[open-science] Planning for the cost of free

Puneet Kishor punkish at eidesis.org
Sat Dec 17 14:56:33 UTC 2011

Like all of us on this list, I too have been thinking about OA for a long time, but the recent question about the link between OA, data mining, sinking servers, and hence, a possible need for an exception in the legal obligations has brought to mind once again the mechanism for enabling OA. 

The desire to be open has to be supported by the capability to be so. Every time I put out a link to one of my data applications on any one of the various programming lists, I can see the process monitor spike up as my server is hit by a barrage of queries. I have unlimited bandwidth, and a pretty capable, top of the specs computer, but it does start sweating and breaking stride. So, it makes sense that if I were using and creating hundreds of GB of data, and serving processes that were very compute-intensive, I wouldn't be hiding all the data behind a pokey dial-up line and a 5 year old computer with an incapable operating system. 

But, what if I didn't build into my project the cost of making OA possible? As I like to say, free is very expensive. If all of the project funds are devoted to science, there will be no money to make OA possible, and conversely, if all the funds are devoted to OA, there will be no money for research. There is a sweet spot somewhere that balances the funds between doing research and making its data and results available freely to everyone. Some of us call it the Warnick Curve (another story).

So, the question -- can we genuinely plead inability to make OA possible because we have inadequate capacity? Or, we should have built in the cost of OA into the research proposal in the first place so we couldn't hide behind such an excuse? In other words, we have no business doing complicated research with lots of data using public monies unless we also think of the continuing costs of making it all available. 

Of course, we have to define "available," but that is another rant.

Puneet Kishor http://punkish.org
science http://earth-base.org
advocacy http://creativecommons.org

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