Open knowledge. Challenges and facts
Francisco J. García-Peñalvo
Computer Science Department / Science Education Research Institute / GRIAL Research Group
University of Salamanca
Carlos García de Figuerola
Computer Science Department / REINA Research Group
University of Salamanca
José A. Merlo
Library Science and Documentation Department / Library Service Director
University of Salamanca
Purpose – This article opens the special issue of the journal Online Information Review on Open
Knowledge Management in Higher Education. Its aim is to review the concept and extension of the
movement or philosophy of Open Knowledge in universities and Higher Education institutions.
Design/methodology/approach – The approach will follow the reference model used by the
University of Salamanca (Spain) to promote open knowledge in the institution through its Open
Knowledge Office. This model comprised four areas: free software, open educational contents and
cultural dissemination, open science and open innovation.
Findings – For each of the four areas mentioned above, milestones and the most significant projects
will be presented, showing how they are promoting publication and information transmission in an
open environment, without restrictions and favouring knowledge dissemination in all fields.
Originality/value – Open Knowledge is an approach which, though having some controversy is
growing relentlessly as cultural and scientific dissemination leave behind any other interests or
economic models. International organizations and governments are gradually embracing Open
Knowledge as the way to share scientific advances with society and as an international cooperation
measure to favour development in third-world countries.
Keywords – Open Knowledge, Higher Education, Institutional Repositories, Open Access, Open
Content, Open Software, Open Science, Open Innovation.
Paper type – State of art
Information technologies, and especially the Internet, have changed the way to produce, publish and
communicate information, heading towards models where information is primarily produced in
digital formats and consumed through online media. There is, therefore, a predominance of bits
instead of atoms (Negroponte, 1995), which has clear consequences.
First of all, the production costs of documents in electronic format have decreased considerably,
and this is not just because of the decrease in technological equipment costs. The ease of use of this
equipment makes it accessible to almost anybody.
On the other hand, the distribution of electronic documents is, thanks to the Internet, easy,
simple and cheap. There are no physical entities to transport, just electric impulses that flow
through networks. This implies that the most important part of the added value of an electronic
document is now intellectual creation.
As a result, and especially in places where this intellectual creation is the core of their activity
(such as educational and research institutions), the possibility of sharing this knowledge and reusing
it to create new knowledge has been soon understood. These ideas were not new in these places, as
was not the habit of exposing to public criticism the creations, but different barriers, both technical
and economic, had imposed important restrictions to the free dissemination of knowledge (Suber,
These ideas are the bases of what came to be known as Open movement. The Open Contents
initiative refers to the free distribution, use, copy and modification of results of any creative
activity. This includes a wide range of resources, but has had a deeper impact in a series of areas,
many of them related to activities of Higher Education Institutions (Tomlin, 2009), regarding both,
educational and cultural resources and activities of scientific research.
In other words, “Open” refers to the fact of granting copyright permissions beyond those offered
by standard copyright law. From a maybe simplistic, but intuitive, point of view, the less of
restrictions is imposed on a certain content, the more “open” that content is. The permissions of
basic use are expressed by means of what is known as the “4 Rs”: Reuse, Revise, Remix and
Redistribution (Wiley, 2006).
In this sense, Suber (2008) talks of “gratis Open Access” for the removal of price barriers alone
and “libre Open Access” for the removal of price and at least some permission barriers. The new
terms allow us to speak unambiguously about these two types of free online access.
1.1. History and evolution of the open knowledge concept
Different sources coincide in pointing out to the foundation of the Royal Society of London for the
Improvement of Natural Knowledge (aka Royal Society) in 1667 as the precursor of the Open
movement due to their foundational objective of promoting and disseminating scientific knowledge.
Although it is true that the Royal Society is probably the oldest of a series of similar institutions
founded in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, it could be a bit far-fetched to mention it to
trace the historical evolution of the Open movement.
In more recent times, in 1998, David Wiley founds the Open Content Project, together with Eric
Raymond, Tim O'Reilly and others, with inspiration from the concepts of Open Source Software
and other elements such as the GNU licences. The Open Content Project was aimed at the academic
world and it proposed a licence (the Open Publication Licence) which made the process of sharing
intellectual creations easier. It is precisely David Wiley who coins the term “Open Contents”,
although it is clear that the idea is based on the Free Software movement that had emerged some
In fact, different initiatives, all with notable similarities with free software, try to promote
sharing of knowledge in different fields with as less restrictions as possible. Thus, in 1999, Rice
University started the Connexions project (http://cnx.org), a project to share educational resources
available free of charge to anyone under open-content and open-source licenses, Connexions offers
custom-tailored, current course material, is adaptable to a wide range of learning styles, and
encourages students to explore the links among courses and disciplines (Baraniuk et al., 2002).
