Beyond open access

February 27th, 2008 by dwentworth

In the introduction to his interview [PDF] with our own John Wilbanks, UK journalist Richard Poynder succinctly captures the Science Commons perspective on open access — that making research freely accessible online is only the beginning of making it useful for scientists:

John Wilbanks, VP of Science Commons, has an even broader view of the role the Internet has to play in science. Like Murray-Rust, Wilbanks believes it is essential for research papers to be machine-readable. Likewise, he believes we need to develop an appropriate legal infrastructure to facilitate this. He also believes it is essential that science databases are freely available, and that these databases are interoperable — not just with one another, but with research literature.

In addition, Wilbanks believes the Internet should be viewed as a platform for facilitating the free circulation and sharing of the physical tools of science — cell lines, antibodies, plasmids etc. In a sense, he wants to see these tools embedded into research papers — so if a reader of an Open Access paper wants more detailed information on, say, a cell line, they should be able to click on a link and pull up information from a remote database. […]

The end game, explains Wilbanks, is to make the research process as seamless and frictionless as possible. This implies that the scholarly paper is no longer simply an article to be viewed by as many eyeballs as possible, but also the raw material for multiple machines and software agents to data mine, a front-end to hundreds of databases, and the launch pad for an ecommerce system designed to speed up the process of research.

In this light, Open Access is not an end in itself, but the necessary precondition for a complete revolution in the way that science is done…


The interview is part of a series stretching back to 2001, which includes talks with the great Peter Murray-Rust, Peter Suber, BioMed Central founder Vitek Tracz and many others leading the charge for open access. Highly recommended.

2 Responses

  1. Graham Steel, on February 28th, 2008 at 7:27 am


    I’ve read most of Poynder’s series of interviews and agree that they are highly recommended.

    “Wilbanks shared his thoughts with me during a recent telephone conversation; a conversation I had been trying to arrange ever since attending a fascinating presentation he gave at the Oxford Internet Institute one snowy February morning last year — a presentation I only succeeded in attending after digging my car out of a snowy hill in the Cotswolds!”

    This Wilbanks presentation from Feb 2007 is well worth a watch:-

  2. Science Commons » Blog Archive » Publishing for the future of science, on March 17th, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    […] future where a published “paper” is dynamic — or as UK journalist Richard Poynder put it, “no longer simply an article to be viewed by as many eyeballs as possible,” but […]