Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, January 23, 2003

In today's Chronicle of Higher Education, Scott Carlson interviews Steven J. Bell, library director of Philadelphia University. The interview follows up Bell's article in the January issue of American Libraries (only the TOC is free online). Bell argues that for student researchers, access to more information is not always better. Quantity of information can jeopardize the student's discovery and selection of quality information. Students are (still) thinking that if information is not free and online, or on the first page of search returns, then it's not worth finding.

(PS: I've often written to deplore this short-sighted attitude. The fact that we want free online access to full texts doesn't mean that we already have it. Limiting searches to free online sources can be wishful thinking that undermines the adequacy of a search. But having said that, let me also add that the expectation by the rising generation of researchers that full-text journal articles ought to be free and online is one of the greatest assets of the FOS movement. As Thomas Kuhn argued, doddering paradigms tend to topple not because someone produced sufficient evidence or a decisive experiment, but because the diehards died off and a new generation took their place. I welcome evidence that young researchers look first in free online sources. They should. That's by far the most convenient place to look. Our job is to put more information in that basket, not persuade researchers to start with less convenient sources. Students should understand that free online sources are not yet adequate in most fields. But the rest of us should understand that the best remedy is to make them adequate.)