UNESCO (2002) coined the term Open Educational Resources (OER) to refer to the open provision
of educational resources, enabled by information and communication technologies, for consultation,
use and adaptation by the community of users for non-commercial purposes. In 1999, the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) initiated the MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW), a
visionary commitment by the Institute to publish the materials from all MIT undergraduate and
graduate subjects freely and openly on the web for permanent worldwide use. In September, 2002,
the MIT launched a pilot project of its OpenCourseWare (http://ocw.mit.edu) with 50 courses. A
year later, the official site would be presented with 500 courses and currently, they have more than
91 million visits by 65 million visitors from virtually every country and averages 1 million visits
each month; translations receive 500,000 more (MIT OpenCourseWare, 2010), but most important
of all is the fact that this initiative would soon extend to dozens (now hundreds) of universities
(Wiley and Gurrell, 2009), leading to the creation of an international consortium.
In 2001, a year especially productive for the open movement, Larry Lessig and others founded
Creative Commons, a foundation that, a year later, launched the first version of its well-known
licences. These licences were the successors of the Open Publication Licence proposed by Wiley
three years before (Lin et al., 2006). The year 2001 is also the beginning of the Wikipedia
(http://www.wikipedia.org/), founded by Jimmy Wales y Larry Sanger, who a year before had tried
a precursor idea: Nupedia (Sanger, 2005). Also in 2001, The Internet Archive Project became what
we can access today (Thelwall and Vaughan, 2004).
An event that has had a great importance in the Open movement was, at the end of 2001, the
Budapest Declaration, which in a few months later, in 2002, would give birth to the Budapest Open
Access Initiative, BOAI (2002), which can be considered as a milestone in the application of the
“Open” philosophy to scientific communication, especially regarding dissemination of research
results. The BOAI played a major role in the emergence of Digital Repositories, which are
nowadays the most outstanding flag of the Open movement. Not in vain, that same year of 2002, E-
prints was born as a piece of software used by many of those repositories, and also other projects
such as RoMEO (Rights MEtadata for Open archiving) (Oppenheim et al., 2003) and SHERPA
(Securing a Hybrid Environment for Research Preservation and Access) (Markland and Brophy,
2005). D-space, another very widely-used program in many repositories, appeared in 2002. A year
later, Fedora would be born too.
In 2003, the “Bethesda Declaration” is signed (Brown et al., 2003). The declaration is
important, among other things, because, despite the fact that it refers to scientific research in
general, it emerges from the field of biomedical research, where there has always been a presence of
important economic interests. In this same chapter of important declarations, the Berlin Declaration
has to be mentioned (Harnad, 2005). The exact title of the declaration is “Berlin Declaration on
Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities” (Berlin Declaration, 2003) and which
should not be confused with other Berlin declarations regarding other different fields. The Berlin
Declaration being referred to here took place as a consequence of the Conference on Open Access
to Knowledge in Sciences and Humanities hosted by the Max Planck Institute on the 22nd and the
23rd of October, 2003. The Berlin Declaration offers the definition of an open access contribution:
“Establishing open access as a worthwhile procedure ideally requires the active commitment of
each and every individual producer of scientific knowledge and holder of cultural heritage. Open
access contributions include original scientific research results, raw data and metadata, source
materials, digital representations of pictorial and graphical materials and scholarly multimedia
material”. According to this, an open access contribution must satisfy two conditions:
1. The author(s) and right holder(s) of such contributions grant(s) to all users a free,
irrevocable, worldwide, right of access to, and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and
display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital
medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of, as well as the right to
make small numbers of printed copies for their personal use.
2. A complete version of the work and all supplemental materials, including a copy of the
permission as stated above, in an appropriate standard electronic format is deposited in at
least one online repository using suitable technical standards that is supported and
maintained by an institution that seeks to enable open access, unrestricted distribution, inter
operability, and long-term archiving.
Thus, the Berlin Declaration links the Open philosophy with the mission of Higher Education
and Research Institutions to disseminate and spread knowledge. It proposes concrete actions, not
just dissemination, but also topics such as the inclusion of open publications in the evaluations of
scientific activity and the recognition of those publications in the researchers' professional careers.
In 2007, the Cape Town Open Education Declaration took place: Unlocking the promise of
open educational resources, with the aim of accelerating efforts to promote open resources,
technology and teaching practices in education (CTOED, 2007). It is interesting to note that this
declaration promotes not only the creation of open educational resources in different formats, but
also the use of technologies to facilitate collaborative and flexible learning and sharing resources
between lecturers and researchers, including two elements present in this article: Free Software and
In 2004, The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ – www.doaj.org/) is established. This
directory offers nowadays a database of about 5000 scientific journals of all fields. All these
journals are Open Access and apply proven methodologies of scientific quality control. The most
important editors soon realised the impact of the Open movement (Bailey, 2005): Springer in 2005;
Elsevier, Wiley & Sons and Cambridge University Press in 2006; Emerald, Sage or Bentham in
2007, just to quote some significant examples where journals have been opened to the public in
1.2. Article organization
This article aims at presenting the state of the art of Open Knowledge as a basis for this special
issue on Open Knowledge in Higher Education Institutions. The focus of the article is on online
information and the way in which this is transforming the dissemination, transmission and,
especially, creation of knowledge. This has repercussions in any field of economic, industrial or
technological development, but it is clearly the field of education and scientific production where it
provokes an evolution that affects to several collateral business models. There is a radical change in
dissemination of scientific results and transference to the production sector towards a context of
To face the state of the art of something as open an innovative and, at the same time, that causes
so much controversy, is not a simple task. There are hundreds of different ways of doing it, but the
authors of this article and the editors of the special issue will put into practice their experience in
the organization and promotion of Open Knowledge at the University of Salamanca (Spain)
between 2007 and 2009. To this end, the Open Knowledge Office (http://oca.usal.es) was created.
