The current discourse around Open Science has tended to focus on the creation of new technological platforms and tools to facilitate sharing and reuse of a wide range of research outputs.
There is an assumption that once these new tools are in place, researchers—and at times, members of the general public—will be able to participate in the creation of scientific knowledge in more accessible and efficient ways.
While many of these new tools have indeed assisted in the ease of collaboration through online spaces and mechanisms, the narrowness of how infrastructure is imagined by open science practitioners tends to put the use of technology ahead of the issues that people are actually trying to solve and fails to acknowledge the systemic constraints that exist within and between some communities.
Drawing on an analytical framework grounded in Black feminist intersectionality (Noble 2016), this paper highlights the need for more inclusive knowledge infrastructures, particularly in the context of sustainable development. Three case studies from the Open and Collaborative Science in Development Network (OCSDNet), are outlined in order to illustrate the importance of moving beyond a definition of infrastructure as merely a technical or physical entity.
These cases, arising from research conducted in South Africa, Brazil, and the Caribbean, demonstrate how more sustainable and nuanced forms of collaboration and participation may be enabled through broader understandings of knowledge infrastructures.
This paper further argues that leveraging the feminist concept of intersectionality when conceptualizing the development of knowledge infrastructures could be one way to move from narrow assumptions about standardized knowledge “users” towards more inclusive reimaginings of how knowledges can be produced and shared via networked technologies.
Given that “Open Science” is becoming a popular policy object around the world, this study sought to identify key narratives about Open Science in policy, and critically examine the extent to which they are sustaining or strengthening multi-layered domination and inequality schemes that pre-exist in scientific knowledge production.
To do so, we conducted a content analysis of Open Science policies stemming from Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia and Africa to understand which narratives about Open Science policies are produced, reproduced and by whom; and in turn, whose interests may be neglected in this process.
We found that Open Science policies, mostly stemming from Europe, frame “openness” as a vehicle to promote technological change as part of an inevitable and necessary cultural shift to modernity in scientific production.
The global reach of these narratives, and the technologies, standards and models these narratives sustain, are dictating modes of working and collaborating among those who can access them, and creating new categories of exclusion that invalidate knowledge that cannot meet this criteria, putting historically marginalized researchers and publics at further disadvantage.
What is open science and under what conditions could it contribute towards addressing persistent development challenges? How could we re-imagine and enrich open science so that it is inclusive of local realities and a diversity of knowledge traditions?
These are some of the questions that the Open and Collaborative Science in Development Network (OCSDNet) is attempting to answer.
In this paper, we provide the rationale and principles underlying OCSDnet, the conceptual and methodological frameworks guiding the research, and preliminary findings from the network’s twelve globally diverse research projects.
Instead of a “one-size-fits-all” approach to open science, our findings suggest that it is important to take into account the local dynamics and power structures that affect the ways in which individuals tend to collaborate (or not) within particular contexts.
Despite the on-going resistance of powerful actors towards new forms of creating and sharing diverse knowledge, concluding evidence from the twelve research teams suggests that open science does indeed have an important role to play in facilitating inclusive collaboration and transformatory possibilities for development.