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concurrent, and global availability at near-zero marginal cost of access by each additional user. These quantitative improvements make possible, even if it has not yet been realized, the universal availability of information.32

The qualitative advantages of digital technologies and networks in accelerating the dissemination of information and the diffusion of knowledge are just as important as the quantitative ones. Because networks provide the opportunity for non-linear, interactive, and asynchronous communication with multimedia capabilities, the potential to improve the dissemination and diffusion processes has been greatly magnified. The digital nature of the information imbues it with flexible transformative properties, making it subject to easy manipulation and straightforward integration with other types of information, which in turns allows the creation of new knowledge that was either not possible or much more difficult in the print context.

Moreover, the network makes possible entirely new forms of collaborative knowledge production on a broadly distributed and interactive basis, transforming or dismantling the hierarchical and centralized organizational models through which information was produced and knowledge diffused in previous eras. Perhaps most important, digital networks make possible entirely automated approaches to the extraction, processing, integration, and organization of vast amounts of information, which can in turn be transformed into unlimited new discoveries and products, eclipsing the capabilities of purely human information production, dissemination, and use.33 As both the principal inventors and pervasive users of the Internet, scientists have a great deal at stake in fully exploiting the potential of this new medium for accelerating scientific progress and its benefits to society.

Table 10–2 offers a summary of some of the advantages to science of open access to—and unrestricted reuse of—publicly generated or funded data and information on digital networks.

Advantages to science of open access to and unrestricted reuse of publicly generated or funded data and information on digital networks:

  • Promotes interdisciplinary, inter-institutional, and international research
  • Enables automated knowledge discovery
  • Avoids inefficiencies, including duplication of research
  • Promotes new research and new types of research
  • Reinforces open scientific inquiry and encourages diversity of analysis and opinion
  • Allows for the verification of previous results
  • Makes possible the testing of new or alternative hypotheses and methods of analysis
  • Supports studies on data collection methods and measurement
  • Facilitates the education of new researchers
  • Promotes citizen scientists and serendipitous results, enabling the exploration of topics not envisioned by the initial investigators and the primary research community
  • Permits the creation of new datasets when data from multiple sources are combined
  • Promotes capacity building in developing countries and global research
  • Supports economic growth and social welfare
  • Generally provides greater returns from public investments in research

TABLE 10–2 Advantages of open access to an unrestricted use of digital information.


32 Ibid.

33 Ibid.

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