Keynote 1 pptx

Wednesday 11 May 10.30 Cockcroft Theatre

Keynote 1: Towards the Triumph of the Commons

Martin Hall, Vice-Chancellor, University of Salford

Abstract: What is the case for open access to educational resources, both as a set of principles for the ways in which we use information and communication technologies for teaching, research and engagement in higher education, and also as a formative concept for the university, now and into the future? The last thirty or so years have seen gathering momentum towards complementing funding for teaching and research with so-called third stream income that is based on gaining a commercial return for our activities. There has been a parallel tendency in teaching provision. It is now commonplace to calibrate the cost of education in terms of the return on the investment in future earnings. Another way of looking at this is to think in terms of a shift from understanding education is a public good, to seeing it as a private benefit. If education is viewed overwhelmingly as a private benefit, it is logical to expect it to be paid for in the same way as any other service. How can open system approaches do better in advancing new knowledge and therefore in taking the university forward as an institution? A useful metaphor here is that of the village commons; the communal grazing grounds that were characteristic of the British countryside before enclosure. In a now-classic paper, this metaphor was used to argue for the inherent self-interestedness of individual groups in making choices. Of course, the knowledge cloud does not have the same properties as a field of grass. As Thomas Jefferson noted, the knowledge commons is not destroyed in its consumption and has properties of perpetual renewal that would have been regarded as miraculous by a shepherd concerned with fattening sheep for market. The particular success of the open source and open access movements has been the demonstration of the power and potential of shared interests rather than individual gain. Taken together, the infinite renewability of the knowledge commons, combined with the pervasive respect for shared interests that has driven forward both the open access movement, turn this old metaphor on its head. Where there was tragedy there can now be triumph.