VITAYARD : Science and Research Vitality Platform
Time has shown us how zero control by a handful of individuals over the society and complete control of the community, as a whole, over itself brings about positive changes. Less the control by individuals or groups and more the control of the complete set of individuals, more is the positive change. The history of the printing press is a case in point. While history made a mockery of the control-freaks, it proved right the few individuals, who believed in the intellectual capacity of the masses. Intellectual Nazism should be a thing of the past and we should move away from such self-defeating practices.
As more and more researchers embrace Open practices, irrespective of the influence of any kind of authority and affiliations, a new free world of debate and discussions will truly open up.
In the words of Erasmus, a Latin scholar and a Catholic reformer, ‘To what corner of the world do they not fly, these swarms of new books? It may be that one here and one there contributes something worth knowing, but the very multitude of them is hurtful to scholarship, because it creates a glut, and even in good things, satiety is most harmful…(printers) fill the world with books, not just trifling things (such as I write, perhaps), but stupid, ignorant, slanderous, scandalous, raving, irreligious and seditious books, and the number of them is such that even the valuable publications lose their value.’
Erasmus’s fear pretty much sums up the apprehensions of today’s ‘intellectual elites’ and ‘printing powerhouses’. In todays world too, the Internet has brought about a transformation of the society. This is a tool that can be used for free dissemination of knowledge and of research. However, a few people even today tend to believe that free dissemination of research (that results in free and fair debates and discussions of the works) would bring about a ‘end of the world’ situation for science. They are of the opinion that they ought to have as much control as possible over the dissemination of research works in order to keep the flag of science flying. These handful of people have the audacity to believe that they must be the ‘chosen ones’ to boss over the whole of the scientific community. These are the people who oppose Open Science and Open Knowledge movements.
Over some years now scientists and science-enthusiasts across the globe have been trying to open up the way science is done. Movements like the ‘Budapest Open Access Initiative‘ or the ‘BOAI‘ have been more than successful in this. Scientists all over the world boycotted a few journals, that were against Open Access, and many of the journals now have accepted Open Access of research as a necessity. The Public Library of Science publishes the PLOS journals that are very much Open Access. However, a great deal is to be done yet to make the publication process in sciences democratized.
What ails the world of science today the most is the prevalence of the evil of an artificially projected intellectual aristocracy. A handful who claim to be ‘know-it-all’-s have the power to dictate how science is done, by controlling the publication process. The present conventional process of science publication, though once served its purpose, now does very much stifle free thinking and unconventional work. It tries to regulate scientific work into ‘narrow domestic walls’.
A rapid and effective democratization is the need of the hour. What we need today is not any strangulation of free thinking but an effective process, where all voices are registered. In such a process, everyone will have a right to say things they want to say. However, the scientific, community as a whole, will decide which of these are to be accepted more than others. Let not a few ‘elite’ handful but the community, as a whole, decide the way forward.
Now, this is easier said than done. However, the recent years have shown us a few ways in the right direction. Projects like Mendeley and Figshare are a few that lets scientists share their work without any bar. ‘figshare allows researchers to publish all of their research outputs in seconds in an easily citable, sharable and discoverable manner. All file formats can be published, including videos and datasets that are often demoted to the supplemental materials section in current publishing models. By opening up the peer review process, researchers can easily publish null results, avoiding the file drawer effect and helping to make scientific research more efficient. figshare uses creative commons licensing to allow frictionless sharing of research data whilst allowing users to maintain their ownership.’
Figshare is supported financially by Digital Science, a subsidiary of Macmillan. It lets researchers to publish even negative results. The next step would be a greater involvement of scientists and science-enthusiasts in such projects and filtering out, as a community, the more important results from the less. It should be made into an organic process instead of an artificial one.