Collectively Implement Strategic Practices
The most immediate step that the academic community can take is to strategically leverage its collective market power to change the behavior of commercial vendors. By working collectively in this area, it is possible to create a market where companies must not only compete on price and quality of services they provide, but also on how well they align with community values. Collective actions may happen through existing consortia or networks, state-level coordinating bodies, or new structures.
Common Contract Terms and Conditions
An important first step to consider is to have a critical mass of institutions to demand contract terms and conditions that support a more open and competitive market. In the Risk Mitigation section, we laid out multiple recommendations for institutions to adopt strong privacy policies, data policies, and engage in open procurement practices. All of these steps are important for institutions to take on their own, but the results will be even more powerful if institutions engage in these efforts together. Broad adoption of common terms and conditions will have a market effect that favors products and services that are in the best interests of the academic community. This includes advantaging Open Source software over “black-box” algorithms and leveling the playing field for community-owned tools to compete with commercial options whenever available.
There are areas of infrastructure where the community can reassert or maintain control before it is lost. This is particularly true in some areas of teaching and student life, where digital tools and analytics have not yet been comprehensively deployed. However, it will take time for viable community-controlled infrastructure to come to market, and therefore an interim strategy may be to buy time. Strategies for buying time include avoiding new services with significant potential for vendor lock-in, putting a hold on new data or data analytics products until some of the actions we outline under Risk Mitigation and Strategic Choices are complete, and reconsidering steps that could accelerate vendor capture of new grey data – particularly “smart” devices and “inclusive access” digital textbook subscription programs.