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Access to knowledge in science

August 25th, 2008 by dwentworth

The August/September 2008 issue of Intellectual Property Watch Monthly Reporter features the second part of a 2-part series on the Access to Knowledge (A2K) movement, which has among its goals “sharing the benefits of scientific advancement” (see the Treaty on Access to Knowledge [PDF]).

The article, Access To Knowledge “Movement” Seeks Strength In Its Diversity (available only to subscribers), cites the Introduction to Science Commons [PDF], co-authored by James Boyle and John Wilbanks, to show how the effort to change the way knowledge is governed has been reaching beyond IP policy. Scientists confront multiple barriers to accessing existing knowledge throughout the research cycle, including problems with securing access to the physical materials needed to verify results. As the IP Watch piece points out, Science Commons seeks to lower these barriers, and to provide solutions that knit together, so that when a researcher finds one piece of the puzzle — for instance, an article containing a piece of relevant data — she can also find the resources she needs to put the knowledge to use.

[Boyle and Wilbanks say that in] scientific research access to knowledge problems start at the earliest stage. Getting access to journals and physical materials needed for research can be difficult and time consuming – particularly problematic for those working on a limited-term grant, they said. This means research institutions “effectively ‘discard’ minds we might need to solve problems because they do not have full access to the research they need.”

Access to knowledge then, is about ease of networking and data transfer as much as it is about IP rights. Wilbanks and Boyle said there needs to be a connection between efforts to “streamline the legal process for clearing materials and efforts to streamline the practical process of actually fabricating and transferring the materials themselves.”

You can read more about our efforts to streamline the materials transfer process here. For a look at how we’re working to bring together all of the resources for accelerating research, check out the NeuroCommons and Health Commons projects.

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