The academy vs. open source

Letting the light in is not anarchy. A demand of consensus is not mob rule. It's the scientific method in action.

John SeigenthalerI suspect many open source advocates may be surprised at the intense push-back against Wikipedia. (That there is John Seigenthaler, the victim in the original scandal, to the right.)

Well, it is December, and this is traditionally a slow news month. Anyone working hard right now probably has a January  ship date and a mountain of spaghetti code no secret Emeril sauce could save.

But there is some "there" there. The idea of authority that doesn't come from on-high is frightening to many people, even in academia.

I recently noted, on another site, that a recent study by the Centre for Information Behaviour and the Evaluation of Research (CIBER) in England found that  96.2% preferred the "closed source" process of peer review over the "open source" process of open access, when evaluating the worth of academic papers.

Rather than throw things on the Web and let a consensus emerge, in other words, researchers prefer having a few known authorities inspect the work before it's published by a known press. The credibility of authority, both the reviewer and the journal, are seen as more valid than the credibility of consensus.

But look inside that study again.

Nearly half believed that open access (OA) publishing would undermine the current system, with 41% saying that would be a good thing.

Despite the spin being placed on these numbers, in other words, the barbarians are truly at the gates, they're inside the wall, and they might be having a drink at the next table.

The fact is that while "open source has no quality control," as the headline writer put it in David Coursey's recent column, authority is no longer all it's cracked up to be. Authority can be corrupt. Authority can be an excuse for not thinking. Authority may say there are weapons of mass destruction or that oral sex isn't sex.

Letting the light in is not anarchy. A demand of consensus is not mob rule.

It's the scientific method in action.

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