Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Climate change makes the case for OA

William Calvin, Climate Will Change Everything, Edge, January 7, 2009.  (Thanks to Glyn Moody.)  Excerpt:

Climate will change our worldview....

Climate may well force on us a major change in how science is distilled into major findings. There are many examples of the ponderous nature of big organizations and big projects. While I think that the IPCC deserves every bit of its hemi-Nobel, the emphasis on "certainty" and the time required for a thousand scientists and a hundred countries to reach unanimous agreement probably added up to a considerable delay in public awareness and political action.

Climate will change our ways of doing science, making some areas more like medicine with its combination of science and interventional activism, where delay to resolve uncertainties is often not an option. Few scientists are trained to think this way and certainly not climate scientists, who are having to improvise as the window of interventional opportunity shrinks.

Climate will, at times, force a hiatus on doing science as usual, much like what happened during World War II when many academics laid aside their usual teaching and research interests to intensively focus on the war effort....

Comment.  We can wait until climate change forces us to change the way we do science, and then make more work OA and remove obstacles to new research.  Or we can decide that we've already waited long enough and expand the scope of OA, now, with all deliberate speed, in order to save the chance that the impact of new research will be large enough, soon enough.  I made an argument to this effect in my open letter to Obama and McCain last November:

...[S]ignificant advances in green energy will require significant research, and a significant part of that research...will have to be funded by the federal government.

Here's where OA comes in:  OA will accelerate that research, make it more useful, and bring it within reach of everyone who can apply it or build on it.  As the primary funder of green research, the federal government will be in a unique position to amplify its impact by making it OA.  OA is the fourth step in a coordinated strategy of identifying research priorities, funding the research, undertaking the research, and disseminating the results....

A national interest in green research is inseparable from a national interest in access to that research.

We can't afford to waste even part of our investment in new knowledge by locking that knowledge behind a price wall, any more than we can afford to ship food to a disaster zone and lock it in a warehouse near the tarmac....