Should knowledge be accessible to everyone?

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Publically funded research in Europe could be free to access by 2020 if the European Union carry out necessary reforms.

At the moment, despite there being more information available than ever before, access to high quality research is still limited to people who can either pay for it or belong to universities that can afford the subscriptions.

This freezes out the vast majority of people from accessing scientific knowledge.

The Open Science movement is an attempt to change this, making the results of research and the underlying data more accessible to all levels of society.

The main arguments against open science are:

  1. The peer-review system operated by journals maintains quality.
  2. Scientists should be compensated for their work
  3. Widely available data could be misinterpreted by lay people.
  4. Making certain kinds of research findings public could mean they are misused, for example to create biological weapons.

The proponents of open science argue that:

  1. Publically funded research should be available to the public.
  2. Open access means that there will be more review by a more distributed readership.
  3. Open science will make findings more reproducible.
  4. More people can apply the findings

For individuals and businesses, the easiest thing to do right now is rely on the first few results of a google search to provide all the evidence they need to make a decision.

This results in inevitably narrowing the amount of information that is taken into account when analysing a situation and deciding what to do.

One of the benefits of a well written paper is that the author takes the effort to examine prior lines of thinking, point to seminal works in the field and set out why the information in the paper is new and relevant to you.

This contextual approach is crucial – relying on easily accessible information can create a bias and it is important to consider alternatives to the options that seem most obvious to make good decisions.

There appears to be little truly useful scientific information out there to help businesses improve how they operate, especially ones that operate in niche manufacturing fields.

Perhaps making scientific research more open and accessible is one way to change that and make organisations more productive and sustainable.

Some open science resources are:

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