This Office worked on four large areas (See Fig. 1): Free Software, educational resources or Open
Contents, scientific contents or Open Science and Open Innovation.
Figure 1: Open Knowledge conceptual map
The article is organised as follows: in Section 2, very briefly, the topic of free software will be
dealt with, not as the core of open knowledge, but as the movement that was the origin of the Open
philosophy in a more generalised way when taking their contributions on software development to
the field of digital information. Section 3 deals with open contents, especially educational contents,
but including cultural contents. Section 4 deals with Open Science and Section 5 with Open
Innovation. Section 6 talks about a series of general issues, such as legal topics or institutional
management of open content by means of repositories. Finally, Section 7 closes the article with
some reflections as conclusions.
2. Open software
Free Software is probably the oldest initiative within the Open group and it is, somehow, what has
inspired most of the activities that we know now as Open Access. The idea of Free Software
appears in the early 80s, with the emergence of autonomous commercial software, independent
from hardware (Benussi, 2005). Until then, programs were considered as something closely linked
to the computer where they ran. These were machines hard to use which required a little army of
highly qualified people. Their environments were Calculus Centres or Data Processing Centres
(DPC), where people would write specific applications for each task that had to be done. In many
cases, the difference between such applications and the operating system itself was diffuse.
Exchange of applications between different DPCs was something common and frequent (Michalec,
When personal workstations appeared, programs and autonomous applications also emerged.
These applications were acquired separately from the machine and belonged to the turnkey projects
type. Selling programs became an important business area and that meant programs were protected,
both legally and technically. Restrictive licences that forbid copies, reinstallation in a different
machine, etc. became common.
This situation caused, as a reaction, the emergence of a movement in favour of what we could
generically call free software. One of the most outstanding characters was (and still is) Richard
Stallman. He, among other things, gave a conceptual consistence to the ideas behind the term “free
software”. Thus, he formulated what is known as the four freedoms of software, which sum up with
precision what “free software” is (Chopra and Dexter, 2009):
• Freedom 0: freedom to run the program for any purpose.
• Freedom 1: freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what
• Freedom 2: freedom to redistribute copies.
• Freedom 3: freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others.
Freedom 1 and 3 require access to the source code, one of the essential characteristics of free
software. Stallman also created the Free Software Foundation (www.fsf.org) and the GNU Project
(www.gnu.org). GNU is a recursive acronym of “GNU is Not Unix” (programmers will probably
see the humour in it) and its main aim is to create a totally free and portable operating system for
any architecture (Stallman, 1999).
To build that operating system, Unix was taken as a model. Although Unix was not free
software, its source was known. The operating system sought should have a kernel and a large
amount of small programs for different tasks. Many of those programs already existed. Others had
to be rewritten to make them free software. Others were built from scratch.
The kernel, however, was still not there, until in 1992, the Linux kernel joined the project and
made possible what we know today as the GNU/Linux operating system (Robles and González-
The GNU project does not only produce computer programs, but also licences for free software
distribution. The most extended licence is the General Public Licence (GPL). Though originally
designed for licensing the components of GNU/Linux, it has been adopted by many other software
producers. The GPL licence guarantees Stallman's four freedoms and extends them to any
derivative from the original program (Kumar, S., 2006).
This last aspect has been seen by many as excessively restrictive. Its application implies that
you cannot use a GPL program (for example, a programming language compiler, such as GNU C)
to produce other programs if they are not licensed as well with the GPL licence (Asay, 2004). As a
result, other less orthodox licences have appeared, keeping the basics of free software: access to
source code, free copy and distribution, possibility to improve and modify the program. An example
of these is the licences of some programs, some very well know, like Python
(www.python.org/psf/license/). Python is an interpreted high-level language, similar to free
software, but its licence allows programs to be written and then distributed as proprietary programs,
the copy of which is not permitted.
In any case, free software is a fact today and has an ever-growing presence in all computer
areas. In the area of operating systems, GNU/Linux is becoming more and more common, not only
in servers, but also in workstations. But this is not the only free software operating system; there are
others, such as BSD or OpenSolaris systems, although their licences are considered as too
permissive by free software orthodoxies.
Free software has a strong presence in many other computer areas. Almost all important Internet
services run through free software. Some significant examples, just to name a few, are Apache, the
most widely-used server; PHP, one of the most widely-spread web programming languages; or
MySQL and Postgres as databases. Regarding workstations, there is an ever-growing presence of
free software too, such as OpenOffice, Mozilla Firefox, Mozilla Thunderbird, GIMP, etc.
