Document Type

Book Chapter

Book Authors/Editors

Peter Menell & David Schwartz, eds.


Edward Elgar Publishing

Publication Date



This chapter describes methods for systematically studying knowledge commons as an institutional mode of governance of knowledge and information resources, including references to adjacent but distinct approaches to research that looks primarily to the role(s) of intellectual property systems in institutional contexts concerning innovation and creativity.

Knowledge commons refers to an institutional approach (commons) to governing the production, use, management, and/or preservation of a particular type of resource (knowledge or information, including resources linked to innovative and creative practice). Commons refers to a form of community management or governance. It applies to a resource, and it involves a group or community of people who share access to and/or use of the resource. Commons does not denote the resource, the community, a place, or a thing. Commons is the institutional arrangement of these elements and their coordination via combinations of law and other formal rules; social norms, customs, and informal discipline; and technological and other material constraints. Community or collective self-governance of the resource, by individuals who collaborate or coordinate among themselves effectively, is a key feature of commons as an institution, but self-governance may be and often is linked to other formal and informal governance mechanisms.

For purposes of this chapter, knowledge refers to a broad set of intellectual and cultural resources. There are important differences between various resources captured by such a broad definition. For example, knowledge, information, and data may be different from each other in meaningful ways. But an inclusive term is necessary in order to permit knowledge commons researchers to capture and study a broad and inclusive range of commons institutions and to highlight the importance of examining knowledge commons governance as part of dynamic, ecological contexts.