Why Open Matters

There are many efforts to “open” education and scholarship: open access, open data, open educational resources, open licensing, open pedagogy, open scholarship, open science, open source, and more. But why are we opening all these things?

We are motivated to open these things to improve education, research, and other knowledge practices, looking to increase access, affordability, engagement, efficacy, reproducibility, and more. We foster openness as an improvement to knowledge practices because in turn, we believe that improved knowledge practices will benefit both individuals and the common good, generating better knowledge, more widely shared, and therefore justice, equality and progress.

But the existence of things like open educational resources, open licenses, open data, or open-source software do not by themselves guarantee that people benefit in their efforts overall as students, teachers, researchers, scholars or librarians, or that their success in turn improves our common good.

Sometimes we get so caught up in providing open resources or in establishing the necessary conditions for openness that we mistake that work as the ends, when it is only the means. In order for the benefits of openness to develop and persist, it is not enough that open just be technically possible or that open artefacts exist. Openness is not the goal, it is a mechanism.

People must be equipped and practice to succeed with open. We need to actively support not only infrastructure and materials, but also communities and practices that build motivation, understanding, skills, and values for people to engage over time for their own benefit and the public, common good.

Openness is our vehicle, not our destination.

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