Open Access Day 2008!
Did you know today is Open Access Day? Wikipedia’s summary of what open access means is a good one: “free, immediate, permanent, full-text, online access, for any user, web-wide, to digital scientific and scholarly material, primarily research articles published in peer-reviewed journals.”
Why support open access? Won’t the people who need these resources already be associated with colleges or universities, and so have access to them? Well, first off, no; currently access to many important resources costs more than many institutions can afford. But consider also the full range of uses for open-access materials. Educators at all levels can use it to keep up to speed with their fields, and better teach children of all ages. (“Won’t somebody think of the children?!” actually applies here.) People who are dealing with diseases they know little about, whether it’s them or their relatives who are sick, can use scientific articles to educate themselves and get a better perspective on what’s going on with their bodies. Researchers can get their work done faster and ultimately more cheaply – less need for interlibrary loan! – which again increases equality in access to the knowledge we are so quickly amassing, regardless of a scholar’s or institution’s economic status.
Open access does nothing to address the problem of the digital divide; people without internet access still don’t get the benefit of this knowledge. But it’s a step. And when internet spreads further, like telephony, these resources will be waiting for people dealing with epidemics, people who need cheap renewable energy, people who can improve their own lives using knowledge we already have, without waiting for the Peace Corps to get to them.
Support open access. Talk to librarians about it. Talk to your scientist friends about it. Talk to anyone who’ll listen.