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1. Preface

In April 2018, thirteen of us from around Australia and the world gathered to think about the future of the university as an open knowledge institution. This book is the product of that thinking. It represents a consensus view from some distinct perspectives.

Published onMar 08, 2019
1. Preface

1.1 The Flight of the Penguin

Allen Lane died in 1970. Shortly before his death, as the founder of Penguin Books, he met with some of Britain’s leading academics to propose that a consortium of British universities acquire Penguin Books. Penguin published everything from crime thrillers to Penguin Classics, including Pelican (non-fiction), Peregrine (first editions), Puffin (children’s books) and the hardback Allen Lane imprint. By 1970 Penguin was as popular a national institution as the BBC.

Lane's was an early attempt to link two different types of knowledge institution: popular but serious publishing and learned but modernising universities. It came to nothing. The university sector at that time was incapable of making use of the popular reach, industrial resources and global reputation of the firm that had so astoundingly democratised the reading public. The idea of a great publishing venture as a university did not accord with universities' self-conception. Indeed, the day after Lane’s death, Penguin was sold to another media giant, Pearson; it would later be internationalised as part of Penguin Random House.

The opportunity was lost for universities to lead the transformation of knowledge institutions from closed cloisters to open and globally-networked competitors in knowledge services. It took another generation and the emergence of digital and internet technologies to force that change; eventually making universities an integrated (if specially protected) part of creative, knowledge and service economies, in which environment they are by no means the dominant players. 

In 2012, Pearson withdrew from trade publishing and began the divestiture of Penguin that would be completed by 2017. In January 2018, a distressed Pearson announced yet another cost-cutting venture, including a near-terminal retreat from the field of content production. 

So, has Allen Lane's dying initiative now come full circle? Might universities lift the pace in rethinking their embrace of a more open and competitive knowledge role? Could they even be major players in the creative, knowledge and service economies?

1.2 The Moondyne Manifesto

In April 2018, thirteen of us from around Australia and the world gathered, with only the local kangaroos for company, in a secluded venue deep in the Moondyne Valley, an hour or so east of Perth, to think about the future of the university as an open knowledge institution. This book is the product of that thinking. It represents a consensus view from some distinct perspectives – research professors, open knowledge advocates, science communicators, economists, publishers, high-level university administrators, librarians and others – towards a diagnosis of what the problem is, and what we might do to fix it.

This book advocates for universities to become Open Knowledge Institutions which institutionalise our world's creative diversity in order to contribute to the stock of common knowledge. 

Universities operating as open knowledge institutions act with principles of openness at their centre. We advocate for universities to work with the broader community to generate shared knowledge resources that work for the broader benefit of all of humanity. We advocate that universities adopt transparent protocols for the creation, use and governance of these shared resources.  

Moondyne Convention Centre —Photo: J. Hartley

Michael Madison:

The university has been examined as a case of “knowledge commons,” institutions for open but structured sharing of knowledge and information resources, as alternatives to information and knowledge producing institutions that are based on exclusivity - copyright and patent law. For more on the knowledge commons concept as a research framework as a prompt for case studies across many domains, and for relevant works published over the last 10 years, see

The university case study was published in 2009, as Madison, Michael J. and Frischmann, Brett M. and Strandburg, Katherine J., The University as Constructed Cultural Commons (2009). The paper is available at SSRN:

Antonio Santos:

Most disabilities come with ageing and educators older than 60 will experience some form of disability. Is important to consider their needs to let them continue to participate and this forum and on the academic life.

In many countries individual with disabilities cannot access to University and achieve their full potential because the academia and the education system are not ready for them.

Please read watch this interview that corroborates my argument.

Cameron Neylon:

Thanks Antonio. Exclusions on the basis of physical ability are definitely part of our concern and you are correct to note that we haven’t emphasised that enough. Thanks for that comment and we’ll look to see how we can make that much clearer in the revision.

Cameron Neylon:

Jeff, thanks for your comments. We are indeed hoping to kick start a broader coalition of interested parties and organisations. The intent is for commentary on this book to in part guide us to potential partners that we wouldn’t otherwise think of so your suggestion of APLU is a great one. Stay posted for more thoughts on how we can take the agenda forward, both as individuals and as organisations!

Jeff Piestrak:

Thank you for your courage and audacity in taking on such a complex and contentious topic! Amazing what you were able to pull together in just 5 days, with so many contributors.

You cover a lot of important terrain here, worthy of further discussion and ongoing experimentation. There are so many potential paths and pitfalls universities will face in becoming Open Knowledge Institutions. We all would benefit if this book would somehow help jump-start a larger dialogue, perhaps even some sort of OKI Community of Practice or learning network, with a registry documenting our respective efforts (successes AND failures).

After working as a “tempered radical” within the Cornell University Library system for over 20 years, I recently had the great privilege of exploring many of the challenges and opportunities you highlight in your book within the context of the U.S. Land Grant system, through a year-long Land Grant Informatics fellowship. You can access the output of that effort, including a blog series and final report here:

Public and Land Grant Universities here in the U.S. represent a particularly fertile ground for the ideas you present here to take root, across what is already a federated network. Perhaps orgs like might be interested in cultivating further conversations…

Thanks again for this much-needed and timely effort -Cheers!

Lucy Montgomery:

Hi Jeff - thanks for sharing the link to your project. It looks amazing! And very relevant to the ideas that we have been working through. I am reading my way through your blog…

+ 1 more...
Anita de Waard:

Please add a link here

Thank you!

Anita de Waard:


Again, please add a link!

Anita de Waard:


Is it possible to add links to some of these references projects/concepts? I don’t know this, and it would help me to not have to jump out and search. Thanks!

Katie Wilson:

/see Table 1 below.