An important aspect of FORCE11's relationship with its membership stems from its guiding principles. An early draft of these were proposed by the Executive Committee, but the Sustainability Committee also devoted considerable attention to discussing and refining these principles.
During these discussions, two aspects of the original draft principles came up for particular attention: the principles described in earlier drafts as the “neutrality” and “non-competitiveness” clauses. The trouble the Sustainability Committee had with these involved the literalness with which they should be interpreted.
Did “neutrality” mean that FORCE11 had no opinion about any kind of initiative, process, or research in Research Communication? Or did it mean that FORCE11 did not take positions on questions of debate within its community, while accepting that the community itself was delimited by some common concerns and interests?
- Did “Non-competitiveness” mean that FORCE11 would never participate in funding competitions that might bring it into competition with other initiatives among its membership? Or did it mean that FORCE11 would organize its fundraising activity as much as possible on a collaborative and cooperative basis?
After considerable discussion and several drafts, the committee came to the conclusion that FORCE11 was not (and indeed could not) be completely neutral and could not hope to avoid all potential competition with member initiatives. In the case of Neutrality, for example, it was felt that the “practice” that defines the FORCE11 community could be defined as involving a common interest in the use of particular technology and technologically enabled social and economic practices in support of research communication and a belief that such technology offers opportunities to improve the practice and accessibility of science and scholarship. In the case of Non-competitiveness, moreover, it was felt that FORCE11 was already, in a technical sense, in competition with its membership through the very grant programs that sustain it (the funding it receives from agencies, for example, are, by definition, not going to other entities interested in research communication). The committee considered the better approach would be to see this principle as involving transparency and a bias towards collaboration, rather than simply an unwillingness to compete. While FORCE11 might not be able to avoid competing for funding with others interested in the future of Research Communication, it could mitigate the worst aspects of this competition by operating in a transparent and predictable fashion and by focusing wherever possible on working with others in the community on common projects and goals.
The result of this discussion was a reformulation of the principles in the following form:
FORCE 11 Fundamental Principles
Focused on the Future of Research Communication
FORCE11 provides a common ground for those interested in the future of research communication. Its members are interested in how research communication is currently practiced and how digital networked technologies can improve such communication (and hence the practice and effectiveness of science and scholarship) in the future.
Drawn from Across Disciplines and Sectors
Members of FORCE11 include commercial and non-profit publishers, libraries, scholarly societies, universities, other private and public sector organizations, and individual researchers, librarians, publishing professionals, corporate and public sector managers. The membership of FORCE11 is not restricted to any one discipline or groups of disciplines. It includes experts from the Natural Sciences, Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, and Professional disciplines. FORCE11 members think that the future of Research Communication is a Multidisciplinary and Multi-sector endeavor.
Dedicated to Mobilization and Harmonization
The membership of FORCE11 approach research communication with different interests, concerns, and levels of participation. Often these interests are complementary. Sometimes they may be competing. For this reason, FORCE11 does not itself certify or endorse external initiatives. It is not an advocacy organization, but rather an organization for the mobilization and harmonization of community initiatives. It acts by convening communities of interest from within its membership but does not presume to speak for its members.
Transparent and Collaborative
The community that FORCE11 works with is heavily dependent on grants from government and other agencies. Although FORCE11 also looks for funding from these agencies, it avoids as much as possible competing directly with its members.
It does this through the choice of programs to which it applies, by working directly with funding agencies, and, wherever possible, through partnerships and other mechanisms for ensuring that the funds it receives are requested on the communities behalf and dedicated to good of its membership and the community it serves.