We are in the middle of the Academic Spring, a movement promoting open access to scientific research. Open Access (OA) journals (e.g. PLoS) do not charge online readers for their articles and allow unrestricted reuse. This contrasts with many of the traditional journals where the publishers own the rights to their articles and people have to pay to access or reuse them. I am not able to share some of my early work because the copyright stays with the publisher!Changes are happening. There is now a Directory of the Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Plus, traditional publishers are responding (the response has a lot of info on the fight for Open Access). In the US, there is a White House petition to require free access over the internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research. You should sign the petition – go ahead, I’ll wait – signed? OK, back to my idea. I think we should:
SEED THE NEXT GENERATION
I run an outreach program for teens and they constantly amaze me. One unwelcome surprise was the idea that science should be interpreted. One student commented that unrestricted access would be useless unless there was someone available to tell them what was important. This saddened me. Unfortunately, students can often memorize lots of information without thinking about it and do well on tests. In this model, what is important is often determined by the teacher.
Note: our program is trying to increase scientific literacy, critical thinking, and creativity to build the scientists and inventors of tomorrow. I hoped they would be thrilled with the access to new research in Open Access journals but many were nervous. We want students to start evaluating the ideas by the weight of evidence, not by an external measure.
So, why am I talking about this outreach program?
Next year, returning students will start independent research! Not only will they have to evaluate ideas but they’ll ask – and hopefully answer – their own questions.
The students will use Open Notebook Science to record their research. This will not be promoted as new and exciting but just ‘as the way it is’.
I’m hoping this immersion will lead to more scientists providing their data freely and openly. Am I being naive? Do you think indoctrinating the next generation of scientists will help lead to significant change? Is that too slow?
Selfish plug: Want to help inspire and train these young scientists? From the comfort of your keyboard? Even a $1 contribution helps and the more funding, the more freedom they will have in their experiments. Budding Scientists are part of #SciFund – now closed but let me know if you want to donate to our organization’s charity 🙂