06 May 2017

Open Access

Preachy post about how I'm not preachy on the subject of open access.

I believe that scientific knowledge should be free to all. For me, this is a core value. Like with other core values, I would love if more people would share my opinion, but I am not the preacher type. Nevertheless, I appreciate the work of those who preacher type they are. Also, I think I have the right to act according to my core values, as long as I'm not stepping on others'.

How can we achieve free access to scientific knowledge? Granted, much of scientific knowledge is free, and the problem is that people aren't looking for it. But, still, a significant part of scientific knowledge remains behind paywalls.

I believe that there is exactly one way to achieve true, lasting, and meaningful change: reach a critical mass of people who hold the core value that scientific knowledge should be free. How do we get there? There is no royal way. Multiple tools must be used. Talk about it. Write about it. Change rules and guidelines of organizations. Set up procedures that make sharing (rather than not sharing) the default.

But, don't lose sight of the big picture. Rules and procedures are not the goal. Changing hearts and minds is the goal. And how people act is a barometer of how close we are to the goal. For example, do people post their articles on arXiv? Those who don't because it's slightly inconvenient or because they think it's beneath them and an admin person should do it, those people are not true believers, even though they might be preachers.

Changing rules and procedures is a tool for achieving change. Looking at how many papers are easy to access online is not how you measure progress. Looking at how individuals act is.

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