[open-science] JennyMolloy and PeterMR representing OKF at Open Science Summit

Peter Murray-Rust pm286 at cam.ac.uk
Thu Oct 27 20:34:26 UTC 2011

2011/10/27 Paweł Szczęsny <ps at pawelszczesny.org>

I am quite prepared to continue to work out our positions in public - it is
useful for all of us.

> Let me explain again - I'm pointing out that it's very important to
> pay attention to the messages this community is spreading.
> OA (understood as open access to primary literature) is very
> important, especially in developing countries, but if there's no
> healthcare infrastructure to apply the cutting-edge knowledge, OA
> becomes almost irrelevant in the healthcare (while being crucial in
> research). Peter's claim is false (or at least unsupported by any data
> in case of developed countries).

If you haven't sat through the whole video , please do: Prof. Mary
Abukutsa-Onyango discusses the importance of open access for research from
Kenya and other African countries <http://www.vimeo.com/10169351> (

In this, SHE, not I,  begs for Open Access in Kenya. Note more generally
that "healthcare" covers a great deal more than expensive machinery and
drugs and that information is a key component in every country in the world.
If countries are asking for OA then we must support them totally.

> Additionally, some of us, like me, rely on the leverage of this
> community because we don't have enough leverage on our own in our
> local communities to push things forward. A bit of responsibility for
> OKFN global image would a nice addition to keeping the messages
> correct and clear.
> I'm sorry, I cannot explain it any simpler than that.
> If you still disagree with me, just discard the message and let's
> forget the whole discussion.
I differentiate between scientific statements and political ones. When I
said and continue to assert
"closed access means people die"
that is a political statement.  I hope that we can quantify it in some cases
- certainly the patient advocates such as Graham Steel and Gilles Frydman
can give us serious anecdotal evidence of the frequency of this problem. You
do not need a null hypothesis and a clinical or sociological investigation
to assert the truth of this statement. I do not intend to publish it in a
scientific paper. I am prepared to clarify it to
"closed access means a significant number of people die"
 - indeed I understood from your earlier mail that you also believe it to be

Your second concern is whether the (political) action I have taken is
responsible. That is a political judgment, and part of the value of this and
other lists is that we can refine our ideas. The two main questions are:
"what do we want to achieve"
"how do we want to achieve it".
The OA movement suffers in that it has failed to formulate the first and is
split on the second. I believe that the only useful form of Open Access is
CC-BY (either by Gold publishing or other means) whereas Stevan Harnad
believes that Green OA is a necessary and achievable first objective. We
disagree profoundly and I suspect that we shall always disagree - again this
is a political statement.

The OKF has a wide range of members and adherents and has spent considerable
time discussing what it is. (In OKCon Berlin 2011 we had a whole day on our
"organizational DNA"). The OKF is very much about action, both in
formulating goals (such as the Open Knowledge Definition and the Panton
Principles) and building practical steps to achieve them (Open software to
support the creation and spread of open Knowledge content). To that end I
help to develop, say, Open Bibliography and the associated protocols and

Open Research Reports is another such activity. We have prototyped tools for
collecting Open knowledge in science, initially about disease, and creating
events and communities to fill them. The presentation at Mountain View was
primarily to present and promote ORR and the upcoming hackathon in
December/London. We'd be delighted for you and anyone else to attend - and
the idea is intended to be trivially clonable and expansible so that people
can replicate it eslewhere and elsewhen.

I see no reason why the idea should not be adopted anywhere. For example I
am familiar with Open Source Drug Discovery in India, where I know there are
participants carrying out computational chemistry (my own field) who do this
on mobiles even though they have no road to their front door. This is why
all my code is Open Source; I am flattered that they are interested in
adopting it and other modules of the Open Source chemistry community.

This group will almost certainly be starved of the closed access scientific
literature.  I would also expect that they will rapidly produce stuff that
we find of value and we should be very careful of making judgments.


Peter Murray-Rust
Reader in Molecular Informatics
Unilever Centre, Dep. Of Chemistry
University of Cambridge
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