#scholrev; Why are we doing this and immediate thoughts on how to proceed

We have all been delighted with the immediate reaction and offers of help for the Scholarly Revolution /pmr/2013/03/20/btpdf2-scholrev-planning-the-scholarly-revolution/ . We chose the word “revolution” in a neutral sense – this can be the Digital Scholarship revolution in the same sense of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution. On the other hand determined efforts to main the status quo as the best of all possible ways of research and communication will almost certainly lead to elements of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Revolution .

We are in the middle of the struggle for our digitally enlightened or digitally darkened future. You, reader, must realise the seriousness of the present and fight for Openness or you will awake and find yourself trapped with no means to free yourself. Scholarship is but one axis, but it’s a critical one since knowledge and communication break down ignorance and oppression.

At #btpdf2 Eve Gray reiterated the simple fact that Closed knowledge leads to deaths. She speaks with the passion of living in South Africa where values are necessarily very different.


Every time you publish in a closed access manner or fail to publish data, the lack of knowledge kills people. Tweaking the system won’t help. I’ve spent three years trying to get permissions out of Elsevier and been met with prevarication. In Europe Ross Mounce has represented us in demanding that content-mining be available to anyone who has a document. “The right to read is the right to mine”. And we are met with opulent publisher lobbies convincing Europe that it should remark a dark continent for digital knowledge.

Accept as fact that closing knowledge is as harmful as chopping down the rain forest or running gas-guzzlers.

I asked again yesterday – would Elsevier sue us if we created an Open Scholarly Search Engine. We have no assurance. Search and distribution is in the hands of rich unaccountable monopolists. They create wealth and they create anti-wealth.

So we need to be radically different. I’m suggesting we start from some principles and evolve over the next 2-3 days or however long it takes. No idea is out of court, but we favour constructive action, often through creating tools, communities and resources. I’ll start by suggesting a mantra:


Mantras are valuable as they help to refocus when we go astray. In the Blue Obelisk (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Obelisk ) we set up a collaborative community to create and promote Open computing and information in chemistry. It has had zero funding, no business meetings, but is inexorably growing and slowly (because change in chemistry is very slow) slowly replacing traditional closed source and closed information. Not because it’s cheaper (though that helps). But because it’s better, and better suited to the modern informatics world. I’ll blog later, but it’s one model for how we might take #scholrev forward.

The mantra says a great deal.

  • OPEN as in http://opendefinition.org/ . “A piece of data or content is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike.”. Most scholarship is NOT Open. That must be changed.
  • SCHOLARSHIP. The practice and output of scholars. And EVERYONE can be a scholar.
  • OF THE WORLD. We can all create it and it’s about anything.
  • FOR THE WORLD. The world needs scholarship or it will die physically, biologically, culturally.

More later.

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One Response to #scholrev; Why are we doing this and immediate thoughts on how to proceed

  1. Pingback: Unilever Centre for Molecular Informatics, Cambridge - #scholrev: Revolutionising Scholarship: shape of the community and practice « petermr's blog

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