If you're looking for a primer on open access publishing –the benefits and challenges–you may be interested in watching a video recording of a one day seminar held at Kansas University Medical Center.
I should declare up front that I was one of the speakers. My talk was on how restricted access is impeding global health, a topic that I feel passionate about. Other speakers who advocated for open access were Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC, Melissa Norton, medical editor at Biomed Central, and John Wilbanks, executive director of Science Commons.
John's talk was the most eloquent and persuasive account of the potential benefits of sharing science that I have ever heard. His organization, Science Commons, is working to advance science by "removing unnecessary legal and technical barriers to scientific collaboration and innovation." One of its demonstration projects is the Neurocommons, which is building on open access scientific knowledge to build a Semantic Web for neurological research. Now that's what I call open access in action.
Just so that I don't get accused of misrepresenting the seminar, I ought to tell you that some of the speakers were from "the rear-guard" of publishing. Daviess Menefee, the Director of Library Relations for the Americas at Elsevier, discussed Elsevier's for-profit subscription-based publishing model. Alice Ra'anan, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy for the American Physiological Society, outlined a non-profit society publishing model, also based on subscription fees.
I suspect, however, that the days of granting access to scientific and health information only to those rich enough to pay for it are well and truly numbered. Disseminating knowledge globally, and allowing everyone to use it freely, is a crucially important tool for human development.
Indeed, Professor Calestous Juma and I have recently published a paper, called Improving Human Welfare: The Crucial Role of Open Access, in the journal Science Editor. We agreed to publish the piece on the condition that we could make it freely available, and we've now done that by depositing a copy into the open archive E-LIS.
As we say in our article, "Developing countries are increasingly improving their capacity to use scientific and technical knowledge to solve local problems. They are investing in communication infrastructure and improving technology policies. For such measures to be effective, those countries also need greater access to the world’s pool of knowledge."