Science is fundamentally a communal activity with sharing as a central norm; good research is almost always based on others’ results and theories and should contribute back to the community as new knowledge. It is also not surprising, given our discussion of leveraging collective intelligence, that more openness of scientific research will better advance the field. For example, Lakhani et al. (2007) found that broadcasting a particular scientific problem to a community yielded effective solutions and was a more effective means of solving scientific problems than the closed approach. Interestingly, it was mostly those on the periphery of a domain who most often found the solutions. Of course, reality is never the ideal, and for a variety of reasons, researchers often do not subscribe to the openness that is required to fully and transparently participate in the scientific community (Lakhani, 2006).
Another form of opening up scientific research and results is generally called “Open Access”. Open access typically refers to the free availability of scientific journals over the Internet (Willinsky, 2006), although Open Access Archiving (OAA) provides access to a wide range of literature including unpublished works, thesis, etc. Open access emerged in response to the restrictive access to knowledge in scholarly and scientific journals imposed by commercial publishing houses via subscription fees, license fees or pay-per-use fees. Over the years, academic journals have become the principal means of dissemination of research outputs. However, the increasing cost of subscription for these journals has been of great concern to libraries and institutions that have to contend with limited and sometimes dwindling funds. This is of special concern to developing countries that have little or no funds to subscribe to these publications. Arguably, this increased availability of scientific knowledge through open access journals and OAA has greatly improved the outlook for the development of research capacity in developing countries who earlier could not afford access (Chan et al., 2005).1 This happens through both the access of developing country researchers to international research output, but also through international access to developing country research.
The approach to open access is often broken down into two paths: (1) the “golden road” to open access which is a model of publishing which makes journals available to the public immediately on publication, and (2) the “green road” which is a process that encourages researchers and academics to make digital pre-print or post-print copies of their research work or publications available in open access repositories or archives. Recently, Harvard has adopted the green road, requiring its professors to allow the university to make their scholarly articles available free online.