Mind to Market

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Push for Open Access

James Boyle, professor of law at Duke and a founder of Science Commons, has recently written a piece in the Financial Times making a case for open access to publicly funded research results. Although pushing for legislation for public access to federally funded research, Boyle acknowledges that the bill will probably be vetoed by the current administration.

Boyle points out the irony of the situation; that the Web was originally developed by scientists to facilitate access to scientific knowledge. Yet, years after the Web has benefited so many other industries, science has yet to reap the benefits due in part because of the entrenched system in which scientific results are published.

As Web 2.0 technologies are sending their tendrils throughout the Web, connecting bits of information from one Web site with another, they come to a dead stop when encountering scientific information locked behind subscriber only gates of the academic journals. There is no doubt that these journals provide value in the scientific process, but with the advent of the Internet and the fundamental changes it has brought to knowledge dissemination, their value has begun to wane. Is there a successful business model that can provide publication services in an open access world? Absolutely, but not all journals may be able to make the change and there are risks involved, hence heavy resistance from the journal publishers.

And what will happen when the journal flood gates are finally opened? There is no doubt the day that a human could expect to read and process the volume of information required for an interdisciplinary research project is coming to an end and that this flood would spur a demand for more and better informatics tools. But combining the wealth of information with better informatics tools will certainly usher in a new era of scientific discovery.

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