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Quickly Noted: I Just Want to Learn!

October 2, 2007

Library_journals_stack So, I would’ve posted on an article weeks and weeks ago, but I couldn’t find it.  Not even the Google-o-web would give up the ghost until just recently.  And to me, that’s a problem.  Just because I don’t have the name of a university after that little @ sign anymore, I’ve been deemed not good enough to read the latest and greatest from folks who get paid to think.  Yep, I’m ranting about open access again.

For those of you who’d rather not click the links, open access is a movement in academic journaling that thinks that everyone should have access to scientific literature.  It’s a theory that believes that articles about equality and closing the academic gap should, y’know, be available to everyone.  We’re finally savvy enough to be able to read scientific articles without having to have it explained in small words – and y’know what?  If we’re not savvy enough yet,  we can look it up.  Long gone are the days when common rabble should be able to think for themselves, to see the methods section, to disagree with the discussion section, to check the footnotes.

Instead we’re saddled with this industry that will only let us peek under the curtain for $30 a day – per journal!  These folks hold back the fabric of our learning so they can squeeze a few more ducats out of a dying industry.  The fact that they continue to collect fees while open access journals are quickly becoming more and more important in research, and not doing it with charity, is despicable and does a dis-service to all of humanity.

The worst part of it all is that information yearns to be free.  Someone will post these articles online (like I will in my next post), and then the journal loses the traffic and money anyway.  Much like the movie and music industry are being buffeted by a new business model, academic research will be, too.  Articles like these are too good, and too important, to rot away behind some firewall that only a few can access.  Opponents of free information say that this is a zero-sum game, information taken from the free Internet reduces the amount that is taken from the pay world.  While I agree that this is a zero-sum game, I think how it is is different.  It’s a zero-sum between money and influence.  Wide distribution of quality research will increase the influence of the journal.  Narrow distribution using a moneyed model will fatten wallets.  Journals can choose one or the other – and you see which way they’re going.

If you get a chance, read about how open access works here and here.  Then stop by the most famous of open access journals, the PLoS.

With that out of the way, expect some news on a pandemic in an online game.

Image – borrowed – from Cochin University of Science and Technology.  Thanks guys!


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