Copyright Laws and Access

The distribution of scientific data is limited by copyright laws and guarding scientific secrets. Beyond copyright, the public is restricted from the information discovered in scientific research because different people have differing opinions on the point of scientific research- the researchers want to discover, the funders want to prove their own points, the university wants the credit, prestige, money. These disparities serve to limit research significantly—instead of a free-flow of information and data, discoveries become locked behind copyright and “overzealous guarding of scientific information” (McLeod, 2005, p.266).

Even without copyright restricting access, our data saving mechanisms are flawed in a basic way. We just haven’t discovered a perfect method of finding what you need. Google/Scholar has come pretty close, but hasn’t provided ideal access for all—one university subscribes to this set of data, while another focuses on an entirely different set of issues. What if the collaboration between two  completely different types of information is the perfect set of information for that eureka moment for a researcher? These are the reasons Borgman encourages the value chain of scholarship- enhancing the flow of information through a widespread access to data.  She encourages the view of research data as ‘public goods’ and argues that knowledge needs to be mobile, collaborative, and accessible through social networks.

Like in McLoed’s book on copyright, Borgman discusses the positive aspects of gift exchange culture. He explains that “science’s gift economy, where the norms of openness fueled the explosion of scientific discoveries over the past two centuries” (2005, p.262). With new restrictions popping up everyday, how will this explosion of data, research and collaboration ever successfully continue?

The responsibilities of libraries and librarians lie in the distribution of information and data which has become limited in the public scope. In some ways we have become the gatekeepers. We know how to find the information you want, whether we’re jumping metaphorical fences, running down different source material, reading books or delving into Google Scholar. We will continue to provide this service.

McLeod, K. (2005). Freedom of expression: Overzealous copyright bozos and other enemies of creativity. Retrieved from http://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1008&context=commstud_pubs

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