Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Three models of how the web might affect access to science

Ralph Schroeder and three co-authors, The World Wide Web of Science: Reconfiguring Access to Information, a paper presented at the Manchester conference of the National Centre for e-Social Science June 23, 2005. (Thanks to Clifford Lynch.)
Abstract: This paper presents preliminary results from a new study of how the Internet and the Web might reconfigure access to scientific information. The study combines qualitative and quantitative methods – in-depth interviews and webmetric analysis – to explore how the Internet and Web are reinforcing the role of existing sources of information, or tending to either ‘democratize’ or centralize patterns of access conforming to the expectations of a ‘winner-take-all’ process of selection. This paper reports the early findings of two case studies focused on the global issues of (1) climate change and (2) the Internet and society. The preliminary analyses provide some support for all three patterns – reinforcing, democratizing, and ‘winner-take-all’ - but also point to the need for indicators over longer periods of time and the triangulation of methods from webmetric analysis with expert groups and in-depth case studies of issue areas.

From the text: First, it is often hypothesized that the Internet will widen access to a global body of knowledge and expertise since it enables researchers to scan the world for information without increased costs....Alternatively, electronic resources might be used in ways that reinforce the prominence of the strongest centres of information and exisiting networks of communication, such as the major research centres and the scholars connected with them....A third possible outcome is captured by the concept of a ‘winner-takes-all’ effect...According to this view, some researchers with an initial advantage obtain ever greater advantages in the reputation of their research over time, such as when their students cite them, and follow their research traditions.