14 October 2008

Open Access Day promotes communication

Few things could promote communications for devlopment more effectively than free and open access to knowledge.
Open Access Day and Open Access Week are an effort by the Public Library of Science, PLoS, to encourage bloggers to demonstrate their commitment to the open access movement, and promote the cause through word of mouth.
Open access is an antidote to the regulatory nightmare of digital rights management, over-zealous copyright legislation and ludicrous patenting terms which turn artists and thinkers - or their employers and publishers - into profiteers, and audiences and collaborators into 'consumers'.
Open access is a cause célèbre among many scholars whose ultimate objective is to connect with others, rather than earn profits. It is a cause to itself, but also a major challenge to the publishing industry which is still trying to iron out the wrinkles (or simply resist, in the hope that it will fail). Publishers and other intermediaries argue that they need to get paid for quality assurance, production and marketing. However, digital search and electronic archives are challenging traditional, paper-based publishing models just as digital downloads are forcing music publishers and movie makers to review the way they do business.
People who want to access knowledge will value easy access, especially if they do not have to pay. But publishers warn that there might be less quality material available if the free and direct model takes over. In fact, they want to be able to charge for 'value' of easy access, such as searchable archives.
The rapid growth of peer to peer communities such as Facebook and (earlier) MySpace show that information exchange can blossom without concern for quality or accuracy. However, the boom in Wikipedia and similar publications also points to the potential for generating timely, accurate and insightful knowledge with minimal costs to readers. That has to be good news for the development community.

2011: Visit Open Access Week
Earlier: Open Access News blog