How does the lay public use the literature?

Philip Davis recently authored a post, The Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), Science, and the Public Good, The Scholarly Kitchen, April 22, 2010. So far, there have been 11 responses to this post.

Comments: This sentence in the post caught my eye: “While much is known about how researchers make use of the scientific literature, much less is known about the consumption of scientific literature by the general public“.

The 11th response (by Philip Davis) includes a similar sentence: “There has been much written on how scholars use the scientific literature; much less about how the lay public uses the literature“. I agree.

After reading the post and the responses, I then attempted to post a response of my own, but failed (perhaps because the blog software didn’t like the HTML tags that I had included in my response?). My response was:

Those unfamiliar with Participatory Medicine may find the website of the Journal of Participatory Medicine | Society for Participatory Medicine to be informative. Some of the initial contributors to this new OA journal [JoPM] are well-informed citizens, not scientists or physicians. See, for example, the contributions by Musa Mayer [bio] , a breast cancer survivor who is a “research advocate”, and by Gilles Frydman [bio], whose wife’s diagnosis of early-stage breast cancer in 1995 led him to become the activist who founded ACOR (the Association of Online Cancer Resources). ACOR has been very successful.



  1. Mr. Gunn said

    Jim, I tried to post a similar comment, and I’ve mentioned ACOR to them before. Can’t find my comment, either.

  2. Jim Till said

    There’s a FriendFeed thread about this post at:

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by OA Tracking Project. OA Tracking Project said: How does the lay public use the literature?: ""Those unfamiliar with Participatory Medicine may find the website o… […]


    Health-related research is a very special case, not representative of lay interest in and usage of the scholarly and scientific research literature in general.

    That said, lay access comes with the territory, if we provide open access. The only real issue is the priority and degree of need for lay access, as among the candidate reasons for demanding and providing open access.

    And I think that in reality (apart from very special cases like health) that priority is not nearly as high as it is portrayed by some OA advocates, including politicians. Perhaps it wouldn’t matter if a largely false rationale nevertheless managed to help usher in OA anyway. (“Means and ends.”) But will it? And should we feel comfortable with that?

    I, for one, keep pushing the peer-to-peer rationale — which is, I think, the chief, valid and defensible rationale for demanding and providing OA to all scholarly and scientific research — in part because I think that anyone who gives it even a few moments of serious thought can come to the realization that the mantra of “tax-payer access to tax-payer-funded research” — as good as it sounds and sells to voters and politicians — is a specious one, and could easily be made to collapse, for example, under just a little probing congressional scrutiny.

    In contrast, “peer-to-peer access — BY the intended users of research, FOR the tax-payers beneficiaries who fund it,” is a rationale that would not collapse but become even stronger under closer scrutiny.

    [P.S. If you don’t want your comments to be filtered out by the Scholarly Kitchen’s anti-spam software, don’t put in URLs — or code them by dropping the http and substituting DOTS and SLASHES. Not that some of those Scullery Chefs aren’t up to the occasional skulduggery, suppressing comments they find uncongenial while protesting their commitment to openness! ]

    [From the editor: My personal experience (e.g. with the another blog that I edit, Cancer Stem Cell News) has been that there is much lay interest in reports of ‘translational research‘, defined as research that is “a way of thinking about and conducting scientific research to make the results of research applicable to the population under study and is practised in the natural and biological, behavioural, and social sciences.”]

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