3. Open contents in education
The field of education, in its broad sense, is where the Open movement has had a greater influence.
In this field, Open Access might refer to learning contents (complete courses, modules, different
learning objects), to informative and cultural contents, to free software tools to build these learning
resources or to platforms to organise and distribute these materials (virtual campuses, Learning
Management Systems, Content Learning Management Systems, etc.) (Caswell et al., 2008).
Focussing on learning resources, some initiatives have a special relevance. One of the most
representative cases is the OpenCourseWare (OCW). In 2002, the MIT presented a web-based
editorial initiative which they called OpenCourseWare (OCW) (Abelson, 2008). The idea was
simple: to offer to the world, for free, the teaching materials of some of the courses that were being
taught online. These materials would be available and could be used by anybody, without having to
register. The licence to use these materials, which would end up being Creative Commons, was
very little restrictive, which made it possible to reuse them by other people, for example, to prepare
new teaching materials (Kumar, V., 2006). The use of these materials was free, but it did not entail
any type of certification, nor contact with the MIT lecturers nor those using these materials could
consider themselves MIT students: registration was required for that. The experience started with
50 subjects in 2002 that turned into 500 the next year; in 2009, practically every subject of the MIT
(around 1900) was on the OCW. While this happened, many of the subjects were translated to other
languages. Currently, the MIT OCW receives one million visits per month. The typical OCW user
belongs to one of these three categories: self-learners, for obvious reasons (43%); students (42%),
who want to enlarge their knowledge or who need to decide what subject to register in; and teachers
(9%) looking for information and resources for their classes. Approximately half of visitors come
from outside the United States (MIT OpenCourseWare, 2005).
From the beginning, there were mirrors of the MIT OCW. Further, the initiative was soon
followed by other universities and higher education institutions, which organised their own OCW
portals with their own subjects (Fukuhara, 2005). Out of this trend, the OCW Consortium was born,
which nowadays gathers over 200 universities that publish subjects in their own OpenCourseWare
Another significant initiative related to open educational resources (OER) is OER Commons
(Cleveland and Kubiszewski, 2007), a repository of learning materials of different levels, from
primary to post-secondary education, which holds today over 40000 items of all fields of
The European SchoolNet is another network that should be mentioned here. This network is
composed of 31 European Ministries of Education. Its aim is to promote the change in the ways of
teaching and learning (Scimeca, 2009) using the New Technologies and emphasizing the
interoperability and reuse of resources (www.eun.org). Based on these ideas, the Learning Resource
Exchange for Schools has been formed (http://lreforschools.eun.org). This is a repository of several
tens of thousands of educational resources. Most of them, since the aim of the network is to share,
are under a Creative Commons licence.
4. Open Science
Technological development offers new tools to the researcher, which can be employed from a
methodological point of view or for dissemination of results. Technological resources to support
research offer scientists new channels to carry out their activity and to communicate their
production. Innovation applied to research also uses technology and open resources. It is the so-
called e-Science or Science 2.0 (Shneiderman, 2008). Science 2.0 is the application of the
technologies of the Social Web to the scientific process. The Social Web, Web 2.0 or Participatory
Web (O'Reilly, 2007) is characterized by the use of the open technologies, both from the point of
view of information architecture and of the interconnection of services, and, especially, the
collective work carried out in an online, collaborative and altruist manner. The Web 2.0 also applies
to research, which benefits from these technologies to manage scientific activity, to establish links
between communities of scientists and to share hypotheses, procedures and results. In this section, a
reflection will be made about the use of the open technologies and participatory computing (social
computing) in research.
The Social Web or Web 2.0 has introduced significant changes in the scientific work
environment. The main key to the Social Web is participation (Merlo, 2009). Technologies 2.0
allow people to socialize without obstacles and to share data in an open way. There are various
ways in which the Social Web applies to research (Cabezas et al., 2009), especially in bibliography
management and relationships between researchers. Likewise, scientific communication is much
more fluid thanks to open publishing and repositories (Nikam and Babu, 2009). Open Access is the
new way of scientific communication, which coexists with traditional publication in academic
journals and which often surpass this in terms of dissemination and impact.
It is possible to determine three large areas where open science is present. First of all, the Social
Web offers the necessary resources for researchers to carry out their work, be this in a first stage or
already advanced. To this end, there are a number of open platforms for publishing contents by
means or blogs, academic portals, social networks or websites specialised in sharing hypotheses and
experiments. Secondly, as a distinctive feature, Open Science offers the possibility of sharing useful
resources for research, such as bibliographic references, learning objects, links, information or
documents. Finally, Science 2.0 is characterized by its open attitude towards the dissemination of
research results, mainly through open access journals and repositories. To sum up, Open Science
shares processes, resources and results. In the next few paragraphs these aspects will be extended
and significant examples will be given.
Research methodology presents differences depending on the field of knowledge. However, the
scientific method always needs experimentation to prove the hypothesis, which then becomes a
thesis. In the different options of scientific methodology teams of people are involved developing
experimentation techniques from established procedures. The Social Web technologies facilitate the
work flow of the scientific community and make the constitution of research teams more flexible.
