Re: PR's 'pit bull' takes on open access: excerpts from article in Nature Magazine

From: David Goodman <dgoodman_at_Princeton.EDU>
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 2007 19:35:51 -0500


there's an erroneous argument here. We pay the money to obtain the present access, without which
research might be hampered. The additional access from OA would be good for many extremely important
things, but it would not necessarily increase the amount of useful information available to elite researchers.
It might simplify getting it , but it's a minor factor for them.

The immediately limiting factor for research is money for research grants, but it will take a great deal of that
to do very much good. The limiting factor for major progress is the number of the best scientists with the
critical insights, which can be achieved through better science education, but again it will take a great deal of
money to do much good.

And that's the reason to spend the small amount of money on OA, which will help way beyond the elite
universities, and have a multiplier effect much greater than the minimal cost. That multiplier effect is
characteristic of information.

To say that it is the best way to find out how to cure "AIDS/HIV, avian flu, malaria, TB, and to make
progress in understanding climate change, genetics of drought-resistant plants, new mechanisms to battle
with pollution..." is unscientific. There is no way to demonstrate it. You and the AAP exchange arguments
about which neither of you have data. Your attitude encourages theirs'.

All we can do is look at the analog with the present. The easiest example is climate change, & pollution,
which will not be helped by providing everyone with the scientific information. It will be helped by ending the
deliberate government dissemination of the mis-information. Outside, the US, people understand what to do
for now. For the longer term, yes, we need research.

One of the great tragedies in AIDS therapy has been the efforts of a small group of scientists to spread the
misinformation that drug therapy causes AIDS rather than cures it, which has prevented some nations
from instituting actually beneficial programs. Yes, better therapies will take research, but it is wholly
unproven that having more scientists work on it will cause faster progress, or that more access to journals
will help the ones who now do the research.

Similarly with cancer-- the present knowledge of causative factors is not all that new. What prevented public
awareness of the effect of smoking was, once more, deliberate misinformation.

In all of these cases, there will be a strong benefit of OA, a true benefit. The lesser ability of interest groups
to dominate the discussion will be an important achievement. Even more, the spread of knowledge outside
the elite academic world & the motivation of people to support science and enter scientific careers will be the
true long term benefit.

David Goodman, Ph.D., M.L.S.
Bibliographer and Research Librarian
Princeton University Library

"Illogic helps the other side"
Received on Tue Jan 30 2007 - 01:13:56 GMT

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