In anticipation of Open Access Week at Duke, where the theme will be “Collaboration,” we will offer a series of blog posts about basic, and not so basic, issues and opportunities for OA.  This first post if from Pat Thibodeau, Associate Dean for Library Services in the Duke Medical Center.

The simplest definition of collaboration is “to work jointly with others or together especially in an in intellectual endeavor.”   But the open access source Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaboration]   describes it as a “recursive process” where common goals are achieved “by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus.”    As multidisciplinary and global projects increase in number that sharing of knowledge or information becomes very critical.  But what happens when one of the collaborators cannot access the information because of a restrictive license, the prohibitive cost of a journal subscription, or the unavailability of publicly funded research data?  Collaboration can be hampered if not halted.

The open access (OA) movement is focused on removing the barriers of price, copyright, and restricted use.  OA promotes the free flow of knowledge and data that makes collaboration possible and ultimately supports the generation of new innovations, creative ideas and scientific discoveries on a global scale.  Collaborators are no longer hampered by institutional or international boundaries.

So has open access actually made a difference?

In fact yes!  A recent NY Times article highlighted a research project where data were openly and publicly shared among commercial industries, universities and nonprofit groups in order to find biological markers of Alzheimer’s disease.  This “collaborative effort” has led to new research on early diagnostic tests as well as treatments.  [http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/13/health/research/13alzheimer.html?_r=1&ref=gina_kolata]

This project is now serving as a model for groups studying other diseases.

In preparation of Open Access Week@Duke (Oct. 18-24), this blog will focus on other topics such as open data, open science, and other elements of the OA movement.  As you follow these blog posts, think about how OA could support collaboration at Duke, within your field, or across the world.

For more information, see the Open Access at Duke web site.Open Access logo, designed by PLoS

 

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