Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Be Open - Or, Be Irrelevant
I recently had a stimulating discussion with a medical faculty member about open access, and why being truly open may be important to the advancement of medicine. This is both an access issue, and a philosophical one. With all of the excitement and media coverage of Open Medicine, the faculty member was, in a sense, asking about intent and why researchers want to publish in open-access journals as opposed to one of the many pre-eminent, fee-based journals. It's important to be clear about how open access fits into our professional lives, and our emerging global society.
Excellent questions, ones we all should consider as open access advocates. First, I think it's important to conflate trends in information technology and society in general with the principles of open access. They enjoy symbiosis, I think. We live in an increasingly global world, where transnational communities and connections are now possible due to technology, and social software. Efficient, decentralized and inexpensive models of information dissemination were not available to us, even a few years ago.
Which brings me back to Open Medicine. I've been asked by colleagues to comment on our business model. At this point, we operate on very little money and are seeking philanthropic support, as well as reviewing other models of support. What propels us is a firm belief in openness, integrity in published research and transparency - ideals free from interference and conflicts. Is open access symbolic of changes in society? I believe it is. Those who try to ignore these changes, including the for-profit publishers, will increasingly risk irrelevancy. My new mantra: be open - or be irrelevant.