Open access: toward the internet of the mind

23 Feb 2017

Access means access. Whenever access to documents is impeded, the quality of human communication suffers. Impeding access can take a wide variety of forms, ranging from limiting who can work with documents, to delaying when such work can take place.

Financial barriers and embargoes, for example, seek objectives that can only look paradoxical from a scientist’s perspective: if the financial underpinning of a communication system leads to difficulties for scientists, what should be changed?

The answer is simple, and it is a question of simple priorities: the communication system of science and its objectives trump business plans, not the reverse. Short of arguing that the science communication system is not a communication system at all, but rather an archive, or a way to adjudicate paternity to some idea, theory or concept, treating scientific communication as a set of saleable services, and not as the fundamental underpinning of knowledge creation and validation, makes little sense.

The best demonstration of the primacy of communication over business plans becomes blindingly clear when an emergency arises. The Ebola and the Zika epidemics encouraged researchers and some publishers to open up access to the needed literature and data to fight the scourge back. However, the need to access validated knowledge is not limited to times of crisis; it also affects every moment of knowledge creation.

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