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March 7, 2008

Access Barriers to Information are Bad for Capitalism

From that bastion of capitalism, the Wall Street journal comes this pronouncement...

... barriers to the spread of information are bad for capitalism. The dissemination of knowledge is almost as crucial as the production of it for the creation of wealth, and knowledge (like people) can't reproduce in isolation...In fact, open access might help to moderate some of the worst forms of academic hokum, if only by holding them up to the light of day -- and perhaps by making taxpayers, parents and college donors more careful about where they send their money ...

Keeping knowledge bottled up is also bad for the world's poor; indeed, opening up the research produced on America's campuses via the Internet is probably among the most cost-effective ways of helping underdeveloped countries rise from poverty ...

The context for these quotes was an article, Information Liberation, in the March 7, 2008 issue of the Wall Street Journal. (Currently available for all to read.)

The focus of the article is on the problems that the current barriers to research findings cause to the citizenry. The blame is placed on the rising serials costs. However, it is noted that there are signs that the barriers to access are falling with the advent of open access mandates. The recent NIH mandate is applauded

Congress has mandated that by April 7 papers arising from NIH-sponsored research -- roughly 80,000 of them a year -- be made freely available in the federal PubMed database, which can be read by anyone with an Internet connection. Alas, the new NIH policy will allow a 12-month lag between publication and posting on PubMed.

As is the recent mandate by the Harvard Arts & Sciences faculty

hose members voted to publish on the Internet for all to see -- gratis. These professors will give Harvard world-wide nonexclusive license to their work, and the university will exercise it by posting their papers. The journals won't have much choice if they want the work of Harvard professors. The faculty members will still publish in expensive journals, but the move to put the same materials on the Internet is a stake poised at the heart of a vampire that has been sucking dollars out of academic institutions for years through the ever-sharper bite of subscription prices.

Posted by Katie Newman at March 7, 2008 4:21 PM