Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Two by Gavin Yamey

Gavin Yamey, a senior editor at PLoS Medicine, recently gave two talks on OA at Harvard.  From his description at the PLoS blog:

The first invitation came from the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, based at Harvard School of Public Health....My talk was called "Excluding the poor from accessing the biomedical literature: a rights violation that impedes global health." The school has now posted a video on its website.

In this talk, I discussed several longstanding and recent international declarations that enshrine access to scientific and medical knowledge as a human right.

There are two major ways in which these declarations frame the right to access knowledge. Several global, regional, and national declarations confirm that all people should have the right to seek and access knowledge without political barriers. In other words, knowledge should be “free”, where free has the same meaning as “free speech” (i.e. freedom from political barriers).

But having the political freedom to access a scientific or medical research paper is meaningless if the cost to download it puts it out of the reach of most of society. And so a series of more recent international charters and treaties enshrine the right of people to read research results without economic barriers.

The second invitation came from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. I called this talk "Open access to the biomedical literature: what are the lessons for the social sciences & humanities?" An audio podcast is now available....

At the Berkman Center, I discussed some of the reasons for this slow uptake [of OA in the social sciences and humanities], and also gave some beacons of hope, such as the Creative Commons Open Access Law Program, which now has 34 law journals on board, and Open Humanities Press, a "new international initiative being launched by academics, journal editors and librarians to promote the adoption of open access publishing in the humanities."

Social science journals have a huge amount to gain from adopting open access models. But don’t just take it from me—take it from Heidi Bond, Executive Articles Editor at the Michigan Law Review, one of the signatories to the Creative Commons Open Access Law Program. In the press release announcing the program, she said: “Open access policies make for happier authors and better scholarship. After all, law review articles are like software: they’re best when they’re free for others to learn from and build on.”