A first contribution of Science 2.0 is the use of platforms to link people with same research
interests, so that they can exchange information, resources and documents. This is what is called
“Social Computing” (Wang et al., 2007). It is not simply sharing resources where the profile of a
researcher and their works can be consulted. As the main characteristic of the Social Web is
participation, we should include as resources those websites created to share in an effective manner
CVs, research, hypotheses, etc.
Social networks have become the flag of the new generation Web. Relationships between
people in the same network are collaborative, immediate and ubiquitous. The concept of a social
network, within the open science context, should be understood as a scientific community that
employs collaborative technologies to exchange information. This technology could be a blog, a
wiki, a social network, a virtual lab, a e-learning system, an intranet or whatever technological
application that might be considered useful, such as content management systems (Ramachandran
et al., 2009).
Relationships between professionals find an ideal space in social networks, especially in those
created specifically as academic and professional networks. In this sense, we could mention
networks like Academia (www.academia.edu), Academici (www.academici.com), Sciencestage
(http://sciencestage.com), Scispace (www.scispace.com) or Epernicus (www.epernicus.com). Big
social networks, such as Facebook (www.facebook.com) are also excellent platforms for
establishing links between researchers (Boyd and Ellison, 2007). Together with social networks, the
application of the Web 2.0 to scientific databases also facilitates that similar profiles get in touch
and that researchers can follow the work of those in whom they are interested. A good example of
this type of resources is Research ID (www.researcherid.com).
At the same time, there are collaborative tools for distributed work online that can be included
in open science, as they are computer applications with interoperable technology and groups of
people exchanging experiences. In this group, we could mention eLearning applications, such as
Moodle (moodle.org), video conference tools such as Skype or Messenger, or those specialised in
workflow management. We could also include within the group of open technologies for research
those that are useful to carry out experiments or research. Some examples of these tools are services
which allow the user to create and share surveys for social research, such as SurveyMonkey
(www.surveymonkey.com) and conceptual maps, such as Compendium
(http://compendium.open.ac.uk), FreeMind (http://freemind.sourceforge.net) or Mindomo
(www.mindomo.com). Among all these applications, those that conceive collaboration between
researchers in the process of some research with a global view are the ones that stand out. An
excellent example is MyExperiment (www.myexperiment.org), a platform that allows
communication, task and file sharing or the creation of groups between scientists (De Roure et al.,
Scientists use for their work information resources which can be useful for people in their teams
or for researchers working in the same field. Open Science facilitates sharing bibliographic
references or links to online documents by means of social bookmarks. Also, digital repositories
specialised in learning objects are being created, which allow sharing information resources,
especially tutorials and how-to guides for certain tools. An example of this type of repositories is
Merlot (www.merlot.org). Other platform for dissemination of scientific results is SciTopics
(www.scitopics.com), where scientists share their results with other researchers and exchange
Management of bibliographic references has traditionally been done by means of closed
programs that work as document databases. However, some of these programs allow sharing
references and work online. Examples would be Zotero (www.zotero.org) and Refworks
(www.refworks.com). At the same time, the social web allows sharing links through general
systems of social bookmarking, such as Delicious (http://delicious.com) o Mister Wong
(www.mister-wong.com), although from the Science 2.0 perspective, services that allow sharing of
documents and bibliographic references are more interesting. Some specialised sites in open
management of bibliographic references, with reviews and descriptions, are 2collab
(www.2collab.com), CiteUlike (www.citeulike.org) and Connotea (www.connotea.org). In the
same line, we can find the Labmeeting service (www.labmeeting.com), where we can organize
documents, manage references and exchange data with research groups.
5. Open Innovation
Innovation, according to Webster's Dictionary, is defined as 1. the introduction of something new;
and 2. a new idea, method, or device. In words of Albert Einstein “We can't solve problems by using
the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. Therefore, innovation has to go beyond
launching new products or using the latest technological advances. This must be kept in mind
especially when we are talking about a higher education institution that tries to be a reference
regarding creation and transmission of knowledge. The historical legacy of some universities, many
of them hundreds of years old, cannot be incompatible with inventing new processes or work
methodologies, with designing new business models to create markets that did not exist before or to
improve the existing ones. The university is, in essence, a space to select and put into practice the
best ideas within a very brief period of time in order to serve the community. The university is a
fundamental agent that, like no other, bridges the gap between a culture of efficiency to a culture of
creativity (Alcántara and García-Peñalvo, 2009).
Innovation is an inherent element of human evolution. Innovation in itself must be considered as
a process with a series of functions and indicators very well defined. To innovate means to change,
inside the organization, in order to create value for its stakeholders, the organization and society in
general. Innovation is present in each little detail of everyday activity in higher education
institutions and in the ways how they operate. Innovation entails rethinking strategies and
increasing the speed of processes. Open innovation aims at building an idea-generating machine
that can compete in imagination, wit, inspiration and initiatives and that, finally, as the director of
HP Labs Prith Banerjee (2010) says: “I have transferred it to a business”.
