Archive for November, 2006

Innovation via Open Source science

I’m interested in justifications of Open Access that are oriented toward public policy (and, especially, ethics-oriented justifications). Examples of the latter are arguments based on what’s been called “Open Source Ethics”, see:

From this perspective, there’s a thought-provoking article in Working Knowledge (Harvard Business School): “Open Source Science: A New Model for Innovation”. Q&A with: Karim Lakhani. Published: November 20, 2006. Author: Martha Lagace,

The first two paragraphs:

In a perfect world, scientists share problems and work together on solutions for the good of society. In the real world, however, that’s usually not the case. The main obstacles: competition for publication and intellectual property protection.

Is there a model for encouraging large-scale scientific problem solving? Yes, and it comes from an unexpected and unrelated corner of the universe: open source software development.

A noteworthy excerpt:

“Innovations happen at the intersection of disciplines. People have talked about that a lot and I think we’re providing some systematic evidence now with this study,” Lakhani says.

Anecdotal evidence of my own supports the view that innovations are more likely to happen at the intersection of disciplines. From this perspective, an advantage of Open Access is that it makes the outputs from research and scholarship easily accessible to those in other disciplines.

Another noteworthy excerpt:

The ideals of science are, of course, openness, sharing, and no restrictions on the free flow of knowledge, but in practice that doesn’t happen much at all. Some scientists, however, are pushing back and many say they need to rethink how they conduct science.

Of course, “no restrictions on the free flow of knowledge” is an ideal shared by the Open Access and Open Source movements. It’s been suggested by David Berry that the principles of “Open Source Ethics” include “openness, decentralisation, sharing, collaboration and mutual support“. See: “Internet research: privacy, ethics and alienation: an open source approach” Internet Research 2004; 14(4): 323-332, available via:

Perhaps “Open Source Ethics” should be renamed “Creative Commons Ethics” (or some other term that’s more widely applicable beyond the Open Source/Open Access context)? For more about Creative Commons and iCommons (“an organisation with a broad vision to develop a united global commons front by collaborating with open content, access to knowledge, open access publishing and free culture communities around the world“), see the links at: “Meeting with Heather Ford of iCommons”,

Two final excerpts from the Lakhani interview:

There’s a growing movement and establishment of nonprofit foundations that are participating in drug discovery efforts. These foundations aren’t as concerned about intellectual property as they are about finding a cure or treatment for a disease, and it’s likely that they might open up solutions as well.

When you talk with lawyers, most of them say, “Protect, protect, protect, close, close, close,” but there are some very innovative licensing schemes and innovative ways by which you can allow others to peek into your process and not give up the entire keys to the kingdom.

Creative Commons licenses provide examples that are well known to those involved in the Open Access movement. See: “Choosing a License”,



Comments (1)

Do acts of selfishness inhibit Open Access?

Richard Poynder has posted a very interesting commentary on his blog (20 November 2006), entitled: “Open Access: Beyond Selfish Interests“,

The initial paragraph: “Few would question that the aim of the Open Access (OA) Movement – to make all research papers freely available on the Web – is a laudable one. OA will considerably benefit the research process, and maximise the use of public funds. It was encouraging therefore to see the topic of OA aired in a number of presentations at the recent Internet Librarian International (ILI). Listening to them, however, I found myself wondering how many acts of selfishness stand between us and OA“.

Peter Suber has blogged an item about this commentary, entitled: “A dysfunctional journal publishing system and a self-limiting OA movement“,

He has added some comments of his own. The last sentence: “But if I were convening a meeting on long-term strategy, I’d assign this article in its entirety as background reading. I encourage you to read it for the same reason“. I agree.

Jan Velterop has also blogged some comments (21 Nov 2006). See: “Ego and Economics“,

Excerpt: “Because it is so well-written – he is a journalist after all – one may not easily spot that some of his observations are presented as foregone conclusions, yet are not supported or warranted“.

Two “red herrings” are identified and commented upon: 1) That publishers have a “hegemony over scholarly communication“, and, 2) that: “If funders were to mandate OA publishing those prices [the article processing charges – APCs – that OA publishers currently levy] would be locked in“.

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Where this blog’s title comes from

The title for this blog comes from an article published in the University of Toronto Bulletin (11 October 2006), by Joan Leishman and myself, “Be openly accessible or be obscure?”,

An excerpt: “Patterns of scholarly communications are changing. Open Access(OA) archiving and OA publishing are receiving increasingly substantial support. ‘Be openly accessible or be obscure’ may soon join, or even replace, ‘publish in high-impact journals or perish’ as a mantra heard ad infinitum or nauseam by academics“.

My intention is to post comments relevant to this topic to this blog.

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