conviction; a cultural resource area; an ethnic, religious and linguistic affinity; or a historical identity.
When groups of people recognize that the capacity of their commons to support life and development is in decline, this may spur them to claim long-term authority over resources, governance and social value as their planetary birthrights, both at a community and global level. The human need for sustenance and livelihood vests these local groups with a new moral and social responsibility: Rather than seek individual or civil rights from the state, commoners declare their sovereign rights as global citizens to protect, access, produce, manage and use this shared resource.
But this model is virtually meaningless at the multilateral level where there is no representative authority either through individual states in association or a global institutional framework to provide public goods to the citizens of the world. When a state competes across borders for economic resources commodities, investment, credit or political resources strategic surpluses, military advantage, diplomatic sanctionsthese goods are certainly rivalrous.
Likewise, when a state fails to provide food, developmental assistance or technological transfers to alleviate poverty for its own citizens or those in other nations, millions of people are clearly excluded from access to these goods. Yet the liberal myth of global public goods has tentacles everywhere. Under the present system of strong state sovereignty, noninterference across borders and limited multilateral cooperation, governments refuse to establish a representative basis for global resource sovereignty.
To create a new global social contract For legitimate forms of commons democracy to be rooted in and distributed across all political communities, a major reconfiguration of socio-economic relations, rules and institutions is needed. To this end, common goods offer the possibility of a legal and constitutional basis for democratic global governance. By this means, national sovereign authority may be renegotiated in terms of commons resource areas and bioregions.
With the copyright holder's consent, we can remove the legal barriers which obstruct free sharing.
Why Distinguish Common Goods from Public Goods? | The Wealth of the Commons
Without the copyright holder's consent, we can get the same or better result if we wait for the copyright to expire. But here I'll focus on methods that don't require delays of up to a century or more: Both green OA and gold OA rely on copyright-holder consent. As a practical matter, the expiration of copyright is only a legal basis for OA when we are talking about digitizing old texts, not distributing new ones.
Authors are the copyright holders until they decide to transfer their rights away, for example, to a publisher. If they authorize OA while they are still the copyright holders, then authors can make their works into public goods. If they transfer their rights to an OA journal and the journal uses the rights to authorize OA, then the journal can make the works into public goods.
When journals don't allow even that, authors can try to retain the right to authorize OA themselves. Can we make copyrighted texts into public goods even when publishers are unwilling to authorize it and unwilling to let authors retain the right to authorize it?
Again the answer is yes. Even in this case there are several lawful ways to make texts into public goods. The most effective is the method pioneered by the Wellcome Trust and now used by the NIH and about a dozen other funding agencies. It rests on the simple fact that funders are upstream from publishers.
Authors sign funding contracts before they sign publishing contracts. If the funding contract requires authors to retain key rights and use them to authorize OA, then the author's eventual publisher comes on the scene too late to interfere. The trick is to keep the relevant rights in the hands of someone who will authorize OA. Publishers like to use the language of expropriation when protesting the NIH policy, as if publishers owned the relevant rights and the NIH seized them or blocked their exercise.
Authors retain them, use them to authorize OA, and only transfer the rest of the bundle to publishers. Publishers have the right to refuse to publish work by Wellcome- or NIH-funded authors, but they choose not to exercise it. The NIH, for example, is putting publishers to the choice of accommodating the policy or refusing the publish NIH-funded research.
This is hard bargaining, not expropriation. It's just what publishers have been doing to authors, in order to make research a private good, until some funders took the side of authors, in order to make research a public good. Green OA mandates at universities represent one way to generalize the funder approach. Universities and funders are two different institutions, with different kinds of influence over publishing scholars, using their influence to make research texts into public goods.
Instead of making OA a condition of funding, they can make it a condition of employment. Or faculty, seeing the benefits of OA, can self-impose this condition on themselves. At 16 universities, OA policies have been self-imposed by unanimous votes. Since then unanimous votes by the relevant bodies have occurred, or come to light, at University College London, Copenhagen Business School, the York University librarians, and Venezuela's Universidad de Oriente.
When you pay for something, insist on getting what you want.
It's remarkable how little this method has been used by universities. Roads are public goods which we generally succeed in treating as public goods. By contrast, knowledge is a public good whose most important embodiments and manifestations we treat as private commodities, despite the ease of taking a different course and despite the palpable harm our present course inflicts on research, health care, the environment, public safety, and every aspect of life which depends on research.
How did we avoid this problem with roads? What can we learn from roads? We treat roads as public goods when we don't require users to pay to use them, which would exclude drivers who can't afford to pay. This, by the way, is what's wrong with the cost-recovery model for public data: But we don't expect road builders to donate their labor and materials. Instead, we pay them upfront so that they don't have to decline the job, work as volunteers, or seek their compensation after the fact by installing toll booths.
