Friday, December 09, 2005

"Without the risk"

Lord Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society, has publicly released his December 7 response to the open letter written by nearly 50 Fellows of the Royal Society in support of open access, in which he states the support of the Royal Society for open access, but says:

"We are simply concerned that open access is achieved without the risk of unintended damage..."

Two comments:

First, as others have pointed out, there is a substantial body of evidence that open access is completely consistent with an ongoing traditional peer review system - this has been the experience with physics, where close to 100% of articles in some sub-disciplines are freely available in arXiv, and this has been the case for over a decade.

Second, if we all waited for guarantees of a risk-free outcome before making changes towards necessary goals - would anything ever get done?

Who knows this better than our politicians? Who knows more about what is involved in change? Politicians must envision a better future, articulate it so that voters will provide the mandate, then take the bold steps needed to implement the vision. Ideally, one wants everyone onside; but, in reality, we need to make changes, even though not everyone is completely comfortable with them.

What happens if we apply the risk-free philosophy to our personal lives? Would we ever go to school (we might fail! we might sign up for the wrong program!), apply for a job, start a business or develop a relationship? Would we ever leave the house in the morning to go to work? We might get killed or injured in a traffic accident on the way! Better stay home - but then, don't most accidents happen at home? Better stay in bed, then - but isn't this a risk to our physical and mental health?

"without the risk" - indeed.

Thanks to Peter Suber at Open Access News for the link to the Royal Society letter.

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