February 21, 2020

The MIT Press and the MIT Media Lab Launch the Knowledge Futures Group

From the MIT Press:

2018-09-25_09-45-46The MIT Press announced today the launch of the Knowledge Futures Group (KFG), a first-of-its kind collaboration between a leading publisher and a world-class academic lab to transform how research information is created and shared.

This joint initiative of the MIT Press and the MIT Media Lab seeks to redefine research publishing from a closed, sequential process, into an open, community-driven one. The goal is to develop and deploy technologies that form part of a new open knowledge ecosystem, one that fully exploits the capabilities of the Web to accelerate discovery and the transmission of knowledge.

The effort has thus far received $1.5 million for its initial year of operation, through the generous support of Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and a member of the MIT Media Lab’s Advisory Council; smaller project-specific gifts from Siegel Family Endowment, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and Protocol Labs; and several individual donors.

“I am supporting this effort because I believe our future depends on how effectively we can combat the spread of misinformation and democratize access to trustworthy, verifiable sources of information,” says Hoffman. “It is imperative that we must move quickly toward a more open system of knowledge creation and sharing.”

Several months ago, Media Lab Director Joi Ito, and MIT Press Director Amy Brand, began exploring the creation of an incubator at MIT for tools and technologies that enable a more open model of research. “We’ve created this space for pure experimentation,” said Brand, “and we’ve already seen the benefits of sharing ideas between our core publishing groups and the KFG in innovative projects like FrankenbookJoDS, and our Works in Progress Open Access book community. We believe these examples are just the beginning of what will come from continued testing, development, and cross-collaboration.”

According to Ito, who is also a member of the MIT Press Management Board, “Our publishing models need to get better at aligning academic incentives with societally beneficial outcomes. We’d also like to serve as a model for others of what institutional ownership of this essential infrastructure looks like and how it can succeed at amplifying the impact of investment in basic research.”

“Promoting the efficient and equitable dissemination of research information has never been more urgent,” said Terry Ehling, director of strategic initiatives at the MIT Press, who also serves as managing director of the Knowledge Futures Group. “The Press is in a unique position among mission-driven publishers to take a disciplined and transparent approach to open collaboration and experimentation.”

One of the KFG’s first projects is PubPub, an open authoring and publishing platform developed by Travis Rich and Thariq Shihipar while they were graduate students at the Media Lab. The platform socializes the process of knowledge creation by integrating conversation, annotation, and versioning into a digital publication. The KFG is also incubating the Underlay, an open, distributed knowledge store conceived by Danny Hillis and Sam Klein, and being developed with Joel Gustafson. The Underlay is architected to capture, connect, and archive publicly available knowledge and its provenance.

The initiative will be based in close proximity to both the MIT Media Lab and MIT Press at the Cambridge Innovation Center in Kendall Square.

Direct to Knowledge Futures Group Web Page

The KFG will serve as a test kitchen, incubator, and a staging platform for the development and launch of open source publishing technologies and aligned open access publications, staffed jointly by the Press and the Media Lab. The open source approach not only reduces the precarious dependency that most non-profit academic publishers have on costly outsourced technologies and a limited network of commercial vendors, but also provides a foundation for greater insourced experimentation and innovation. We now seek funding partners to help us grow our capacity over the next two to three years, as we develop the cost-recovery models that will ultimately make the KFG self-sustaining.

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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