Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, 57th richest man on earth and founder of Vulcan Inc. took it upon himself to promote and advocate something we at InTech have at heart: open science and open data. The article, stating Allen’s latest efforts in “advancing science” and sharing the knowledge for free was published in the Wall Street Journal on November 30th, 2011.
In Allen’s words regarding his own Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle and sharing data freely, ““Most important, we generate data for the purpose of sharing it. Since opening shop in 2003, we’ve had 23 public releases, or about three per year. We don’t wait to analyze our raw data and publish in the literature. We pour it onto the public website as soon as it passes our quality control checks. Our goal is to speed others’ discoveries as much as to springboard our own future research.”
Now, once you click on the link to the ESJ, the first thing you spot? “For full site access, SUBSCRIBE NOW”. Sounds weird to promote open source and wider access to data on a subscription-based journal? It depends.
The first reaction might just be to laugh at the irony of things, but from another perspective deeper thoughts are awakened. Having such a big shot in the business world finally admitting the utter need to promote science in the open is a big step forward for a cause of action such as open access. Being the platform used to convey the message the WSJ, well it still makes Allen gain points in popularity as he certainly attracted the attention of many who count and can make a difference in putting the public back in science by destroying the barriers to free knowledge.
Historically Microsoft has been known for many things, one being the fight for protection of intellectual property. In fact, in April 2011, Microsoft joined the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) which undermines the possibility of open softwares and sharing data. However, to be honest to goodness, the Bill Gates foundation has been active in promoting access to higher education globally as well as technological advancements in developing countries. Nevertheless, having someone like the co-founder of Microsoft advocate towards “open” rather than “protected” is a stepping stone to something bigger. So sit tight and wait as the battle for open access might just hit you sooner than you think.