Open knowledge

Open knowledge is knowledge that one is free to use, reuse, and redistribute without legal, social or technological restriction.[1] Open knowledge is a set of principles and methodologies related to the production and distribution of how knowledge works in an open manner. Knowledge is interpreted broadly to include data, content and general information.

The concept is related to open source and the Open Knowledge Definition is directly derived from the Open Source Definition. Open knowledge can be seen as being a superset of open data, open content and libre open access with the aim of highlighting the commonalities between these different groups.


Early history

Similarly to other 'open' concepts such as open data and open content, though the term is rather new, the concept is old. For example, one of the earliest printed texts of which we have record is a copy of the Buddhist Diamond sutra produced in China around 868 AD, and in it can be found the dedication: "for universal free distribution".[2]

Twentieth century

In the early twentieth century a debate about intellectual property rights developed within the German Social Democratic Party. A key contributor was Karl Kautsky who in 1902 devoted a section of a pamphlet to "Intellectual Production" which he distinguished from material production:

"Communism in material production, anarchy in the intellectual that is the type of a Socialist mode of production, as it will develop from the rule of the proletariat—in other words, from the Social Revolution through the logic of economic facts, whatever might be: the wishes, intentions, and theories of the proletariat."[3]:40

This view was based on an analysis according to which Karl Marx's Law of value only affected material production, not intellectual production.

With the development of the public Internet from the early 1990s, it became far easier to copy and share information across the world. The phrase 'information wants to be free' became a rallying cry for people who wanted to create an internet without the commercial barriers that they felt inhibited creative expression in traditional material production.

Wikipedia was founded in 2001 with the ethos of providing information which could be edited and modified to improve its quality. The success of Wikipedia became instrumental in making open knowledge something that millions of people interacted with and contributed to.

What is open knowledge? (A short history of copyright)

Organisations and activities promoting open knowledge


  1. ^ "Open Definition - Defining Open in Open Data, Open Content and Open Knowledge". Open Knowledge Open Definition Group. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  2. ^ Pollock, Rufus. "The Value of the Public Domain". Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  3. ^ Kautsky, Karl (1903). The Social Revolution and, On the Morrow of the Social Revolution. London: Twentieth Century Press. |access-date= requires |url= (help)

External links


Access2Research is a campaign in the United States for academic journal publishing reform led by open access advocates Michael W. Carroll, Heather Joseph, Mike Rossner, and John Wilbanks.On May 20, 2012, it launched a petition to the White House to "require free access over the Internet to journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research". The White House has committed to issue an official response to such petitions if they reach 25,000 signatures within 30 days. Access2Research reached this milestone within two weeks. On February 22, 2013, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and announced an executive directive ordering all US Federal Agencies with research & development budgets over $100M to develop public access policies within twelve months.

The petition builds on previous campaigns asking scholars, publishers, funders, governments and the general public to remove paywalls to publicly funded scholarly research. It follows initiatives previously targeted at academics such as The Cost of Knowledge calling for lower prices for scholarly journals and to promote increased access to scientific information. The campaign refers to the NIH Public Access Policy as an example of a mandate that should be expanded to all federally funded research.


The CESAER is a non-profit association of leading universities of science and technology in Europe. CESAER was founded on May 10, 1990, with headquarters in the Castle of Arenberg in Leuven, Belgium. The association unites over 50 leading universities of science and technology in 25 countries.

The mission of the organisation is structured around five aims :

to learn from one another: share information and best practice in the areas of higher education, research, innovation and university governance;

to influence key bodies: aid policy-makers and funders to shape European strategies, policies and funding programmes;

to boost participation in (European) funding programmes;

to promote members strengths globally: support Members in displaying their excellence and distinctiveness at European level and beyond;

to advance debate on key issues: promote reflection and understanding of the role of science and technology in open knowledge societies.

Catherine Stihler

Catherine Stihler (born 30 July 1973) is a British Labour Party politician. She was a member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Scotland from 1999 to 2019, being re-elected in 2004, 2009 and 2014. In October 2014, she was elected as the 52nd rector of the University of St Andrews. Since February 2019 she has been Chief Executive Officer of Open Knowledge International, a non-profit organisation which fights for open data and helps groups access and use data to address social problems.

Knowledge commons

The term "knowledge commons" refers to information, data, and content that is collectively owned and managed by a community of users, particularly over the Internet. What distinguishes a knowledge commons from a commons of shared physical resources is that digital resources are non-subtractible; that is, multiple users can access the same digital resources with no effect on their quantity or quality.


The Research, Innovation, and Dissemination Center for Neuromathematics (RIDC NeuroMat, or simply NeuroMat) is a Brazilian research center established in 2013 at the University of São Paulo that is dedicated to integrating mathematical modeling and theoretical neuroscience. Among the core missions of NeuroMat are the creation of a new mathematical system to understanding neural data and the development of neuroscientific open-source computational tools, keeping an active role under the context of open knowledge, open science and scientific dissemination. The research center is headed by Prof. Antonio Galves, from USP's Institute of Mathematics and Statistics, and is funded by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP). Other names related to NeuroMat are the co-principal investigators Pablo Ferrari and Yoshiharu Kohayakawa; Béla Bollobás, Michael Merzenich and Wojciech Szpankowski as members of the International Advisory Board and also Ernst W. Hamburger, the former director of scientific dissemination.

Open Access Week

Open Access Week is an annual scholarly communication event focusing on open access and related topics. It takes place globally during the last full week of October in a multitude of locations both on- and offline. Typical activities include talks, seminars, symposia, or the announcement of open access mandates or other milestones in open access. For instance, the Royal Society chose Open Access Week 2011 to announce that they would release the digitized backfiles of their archives, dating from 1665 to 1941.

