Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version


Document Type



White paper

Contributors: Micah Altman, Chris Bourg, Philip Cohen, G. Sayeed Choudhury, Charles Henry, Sue Kriegsman, Mary Minow, Daisy Selematsela, Anasuya Sengupta, Peter Suber, Ece Turnator, Suzanne Wallen, Trevor Owens, and David Weinberger

doi: 10.21428/62b3421f


Copyright 2018, the authors. Open access material.

License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0).


Identifying Grand Challenges

A global and multidisciplinary community of stakeholders came together in March 2018 to identify, scope, and prioritize a common vision for specific grand research challenges related to the fields of information science and scholarly communications. The participants included domain researchers in academia, practitioners, and those who are aiming to democratize scholarship. An explicit goal of the summit was to identify research needs related to barriers in the development of scalable, interoperable, socially beneficial, and equitable systems for scholarly information; and to explore the development of non-market approaches to governing the scholarly knowledge ecosystem.

To spur discussion and exploration, grand challenge provocations were suggested by participants and framed into one of three sections: scholarly discovery, digital curation and preservation, and open scholarship. A few people participated in three segments, but most only attended discussions around a single topic.

To create the guest list of desired participants within our three workshop target areas we invited a distribution of expertise providing diversity across several facets. In addition to having expertise in the specific focus area, we aimed for the participants in each track to be diverse across sectors, disciplines, and regions of the world. Each track had approximately 20-25 people from different parts of the world—including the United States, European Union, South Africa, and India. Domain researchers brought perspectives from a range of scientific disciplines, while practitioners brought perspectives from different roles (drawn from commercial, non-profit, and governmental sectors). Notwithstanding, we were constrained by our social networks, and by the location of the workshop in Cambridge, Massachusetts— and most of the participants were affiliated with US and European institutions.

During our discussions, it quickly became clear that the grand challenges themselves cannot be neatly categorized into discovery, curation and preservation, and open scholarship—or even, for that matter, limited to library science and information sciences. Several cross-cutting themes emerged, such as a strong need to include underrepresented voices and communities outside of mainstream publishing and academic institutions, a need to identify incentives that will motivate people to make changes in their own approaches and processes toward a more open and trusted framework, and a need to identify collaborators and partners from multiple disciplines in order to build strong programs.

The discussions were full of energy, insights, and enthusiasm for inclusive participation—and concluded with a desire for a global call to action to spark changes that will enable more equitable and open scholarship. Some important and productive tensions surfaced in our discussions, particularly around the best paths forward on the challenges we identified. On many core topics, however, there was widespread agreement among participants, especially on the urgent need to address the exclusion of knowledge production and access of so many people around the globe, and the troubling overrepresentation in the scholarly record of white, male, English-language voices. Ultimately, all agreed that we have an obligation to better enrich and greatly expand this space so that our communities can be catalysts for change.

Towards a more inclusive, open, equitable, and sustainable scholarly knowledge ecosystem: Vision; Broadest impacts; Recommendations for broad impact.

Research landscape: Challenges, threats, and barriers; Challenges to participation in the research community; Restrictions on forms of knowledge; Threats to integrity and trust; Threats to the durability of knowledge; Threats to individual agency; Incentives to sustain a scholarly knowledge ecosystem that is inclusive, equity, trustworthy, and sustainable; Grand Challenges research areas; Recommendations for research areas and programs.

Targeted research questions, research challenges: Legal economic, policy, and organizational design for enduring, equitable, open scholarship; Measuring, predicting, and adapting to use and utility across scholarly communities; Designing and governing algorithms in the scholarly knowledge ecosystem to support accountability, credibility, and agency; Integrating oral and tacit knowledge into the scholarly knowledge ecosystem.

Integrating research, practice, and policy: The need for leadership to coordinate research, policy, and practice initiatives; Role of libraries and archives as advocates and collaborators; Incorporating values of openness, sustainability, and equity into scholarly infrastructure and practice; Funders, catalysts, and coordinators; Recommendations for integrating research, practice, and policy.