If we want a toll-free road and offer to pay for one, we can find usually find a first-class road builder willing to make one for us. Governments get the kinds of roads they want because they ask for them. They contract for them.
It helps that governments are just about the only entities buying roads. That inclines road builders to listen when governments describe what they want. Universities should be just as specific in saying what kinds of journals they want. It should help that universities are just about the only entities buying peer-reviewed scholarly journals.
When I say that universities buy journals, of course I mean university libraries. But want to spotlight the larger institution in order to broaden the responsibility for change. If we are going to take any deliberate steps toward the road-building model for journals, the steps will be more successful if approved by university administrators, not just librarians. There are some important differences between road builders and publishers, of course.
For example, road builders concentrate on custom work. Every job is a one-off, built to the specs of a client.
Road builders don't make many copies of a new road and hope to sell different copies to different buyers --a model which, where it exists, reduces the bargaining power of individual buyers. As a result publishers have more bargaining power with universities than road builders have with governments.
A related difference is that there are often many road builders bidding for the same job. Governments commissioning roads enjoy the benefits of a buyer's market. If a road builder insists on an unacceptable condition, the government can usually deny the bid, look elsewhere, and get what it wants.
Another difference is that when several governments with a common interest commission a road together, they face no anti-trust problems. A final difference --to cut the list short-- is that governments tend to care only about the quality and price of roads and road builders, not their prestige.
These differences are reasons not to expect the same solution for scholarship. But they don't foreclose an analogous solution. Universities and libraries could demand change as a condition of their enormous annual layouts for journals. There's no contradiction, by the way, in "paying for" a "toll-free" journal. I'm imagining that universities, individually or collectively, would pay for the production of a journal but insist that the journal be OA, or free even for those who don't pay.
The situation is the same for a government "paying for" a "toll-free" road. Here we have to work through some of the differences between road builders and publishers. Universities won't have much bargaining power as long as publishers put out "must-have" journals and universities are unwilling to cancel. We're still in that epoch, but we're in the late stages. Decades of hyperinflationary price increases are pushing us past it. Every year universities cancel journals that were "must-have" just a few years earlier.
The longer subscription journal prices rise faster than inflation, the more universities will be forced to cancel valued titles, and the more realistically they can threaten to cancel others in the future.
Though we're still moiling through this historical change, after a critical point universities will be able to tell publishers, "This is what we want. If you can't provide it, we'll find someone who will. If you don't want it, we'll sell to others who do. The very idea of a toll free road is new and unheard of. Then imagine a town trying to commission a toll-free road.
The road builder might say, "No, sorry. That's not what I do. I can build you a toll road. Take it or leave it. It makes a huge difference who can say "take it or leave it" in a negotiation. Right now publishers tend to hold that privileged position. But as prices and cancellations keep rising, the positions are reversing. Even apart from the average balance of bargaining power, slowly shifting to universities, there is the bargaining power over specific titles.
The desirability of journals is a matter of degree, despite the binary sound of "must-have". Some high-demand journals may be unthreatened by all recent developments. But the set of unthreatened journals is shrinking, and set for which universities could modify basic terms to better serve research and researchers is growing. For a growing number of journals overall, universities could cancel, threaten to cancel, or bargain effectively, if they wanted to.
If we don't want to wait for slow processes to shift more bargaining power to universities, then concerted action could change the picture overnight. If anti-trust law blocks concerted action, universities could achieve much the same result by making individual, independent, convergent requests of publishers. This is feasible to the extent that universities really do have a common interest say in OA, and could start to demand what they want, separately and without coordination.
In general, publishers have more bargaining power than universities today because they are more aggressive in acting on their own interests, not because they act as a cartel. Universities could be more aggressive in acting on their own interests and avoid any whiff of cartel.
If concerted university action does raise anti-trust problems, on which I have no opinion, then note the irony that in this case anti-trust law would not block a private monopoly opposing the public interest but block a public good advancing the public interest. Universities that act alone for better terms from publishers are as unlikely to succeed as workers who ask for raises alone.
But universities can act together without acting as a cartel if critical numbers of them become courageous about seeking their own interests at about the same time. Without critical numbers and critical timing, early requests will simply be rejected. But as soon as some large institutions or clusters of institutions start to win concessions, it will be easier for the next institutions to make the same requests and build on the momentum.
To adapt a point I made last December: But after a point, when other OA initiatives have had their effect, and more TA [toll access] publishers have adapted to an OA world, universities will encounter fewer flat refusals and the [university demands for better terms] will trigger more publisher accommodation than publisher resistance. Enlightened [universities] will be watching for that moment and testing the waters.
Because the odds of success soar as more universities adopt similar policies, or because followers take fewer risks than leaders, [university demands for OA from publishers] may spread quickly once they are adopted.
Finally, as I argued elsewhere in the same piece, the recession adds a new layer of opportunity: It may sound strange to call the financial crisis an opportunity for governments.