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Change research network. Along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service we are trying to develop a core group of people interested in starting open-source/open-content collaborative research effort on land cover change modeling. At the time of this writing we have established a working group and have held a workshop to initiate the endeavor. Our short-term goal is to develop an institutional design around the collaboration, including the identification of available models, establishment of metadata standards for data and model modules, identification of the types of open-source/open-content licenses for various kernels, and the establishment of required communication systems and version control systems. Over the longer term we would like to move to a next-generation e-journal, perhaps in collaboration with an existing e-journal.


Several conclusions can be made from this discussion. First, there is a great need for more in-depth research on open-source programming and how these projects work if we want to capitalize on them in the broader context of open content. The literature up until early 2003 is fairly naive on how open-source projects are structured, and a major point of our talk was that there is a desperate need to understand what leads to success and failure of these projects, rather than basing all our knowledge on just the high-profile success stories, Linux and Apache Web Server, which may be anomalies. Fortunately more carefully crafted quantitative studies and deeper analyses on these projects are beginning to emerge.

Second, we should watch the open-content experiments and understand which ones are successful. There is, as far as we can see, little research on how these projects are managed. We are trying to initiate this kind of research.

Third, in scholarly (global) communication we should move beyond Drucker’s innovation lag in current e-journals that follow the old volume-and-issue paper model and encourage the development of the next generation of e-journals that takes advantage of all the Web can offer. We are suggesting that convergence with the open-content licensing phenomenon might be a component of this, and that the idea of not only peer-reviewed papers but also data and other computer-based scientific research (e.g., computer models) will be important. This lag in scientific publication is similar to the current e-commerce and e-government movements, which have been gradually moving from simple Internet publishing of information to more sophisticated online transaction processing.

Our major point is that the continued growth of access to the Internet globally, coupled with the design of open-source licensing and collaborative principles and the emerging trend in open-content licensing point to a new, potentially significant way for humanity to tackle complex problems in science and other domains. There is still much to be learned about what works and what does not in open-source-like collaboration. But the promise is there; successful global, Internet-based collaboration of complex problems in open-source programming (e.g., Linux and Apache) suggest that there is a way to achieve global collective action in ways never before possible. It may lead to no less than a paradigm shift in the way new scientific knowledge can be generated and the way new learning is shared. Assuming Internet infrastructure continues to be built in countries that lack access, this open-content (e.g., open access), next-generation e-journal we envision and open-content collaborative projects could dramatically improve the sharing of knowledge and participation in all corners of the world.

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