Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Knowledge distribution - dollars and sense

Intending to share published and unpublished material from the Raffles Bulletin of Zooology and in Habitatnews, while conscious of the need to encourage proper citation and acknowledgement of original work, I reflected on the manner in which IT circles have addressed issues of sharing and selling in open source, shareware, freeware and the use of Creative Commons Licenses.

I eventually adopted the latter and acknowledged as much at database workshop in Kuala Lumpur this year, and suggested to biologists that they consider these issues for their databases and publications.

Ever since the CBD propagated a over-simplified view of material profits from forests and oceans, there has been a climate of self-preservation by means of over-regulation that has crippled scientific research in many countries, ultimately affecting local biodiversity scientists as well.

Added to this burden has been the physically inaccessible or unknown nature of regional journals and the financially inaccessible nature of commercially published scientific journals.

Advances in computers, internet, and publishing methods are thankfully forcing a rethink of these issues.

Gass, Doyle and Kennnison investigate this issue in three articles in the open source Public Library of Science Biology articles.

On 13 July 2004, Andy Gass, Helen Doyle & Rebecca Kennison asked "Whose Copy? Whose Rights?" in PLoS 2(7): e228.

They argue that since governments invest millions in university infrastructure and research, there is a moral obligation to share derived knowledge with the community at large, and not just an elite group restricted by the high costs inevitable in prestigious journals and the restriction of copyright that often prevent the author from circulating his work freely.

This is the third in a series of articles, the other two being: Doyle, H., A. Gass & R. Kennison, 13 Apr 2004. Who Pays for Open Access? PLoS Biol., 2(4): e105, and Doyle, H., A. Gass, R. Kennison, 2004. Open Access and Scientific Societies. PLoS Biol., 2(5): e156.

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