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

Vision, Todd J tjv at bio.unc.edu
Mon Oct 31 14:12:03 UTC 2011

I am enjoying this thoughtful discussion, which is a very healthy (and perhaps overdue) one to have in an organization that is at the nexus of science and policy advocacy.  I too was initially taken aback by the messaging of the OSS presentation, though upon reflection it's not clear to me that this group should aim for a politically neutral message.

That said, a variety of evidence may be brought to bear on a policy issue: experimental, anecdota, theoretical, etc, and rational interpretation of that evidence need not be 'political' even though subjectivity may be more difficult to avoid when the evidence is fragmentary, as in this instance.  

We have mostly been discussing problems that arise through access to results from one or a small number of studies at a time.  I wonder if it is not possible to make an evidence-based case that computer-aided knowledge extraction from the literature is less efficient than it could be due to access restrictions generally and text-mining restrictions specifically.  

Then, to the extent that more efficient scientific discovery leads to improved human welfare, it is reasonable to go one step further and make the case that open access is one possible means of improving health-care, global stewardship, efficient allocation of R&D funds, and other public policy objectives.  

It would only get political, in my book, when you start to assign relative *value* to that benefit compared to the benefits of toll-access and restrictions on text-mining. 

But if we consider the case solely on the grounds of the efficiency of scientific discovery, then the data-informed approach to this policy would be to also consider to what extent changing the way publishers currently fund and restrict access to journals would have unintended negative effects on knowledge discovery (and dissemination) in the public interest.

An apolitical weighing of evidence of this nature seems to be within reach, even if precisely quantifying the net overall improvement in healthcare outcomes, etc, from OA to the currently closed literature would be tremendously difficult. 


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