Should Scientific Knowledge be Free?

by Kevin Bedell

If you perform scientific research or publish related material then you should consider taking steps to ensure your work remains free and open for others to build on.

Isaac Newton is quoted as saying, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants". This is the fundamental idea behind all scientific research - build on what others have learned and create something new.

Yesterday, the Public Library of Science (PLoS) announced that Gordon Moore (co-founder of Intel and author of Moore's Law") donated $9 Million to fund open access publication of scientific research. These funds, donated through the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, will be put to use to publish open access scientific journals and an on-line, searchable archive of scientific research.

The PLoS has published an open letter to the publishers of scientific information around the world appealing to them to release all material they publish to the PLoS within 6 months of initial publication. This letter has now been signed by 32046 scientists in 182 countries (yes, this number is different the one in the opening to this entry - 6 more scientists signed while I was writing!).

Here are some questions:

  • Should work you publish by released through the PLoS? If so, read their letter and sign it!
  • Are you involved in an industry with similar dynamics? Would sharing information in an open way benefit everyone in your industry? Why not consider a similar venture?

For more info, check out the Public Library of Science.