and because it’s in Nature Precedings, I can link to it here. John Wilbanks, VP of Science Commons, argues that open access means more than keeping journal costs down, but that access to information is an essential condition for innovation and the creation of new knowledge.
He’s talking about access broadly too – talking about it on a legal/cultural/intellectual property level and on a technological/information organization level –
That’s the power of what we might call a “knowledge web,” built on a knowledge infrastructure. Just to be clear, here’s what I mean by a knowledge web: it’s when today’s web has enough power to work as well for science as it currently works for culture. That means databases are integrated as easily as web documents, and it means that powerful search engines let scientists ask complex research questions and have some comfort that they’re seeing all the relevant public information in the answers. A knowledge web is when journal articles have hyperlinks inside them, not just citations, letting systems like Google do their job properly.
A knowledge web is predicated on access, and not control, of knowledge.
What he’s not talking about is libraries –
But this knowledge web, where all of the literature and databases are cross-linked and searchable from a single interface like Google, isn’t going to happen by accident. Unlike when we built past information network, we don’t have the luxury of building the knowledge web before anyone knows it’s valuable.
We have to build this web together. It’s going to require commercial publishers…. It’s going to require hackers…. It’s going to require funders…. It’s going to take users, like the pharmaceutical companies and the academics. It’s going to take all of us to build a knowledge web, a web that truly supports the kind of complex queries required to get valuable answers out of the deluge of information.
I don’t think he just forgot libraries, nor do I think that he’s unaware of what libraries do. He just talked at MIT libraries last month about these very topics, after all. Does it matter that he didn’t specifically include libraries? I’m really not sure. At the very least, it’s important to remember I think that libraries can’t do this thing alone either. That the partners he mentions are essential.
But I just happened to read this the day after I read this at Dorothea Salo’s blog and maybe it connects? She doesn’t think most librarians are very engaged with the issues of open access. She might be right – it doesn’t feel like that from where I’m sitting, but where I’m sitting could definitely be atypical. So I’m wondering what others think. But most of all I’m hoping others read this article. I found it accessible, thought-provoking and even a little inspiring. Three of my favorite things.