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Open Science and Scientific Publishing

11/13/2007 3:15 PM 32G"449
Hal Abelson, PhD '73, Class of 1922 Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, MIT School of Engineering; John Wilbanks, Vice President, Science Commons; Anna Gold, Head Librarian, Engineering and Science Libraries, MIT

Description: Scientists and educational institutions in a digital age must push back forcefully against the old paradigms for scholarly communications, or risk imperiling the course of scientific research. These speakers describe how traditional modes of publication have constricted public sharing of ideas on which scientific progress is based, and propose approaches more appropriate for a web"based world.

John Wilbanks believes "This thinking about knowledge as a product you sell and lock up, versus something you integrate is basically causing systemic failure." Even while we're witnessing "all science moving from individuals doing work to machines generating and transmitting data at levels never seen before," says Wilbanks, publishers are restricting access online to this information, preventing reuse by machines or software. Massive amounts of network"generated "stuff," he says, is leading to "cognitive overload" and discard of data; poorly annotated and linked information; and unavailability of research materials and tools. Scientists must be able to use the net "to build on and validate research,' and the only barriers are legal and social, believes Wilbanks.

He proposes "reformatting what we already know into a design that works better, with the infrastructure it takes to get there." So there must be open access to content that grants "users' affirmative rights to scholarly literature" including the right to spider, web crawl, make copies, distribute, even mash up -- with a new kind of license. There must also be a new legal framework for accessing research tools (such as plasmids, data sets, synthetic chemicals), with the same kind of one"click contracts adopted by successful web vendors like Amazon. And scientists must develop an open source system for managing knowledge, rather than clinging to the "one database per child" model. Wilbanks says, "If we want science to move quickly, these are no"brainer ways to make it go faster It takes the will of institutions and funding agencies to decide this is how they'll practice scientific culture."

As one of MIT's top librarians, Anna Gold knows the harmful impact of exorbitant fees for science journal subscriptions, and the loss to research when scientists can't access and build on their colleagues' work. She envisions "new ways of using the record of science" that will enable sophisticated new forms of text mining; take advantage of semantically rich XML documents; and offer a cyber infrastructure containing "rich, flexible units of scholarly communication such as data visualizations.

To achieve these goals, researchers must demand open access publishing channels for their work, such as creative commons licenses, rather than sign over all rights to publishers. Gold also recommends that research libraries support archival arrangements that ensure "tomorrow's science will have a scientific record to work with." She cites MIT's D"Space as one example. And finally, Gold advocates partnerships among publishers, research libraries and funders to pay for the collection and maintenance of a long"term digital record, "an insurance policy against disaster."

About the Speaker(s): Harold (Hal) Abelson is Class of 1922 Professor Of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and a Fellow of the IEEE. He holds an A.B. degree from Princeton University and a Ph.D. degree in mathematics from MIT. In 1992, Abelson was designated as one of MIT's six inaugural MacVicar Faculty Fellows, in recognition of his significant and sustained contributions to teaching and undergraduate education. Abelson was recipient in 1992 of the Bose Award (MIT's School of Engineering teaching award). Abelson is also the winner of the 1995 Taylor L. Booth Education Award given by IEEE Computer Society, cited for his continued contributions to the pedagogy and teaching of introductory computer science.

He was also a founding director of the Free Software Foundation, and he serves as consultant to Hewlett"Packard Laboratories. He is co"director of the MIT"Microsoft Research Alliance in educational technology.

John Wilbanks comes to Creative Commons from a Fellowship at the World Wide Web Consortium in Semantic Web for Life Sciences. Previously, he founded and led to acquisition Incellico, a bioinformatics company that built semantic graph networks for use in pharmaceutical research & development.

Before founding Incellico, John was the first Assistant Director at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. His first technology work was at Fonix, where he researched human"computer interface and pattern recognition. He also worked as a legislative aide to U.S. Representative Fortney (Pete) Stark and a grassroots coordinator and fundraiser for the American Physical Therapy Association. John holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Tulane University and studied modern letters at the Universite de Paris IV (La Sorbonne).

He is a research affiliate at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and can be found in the project MAC group space. He serves on the Advisory Board of the U.S. National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central and the International Advisory Board of the Prix Ars Electronica's Digital Communities awards.

Before joining Cal. Polytechnic in 2008, Anna Gold served as Head of the Engineering and Science Libraries at MIT since 2003. Prior to that, she was Director of the Science and Engineering Library at the University of California, San Diego, where she was an active participant in the development of their digital library program.

Gold has also held positions at the National Science Foundation and the Library of Congress. She has an M.S. in Science and Technology Studies from Virginia Tech, an M.L.S. from Catholic University, and a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Host(s): Office of the Provost, MIT Libraries

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MIT World — special events and lectures

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