Workshop ‘The University Cooperative’

Learning to manage academic resources as common property: workshop at Utrecht University


  • Tine de Moor, Department of Social and Economic History, Utrecht University
  • Bianca Kramer and Jeroen Bosman, FORCE11 Scholarly Commons Working Group and Utrecht University Library
  • Lars Tummers, School of Governance, Utrecht University
  • Socrates Schouten,  Waag

Nearly thirty years ago, Elinor Ostrom published her groundbreaking book Governing the Commons, in which she showed that users of natural and agricultural resources can and do govern such resources themselves. They do not have to rely on hierarchical state or corporate regulation, nor on a pricing mechanism to overcome the collective action problems that may arise. By setting up rules together, and monitoring compliance with these rules, commoners are able to manage resources themselves. Ostrom also extended her work on commons governance to knowledge commons.Sharing resources, such as data, methods, publications, and the curriculum, is one of the foundations of university education and development. But today many academic resources such as subscriptions and the syllabus are managed in a rigid, bureaucratic way. Many users and producers of resources and knowledge lack the opportunity to express their wishes and highlight alternatives.This workshop will introduce you to the issues, the concepts, and successful examples of governing common resources. You will be involved in applying the concept of commons to concrete cases relevant to academia and knowledge creation, not just by listening, but by doing, together.

Questions: If we want to become decision makers of our shared resources, what do we need to learn? Which tools do we need? What rights are we missing?Take away: We develop a clearer understanding of how to increase resource control among the academic community. We understand better how that has been done by others. We know where we should start and what steps to follow.Effort: To learn together how the lessons from the commons can help academics in their  work. To share and discuss what we and others can do right now. To sketch a roadmap that show us the way forward.


This workshop is a joint effort by the Utrecht Young Academy, Open Science Community Utrecht, and Waag.


10 – 10:15: Opening and introduction

  • Format and aim of the workshop, Organizers

10:20 – 11:30: Theory

  • The fundamentals of commons applied to academia, Tine de Moor
  • Scholarly commons, Bianca Kramer and Jeroen Bosman
  • Towards accepted behaviour change (ABC) in academia, Lars Tummers

11:40 – 12:30: Solution space

  • Neighbourhood cooperatives, Anja van der Aa
  • Liquid democracy, (tba)

12:30 – 13:30: Lunch and group activity

13:30 – 16:00: workshop and discussion. Moderator: Socrates Schouten (Waag)

  • Introduction of cases a. Allocating the library budget of a department b. The tragedy of publish and perish
  • Discussion round 1, problem formulation and identifying the limits
  • Break out sessions for designing solutions
  • Discussion round 2, critical view on the practicality of solutions

16:00: rounding up

The workshop will take place at the Belle van Zuylenzaal, Academiegebouw, Domplein 29 Utrecht. There is limited place for external participants. If you are interested in participating in the workshop or contributing in another way, please register and why not join the project’s Github page?