As originally posted to the liblicense list, May 12, 2009.
Recently, a question was raised on liblicense as to whether open
access is necessary outside of the field of medicine.
The answer is: YES!!
While the moral imperative of open access is perhaps most easily seen
in the field of medicine, the same arguments apply across the
One example is the field of Education. Even at the very
wealthiest universities where students and faculty have access to
all the literature in this field, access to the scholarly
literature for the practising educator, parents and other
professionals involved in education (such as school-based social
workers), is for all practical purposes limited to what is freely
available. Evidence-based practice is this area - teachers who
are able to keep up with the latest in their field and look up
answers to issues that come up in the classroom - requires open
access. School library budgets tend to be very limited; a school
library that has all the resources that it needs to meet the
needs of the students is indeed fortunate. A school library with
sufficient resources to meet the needs of teachers and
administrators is truly exceptional.
Fortunately, ERIC, the Educational Resources Information Centre,
has been making education indexing freely available for some
time, and is now providing as much full-text as possible.
The ERIC website can be found at: http://www.eric.ed.gov/
Education is a common human need, and is of necessity taught at
many post-secondary institutions that are not so wealthy. Here,
freely accessible resources can make a huge difference in the
quality of education for the future educator.
Outside of the wealthy, developed world, free access to scholarly
educational information could well be the key to making it
possible to training new educators. In our global world, we need
an educated populace around the world. If our neighbours
understand about environmental issues and how to identify and
deal with a potential new pandemic, we all benefit. This
understanding requires education, starting with the basics.
What goes around, comes around. Fortunately, lately a good deal
of what is going around is free access to the best of the
knowledge of humankind, our scholarly literature.