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Key Terms

This is not an exhaustive glossary of technical definitions but instead a brief recap of how various key terms are used within this book.

Published onAug 03, 2021
Key Terms
  • Club good: An economic good that is nonrivalrous but excludable. Also known as “toll goods.” Club goods do not experience market failure and are often efficiently privately provided local public goods.

  • Common pool resource: An economic good that is rivalrous but nonexcludable. Requires governance. Fisheries and forests are classic examples. Elinor Ostrom (1990) showed that neither the state nor markets can effectively supply common pool resources, and that under certain circumstances, they are efficiently managed by communities.

  • Diversity: A general property of difference within systems.

  • Evaluation: A process in which a system is compared to some form of benchmark that may be internal or external, and qualitative or quantitative. We are particularly interested in helping universities evaluate, in as self-critical and objective a manner as possible, their progress toward an imagined future as OKIs.

  • High-ranking bureaucrat: You know who you are. You know what you have to do.

  • Indicator: A data point that can be associated with an aspect of interest in a system. Qualitative or quantitative in form. Indicators are to be contrasted with metrics, which are connected to a rigorous theory of measurement, and proxies, which are data that are usefully associated with and may be predictive of an aspect of interest, but for which there is no theoretical connection.

  • Open access: Has various contested technical definitions. It is used here in a generic sense of scholarly objects that can be freely accessed online without charge and with no restrictions beyond those inherent in gaining access to network infrastructures.

  • Open knowledge institution: An institution (below) that solves one or more of the collective action problems involved in producing knowledge as a common pool resource.

  • Open: Free from restrictions. Not used here in any of the formal (but limited!) open-source, free software, or open knowledge definition, and not limited to copyrightable objects. Can be applied to objects, processes, communities, and systems.

  • Knowledge: Useful understandings of the world. Contextual and bound. Effort is required to move and translate knowledge to different contexts.

  • Institution: Rules for coordination. Not a synonym for “a legal entity” or “long-standing organization.”

  • Organization: A legal entity or clearly defined ordering (usually hierarchical) of agents for some purpose. An organization is not an institution.

  • Penguin: A flightless aquatic bird of the family Spheniscidae including the modern genera Aptenodytes, Eudyptes, Eudyptula, Megadyptes, Pygoscelis, and Spheniscus. Penguins live exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere. They really like to eat fish and are surprisingly graceful in the water, yet not on land. Also (aka Penguin Books), a book publisher founded by Allen Lane, based largely in the Northern Hemisphere.

  • Private good: An economic good that is excludable and rivalrous. Efficiently provided by firms and markets.

  • Public good: A economic good that is nonexcludable and nonrivalrous. That is, it is difficult to prevent others using it and can be distributed without loss. Public goods experience market failure and are efficiently supplied by governments. Not used in this book in the sense of “the public interest.”

  • Public interest: That which is good for the public, as judged by elites (or when those elites are economists, a social welfare function). “The public good” (politics) is commonly but mistakenly confused with “a public good” (economics).

  • Subsidiarity: Subsidiarity is the principle that responsibility for decisions and actions resides as close as possible to the makers of knowledge—that is, at the lowest possible point in an administrative hierarchy.

  • University: Used in a broad sense to include liberal arts colleges, research, and teaching organizations. In some countries, the university is defined in law.


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