Governing the Scholarly Commons (part 2)

Back in July we surveyed members of the Radical Open Access Collective on a possible decision-making model of lazy consensus. To quickly recap, lazy consensus is the process by which decisions are taken when no one disagrees with a proposal within a short(ish) window that takes into account numerous time zones and weekends. Anyone can propose an action and this motion can be debated until there are no further disagreements.

The idea of lazy consensus was well received on the mailing list and an interesting discussion ensued about the future our collective governance. Kathleen Fitzpatrick highlighted the need for community building – what she terms ‘social sustainability’ – as crucial to radical forms of collaboration. This underscores the need for ROAC members to get to know one another and to extend generosity and care to one another as far as possible. Joe Deville emphasised this with particular respect to the tone of our discussions, which should be ‘conducted in open, generous, caring ways’. Yet, as Endre Dányi kindly pointed out, there is a ‘certain sense of violence implied in claims about commonness and the common good’. We must be wary of not imposing on each other a predefined set of identities and values that we all share, instead keeping in mind that community itself necessitates difference or un-commonality (what Roberto Esposito would term a ‘common non-belonging’).

Following on from this discussion, one of the first points of action we would like to propose for the ROAC, is to implement the idea of lazy consensus with a 72-hour window for objections, while we will also ensure to stimulate discussion as much as possible. In practice, we do not envision any huge decisions being made about the collective and so it is likely that lazy consensus, as a decision making model, will only be intermittently used . Nonetheless, please feel free to propose ideas for the collective to consider – we really want to keep everything horizontal and informal to the greatest extent we can.

Related to this, during the mailing list discussion Gary Hall shared some helpful thoughts from his experiences helping to run a local community football club (and his reading of Barcelona En Comú’s Fearless Cities). Gary’s advice can be summarised as follows:

  1. Don’t be afraid to take the lead
  2. Ensure a gender balance and diversity from the start.
  3. Have generosity as a key value – collaboration requires individuals to be generous (with their time, energy, attention etc.).
  4. Try to reduce vertical hierarchies by distributing authority among as many people as possible
  5. Try to make it possible for everyone to feel they can contribute

Given that everyone is busy, and it is easy for initiatives like ROAC to lie dormant in particularly busy periods, we felt it would be worth instigating some of these approaches through a member advisory board, which we would like to put forward as our second point of action. The board would help generate and moderate discussion, admit new members and generally be a face of the ROAC in their own geographical/disciplinary area. We are keen to have broad geographical coverage from all across the globe, but we are especially interested in representation from Africa and Latin America (where a number of our members are based). Please email Sam and Janneke if you would like to get involved (and we might also nudge some of you who previously indicated you would be interested in this)! Going forward, and once we have an advisory board established, we can discuss whether we want to formalise this structure more.

Related to this, we are still keen to stimulate discussion on the mailing list by having themes set and moderated by different listserv members each month. Please get in touch if you would be interested in moderating discussions related to the future of scholar-led open access. You do not have to be associated with a member press or project, just interested in what we’re trying to achieve. We would ask that you post a question or topic to the list once a week for a month and then moderate the ensuing discussion. Open access week is of course a good time to start the discussion. Our friends at ScholarLed have been posting daily blog posts on the future of scholar-led publishing infrastructures, so perhaps one of us would like to try to drum up responses to these posts or follow them up for further discussion?