Digital Access To Knowledge: Research Chat With Harvard’s Peter Suber

John Wihbey | Journalist's Resource | October 16, 2012

How much access is there to cutting-edge research online? The reality is that access to the world’s deepest knowledge — that produced by professional researchers — remains contested in the digital space.

The Internet is democratizing access to many forms of information — but not necessarily all forms at the same rate. Twenty years ago, scholarly journal articles were found only on library shelves, or came as hard copies through mail subscriptions. With the Internet, the possibility of access changed, but academic publishers continue to charge fees for subscriptions to many important journals, with the goal of maintaining traditional business models. For journalists, bloggers, private businesses and interested citizens, and of course researchers, Internet pay walls still restrict access to much of this knowledge, even some that is taxpayer-funded. Whether or not the digital trends that have transformed the news media and music industries may yet reshape the world of scholarship remains to be seen.

Peter Suber is director of the Harvard Open Access Project and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. His new book, Open Access, examines an emerging movement to bring research to everyone who might want to make use of it. Suber envisions a richer online world in which more scholarship is made open, in part for researchers themselves and in part for journalists and other “bridge builders” between knowledge and society to report it, summarize it, translate it into lay terms, make it more visible — and start connecting it with public policy issues or new developments in other fields...