Innovation and development, inseparable elements of the university's essence, imply elements
of applicability closely linked to innovation, but innovation also implies factors that the university
must boost, such as anticipation, cooperation, leadership, audacity, creativity, dynamism and
From a strictly university perspective, we could point out eight actions to face the challenges
inherent to innovation. These actions have been adapted from the Manifesto for innovation in the
Basque Country (Innobasque, 2007).
First, it is necessary to promote an attitude of entrepreneurship. Secondly, a continuous
adaptation and evolution of the educational model in the country, area or region has to be sought,
using to that end all possible opportunities. Thirdly, this has to be combined, in perfect symbiosis,
with a life-long learning system. The fourth action is that critical and free thinking, a traditional
pillar of the university, has to be recovered. The fifth is that there has to be a permanent structure in
organizations to promote innovation. Invention is the result of creativity, but it has no value until
invention is used in a productive process to realize its value. This is innovation, that is, the fact of
using innovation to generate value. This has to be linked, in sixth place, with actions aiming at
favouring open innovation. The seventh action is the awareness of the urging necessity of having
innovation in all fields. Finally, there needs to be an increase in the level of international opening
and the level of cooperation among citizens and organizations.
We should highlight, among those eight actions, those which are central to support the others
within a fundamental framework for the development of the Knowledge Society: open innovation.
This has become, since its formulation by Henry Chesbrough (2003), in the reference framework
for innovation management in organizations.
During most of the 20th century, innovation has taken place within the limits of closed entities.
However, monopolies of knowledge from the industrial society are falling apart and, to achieve a
real Knowledge Society, it is unthinkable a non-collaborative perception in the creation of new
knowledge and its application to become value for society.
The idea, therefore, is to understand innovation as an open system in which both internal and
external agents participate in it. In other words, an idea of innovation which is based not only in the
internal capabilities, but also in all possible sources (users, providers, networks, etc.) and which,
going beyond the product and the technology, it also takes into account intangibles and, in general,
the multiple dimensions that lead to the creation of value.
This is justified in the very structure of the digital and technological society in which we
currently live, where users and/or clients are more and more demanding and favour the level of
competition, scientific and technological progress speeds up, the lifecycle of products gets shorter,
globalization intensifies, people's mobility grows, there is a greater level of education and access to
information and all that by means of a democratization of technologies.
The philosophy behind open innovation must be part of the university and be present in its
strategic mission as the only way of being part of the academic culture (Wiley, 2006), which will
inevitably contribute to a more open participation context that will help to bring closer higher
education institutions to the production sector. This will create true Open Knowledge, with a great
ecosystem for innovation (Brown, 2008) in which every university department should be challenged
to transform public services and create new markets through the production of their own innovation
plan (DIUS, 2008).
The decision to be open is a choice for the organizations to make in line with their business
models, and this choice is revealed in their external search patterns (Laursen and Salter, 2006) and
judged in terms of their innovative and economic outcomes.
Nevertheless, the term “open innovation” reflects a range of organisational behaviours, which
finds meaning under different contexts of market and innovation dynamics. In a study carried out
by Virginia Acha (2008), it is explained that design not only allows the division of tasks in the
innovation process, but it also allows to cross the range of innovative activities with external
sources suggested by the open model of the innovation. Whereas the capacity of absorption is
important for transference of traditional technology, the capacity of design stands out among the
open strategies of innovation due to the importance of the contributions and ideas coming from that
field. This report shows that the concept “open” is an umbrella term for the various means, depths
and motives for reaching across organisational boundaries to achieve an innovation task. Thus,
according to Cohen and Levinthal (1990), the ability to explore external knowledge is a critical
factor for the development of innovation. In the Finnish Community Innovation Survey, in 1997, it
is suggested to follow a parallel-path strategy in innovation, so that the organization keeps an open
strategy regarding the sources of information (breath in sources) together with a widening of views
regarding the ways of innovate (breath of objectives). According to the Department of Trade and
Industry (2005) open innovation is identified when there is a more exhaustive use of external
sources related to technology and knowledge. Leiponen and Helfat (2005) point out the benefits of
keeping some options open to fight the uncertainty that always surrounds innovation processes. As
we mentioned before, Laursen and Salter (2006) state that the practice of open innovation has an
effect in terms of results of innovation and economy.
As a conclusion, open innovation is in line with the most current innovation processes that
require institutions, including higher education institutions, to manage highly specialised
knowledge on different alternatives of people, technology and markets. The lack of opening
towards external environments on the part of the institution reflects a short-sighted view and an
excessive emphasis on resources and internal possibilities that will develop unaware and
unconnected with the advances and contributions of third parties, which will certainly provoke a
loss in competition.
6. Transversal issues
Open Access is the term which is being used internationally to refer to the possibility of consulting
a document freely. Open Access can be understood in a broad sense as a document published for
public consultation or, in a more strict sense, as the document published digitally, for public use and
following certain technical standards and specific international recommendations.