Open Food Facts

Open Food Facts is a free, online and crowdsourced database of food products from around the world licensed under the Open Database License (ODBL) while its artwork —uploaded by contributors— is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution–Share Alike license.The project was launched on 19 May 2012 by French programmer Stéphane Gigandet during the Food Revolution Day organized by Jamie Oliver and has won the 2013 Dataconnexions Award from Etalab and the 2015 OKFN Award from Open Knowledge.In May 2016, its database contained more than 80,000 products from 141 countries. In June 2017, thanks to the growing ecosystem of apps and open data imports from various countries, this number rose to 330,000.

Open Knowledge Initiative

The Open Knowledge Initiative (O.K.I.) is an organization responsible for the specification of software interfaces comprising a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) based on high level service definitions.

Open Knowledge International

Open Knowledge International (OKI), known as the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF) until April 2014 and then Open Knowledge until May 2016, is a global, non-profit network that promotes and shares information at no charge, including both content and data. It was founded by Rufus Pollock on 24 May 2004 in Cambridge, UK.Its slogan is, "Sonnets to statistics, genes to geodata ..."

Open admissions

Open admissions, or open enrollment, is a type of unselective and noncompetitive college admissions process in the United States in which the only criterion for entrance is a high school diploma or a certificate of attendance or General Educational Development (GED) certificate.

Open content

Open content is a neologism coined by David Wiley in 1998 which describes a creative work that others can copy or modify freely, without asking for permission. The term evokes the related concept of open-source software. Such content is said to be under an open licence.

Open data

Open data is the idea that some data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. The goals of the open-source data movement are similar to those of other "open(-source)" movements such as open-source software, hardware, open content, open education, open educational resources, open government, open knowledge, open access, open science, and the open web. Paradoxically, the growth of the open data movement is paralleled by a rise in intellectual property rights. The philosophy behind open data has been long established (for example in the Mertonian tradition of science), but the term "open data" itself is recent, gaining popularity with the rise of the Internet and World Wide Web and, especially, with the launch of open-data government initiatives such as, and

Open data, can also be linked data; when it is, it is linked open data. One of the most important forms of open data is open government data (OGD), which is a form of open data created by ruling government institutions. Open government data's importance is borne from it being a part of citizens' everyday lives, down to the most routine/mundane tasks that are seemingly far removed from government.

Open university

An open university is a university with an open-door academic policy, with minimal or no entry requirements. Open universities may employ specific teaching methods, such as open supported learning or distance education. However, not all open universities focus on distance education, nor do distance-education universities necessarily have open admission policies.


Openness is an overarching concept or philosophy that is characterized by an emphasis on transparency and free, unrestricted access to knowledge and information, as well as collaborative or cooperative management and decision-making rather than a central authority. Openness can be said to be the opposite of secrecy.

Rufus Pollock

Rufus Pollock (born 1980) is an economist and founder of Open Knowledge International. He is a Shuttleworth Foundation alumnus,, an Ashoka Fellow, an Associate of the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law at the University of Cambridge and President of Open Knowledge International which he founded (as the Open Knowledge Foundation) in 2004 and served as a board director until 2013. He continues to act as Board Secretary. In addition to his academic work, whilst at Open Knowledge International he initiated a wide variety of projects, many of which continue to be active today. For example, in 2005 he created The Open Definition which provided the first formal definition of open content and open data, and which has remained the standard reference definition. In 2005–2006 he created the first version of CKAN, open source software for finding and sharing datasets, especially open datasets. CKAN has continued to evolve and today is the leading open data platform software in the world used by governments including the US and UK to publish millions of public datasets.

Shuttleworth Foundation

The Shuttleworth Foundation was established in January 2001 by South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth as an experiment with the purpose of providing funding for people engaged in social change. While there have been various iterations of the foundation, its structure and how it invests in social innovation, the current model employs a fellowship model where fellows are given funding commensurate with their experience to match a year's salary, allowing them to spend that year developing a particular idea.

Notable past and present fellows include Marcin Jakubowski (who develops the Open Source Ecology project), Rufus Pollock (co-founder of the Open Knowledge Foundation) and Mark Surman (now Executive Director of Mozilla Foundation.)

The Open Definition

The Open Definition is a document published by Open Knowledge International (OKI) (previously the Open Knowledge Foundation) to define openness in relation to data and content. It specifies what licences for such material may and may not stipulate, in order to be considered open licences. The definition itself was derived from the Open Source Definition for software.OKI summarise the document as:

Open means anyone can freely access, use, modify, and share for any purpose (subject, at most, to requirements that preserve provenance and openness).

The latest form of the document, published in November 2015, is version 2.1. The use of language in the document is conformant with RFC 2119.The document is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which itself meets the Open Definition.

The Open Source Definition

The Open Source Definition is a document published by the Open Source Initiative, to determine whether a software license can be labeled with the open-source certification mark.The definition was taken from the exact text of the Debian Free Software Guidelines, written and adapted primarily by Bruce Perens with input from the Debian developers on a private Debian mailing list. The document was created 9 months before the formation of the Open Source Initiative.

World Bank

The World Bank (French: Banque mondiale) is an international financial institution that provides loans to countries of the world for capital projects. It comprises two institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), and the International Development Association (IDA). The World Bank is a component of the World Bank Group.

The World Bank's most recent stated goal is the reduction of poverty. As of November 2018, the largest recipients of world bank loans were India ($859 million in 2018) and China ($370 million in 2018), through loans from IBRD.

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