In the last few years, there has been a considerable increase in the number of open access
initiatives, created with the aim of making available to the scientific community the publications
that altruist authors and editors provide (Frandsen, 2009). Traditionally, it has been used the term
“open archive” to refer to a document hosted in a server to which there is free access (gratis and
libre). The reason this term is used is because, in its origin, the aim was to archive documents to
prevent their loss. Also, the concept of openness fits both with the computer architecture, accessible
from any machine, and with the public nature of these initiatives.
It is necessary to restrict the concept of open access, as has been done in different institutions
which work on this topic (Suber, 2004). Initiatives and projects that qualify as “open access” must
comply with these conditions:
• Digital documentation: all documents available for free access are in electronic formats.
• Online access: documents hosted in servers accessible through the Internet, be them
repositories, editors' websites, electronic journals or authors' personal websites.
• Public use: possibility to read, download, copy, print and distribute a document, with the
only exception that there must be respect for the intellectual property that the author has
kept for the attribution and citation of their work. Authors use licences that reserve some
• Normalized archives: standards must be complied with regarding identification of digital
documents, data mining and exchange of information about them. Use of international
protocols, such as Digital Objetc Identifier (DOI) (Paskin, 2010) and Open Archives
Initiative-Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) (Lagoze et al., 2002).
• Cooperative initiatives: participation in collective projects, with institutions or in online
networks, such as joining initiatives that promote free communication among the
Nowadays, the movement for open access to publications can be seen in practice in two ways:
open journals and repositories. Regarding the edition of electronic journals of free or open access,
the user goes to the website and there, the abstracts and complete articles can be consulted. The
second option is the creation of repositories, be them individual, institutional or specialised, where
documents are archived.
There are two ways for open scientific contents providing (Jeffery, 2006), the so-called “Green
Open Access” that means authors publish in non-Open Access journals and self-archiving their final
peer-reviewed drafts in their own Open Access Institutional Repositories, and the so-called “Gold
Open Access” that means researches can provide their works in Open Access journals.
Open Access became a reality when several institutions joined forces to promote free
dissemination of scientific production and to push public administrations to create digital
repositories that could be consulted freely.
Among the international initiatives supporting free access, there are three which gave place to
three important declarations, which stand out. The first of these actions is the Budapest Open
Access Initiative BOAI (2002), which supports the creation of open repositories of scientific
documents and the edition of electronic journals also with free and open access. This initiative has
been followed by others, such as the Bethesda Declaration (Brown et al., 2003) and the Berlin
Declaration (Berlin Declaration, 2003). In the library science area, the IFLA Declaration (2003)
favours open access for academic and research publications. Furthermore, it is currently being
debated in the European Union another important initiative to establish open access for all
publications derived from research funded by public bodies.
Open documents have their public access document condition explicit in their metadata. By
means of protocols such as OAI/PMH the document is labelled, indicating both, its intellectual
property and its free use and distribution. This type of protocols allows open documents to be traced
by programs and specific search engines (harvesters), which integrate in the repositories databases
the information collected on the open documents available. Many of these repositories have been
built collecting public documents available in personal or institutional websites, as well as in open
access electronic journals. Examples of these harvesters are OAIster (www.oclc.org/oaister),
Scientific Commons (www.scientificcommons.org) or BASE (http://base.ub.uni-bielefeld.de).
Normalization has played a crucial role in the creation of open access repositories. A standard
was necessary in order to exchange the digital information contained in the different open
documents. The aim was to have a common outline describing the information to allow data
exchange. This was achieved with the OAI-PMH protocol, developed by the Open Archives
Initiative, which is met by the computer applications designed to start repositories and digital
The Open Archives Initiative (www.openarchives.org) develops interoperability standards for
content dissemination. They also register the information services and providers that use their
standards. Their most widely used standard is OAI-PMH. The main purpose of this standard is to
provide the document with metadata that informs about its content, its location and its public nature.
Documents following this standard must be hosted in a repository available for full-text
consultation. OAI-PMH is technically simple and follows the HTTP and XML standards, which
makes it easy to integrate in any web context. The description of the data that must be included in
OAI-PMH follow the Dublin Core metadata definitions (http://dublincore.org/), which has
contributed to its quick generalization.
Repositories using OAI-PMH allow their documents to be retrieved through harvesters, which
act somehow as meta-search engines. Thanks to OAI-PMH, search in repositories is more simple
and complete, to the extent that most open archives of a certain topic share their resources with
other same-topic or multidisciplinary repositories to achieve the much-sought global dissemination
of information. Nowadays, a scientific article hosted in an institutional repository can be located
from any other source, as it is possible to exchange data between systems that meet the same
protocol. Computer programs currently used to manage open archives include the OAI-PMH
standard. There is a wide variety of software, mainly distributed as free software, designed for
creating institutional repositories, such as Dspace (www.dspace.org), Eprints (www.eprints.org) and
Big academic institutions have their own open archives and many scientific disciplines have
their own specialised repositories where they share articles and scientific documents. There are
currently about 1600 repositories. The most complete source of information to find out what
repositories exist is the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) (www.opendoar.org),
an international initiative which aims at collecting all the repositories available in the world. At this
moment, this is the best repository collection, which can be consulted by country, document type or
subject matter. The other large directory with access to repositories all over the world is the
Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) (http://roar.eprints.org), created in 2004.
Knowledge turned into science increases its value as it is more widely spread. It is possible to state
that open access to scientific production is multiplying the volume of available documentation and
is reducing the temporal and economic obstacles to access scientific articles and other research
results. When research is publicly funded, its results should also be public, which is why initiatives
leading to open the access to scientific production are becoming very important. As an example,
there is an estimation that Europe is losing almost 50% of the potential return on its research
investment until research funders and institutions mandate that all research findings must be made
freely accessible to all would-be users, webwide (Harnad, 2006).
With roots in the Free Software movement, Open Access philosophy has had a profound impact
in the area of digital information, with a special emphasis in the area of education and culture. This
has made it take a qualitative step into what has become to be known as Open Science, with major
support from government institutions, such as the case of the European Union, and which finally
reaches the area of transference towards the production sector with Open Innovation.
The authors of this article understand that the sum of these four areas: software + contents +
science + innovation is what we know as Open Knowledge. Thus, the main milestones have been
covered, as well as transversal topics, hoping that this could serve as conceptual map for the
development of this special issue dealing with Open Knowledge in Higher Education Institutions.
This type of institutions should be the place where Open Knowledge should flourish and finally
break the different barriers still found among lecturers/researchers to share their work, or among
institution policy makers holding on to the excuse of better quality control (when there is no better
quality control that expose the contents produced to the public), or among evaluation agents who
still abide by privative publication models, which, on the other hand, must look for new business
models to sustain the publication costs of scientific documents.
Another important aspect is the number of citations an openly accessible work receives. A study
made by Davis et al. (2008) disputes the claim that open access articles equals more citations, they
found, in an interim analysis, that in the first year after the articles were published, open-access
articles were downloaded more but were no more likely to be cited than subscription-based articles.
Different studies can be found which either share or refute this hypothesis. However, Swan (2010)
reviewed these studies and concludes that most of the studies analysed (27 out of 31) show a
positive correlation between the accessibility of an article and the number of citations it receives.
Despite all the obstacles, Open Knowledge is expanding. Its aim (unlike Free Software) is not to
become the only alternative, but to become the main channel for dissemination of knowledge and,
therefore, to contribute to the creation of more and better knowledge in the world. Digital
information published with free access on the Internet is a powerful channel of transference that
cannot be stopped once it has started.
From an ethical point of view, Higher Education Institutions have the moral duty of giving back
to Society research results and the advance of the state of the art in the scientific, technological,
humanistic, social or artistic fields if they have been funded by public institutions. This also
becomes one of the most effective ways of cooperation with developing countries.
By means of open innovation, the production sector joins this movement, looking for their own
interests, obviously, but also balancing the benefits that collaboration with other agents can bring
These works is supported by Castile and Lion Government (Spain) through GR47 Excellence
Project and by Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union through Elvin Project
(Reference 505740-2009-LLP-ES-KA2-KA2MP) and MIH Project (502461-LLP-1-2009-1-ES-
COMENIUS-CMP). This publication reflects the views only of the authors, and the European
Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information
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About the authors
Francisco J. García-Peñalvo holds a PhD in Computer Science (2000, University of Salamanca,
Spain). He works as a teacher of the Computer Science Department of the University of Salamanca.
Dr. García is the GRIAL (research GRoup in InterAction and eLearning) director. His main
research interests are eLearning, Computer & Education, Adaptive Systems, Web Engineering,
Semantic Web, and Software Reuse. He was member of the Member from Technologic and
Academic Committee of the White Book for Digital University 2010. He was Technology
Innovation Vice-Rector of the University of Salamanca from March 2007 to December 2009 and
the President of the Technical Committee of the SCOPEO observatory, an observatory for the
eLearning activity, innovation and trends, from its beginning until December 2009. He has more
than 100 published papers in international journals and conferences. Francisco J. García-Peñalvo is
the corresponding author and can be contacted at: email@example.com
Carlos García de Figuerola is a professor at the Department of Informatics and Automatics of the
University of Salamanca. He teaches in the BA in Information and Documentation and also in
postgraduate degrees in Intelligent Systems and in Social Studies of Science and Technology. His
research interests are information recovery, electronic documentation, cybermetrics and knowledge
organization and dissemination, about which he has published numerous articles and books. He has
also supervised several PhD thesis in those areas. He has been Dean of the Faculty of Translation
and Documentation, as well as Head of the Open Knowledge Office of the University of
José Antonio Merlo holds a PhD in Documentation. He is a lecturer at the Department of
Documentation and Library Science of the University of Salamanca. He is a specialist in
technologies applied to library services and has written a hundred articles on research on libraries
and information technologies. He is a board member of FESABID (Spanish Federation of
Associations of Information Professionals).