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Re: The giant leap

Too far! Too far! Whatever the merits of Jan Szczepanski's views of open access and Alma Swan's work, I think comparing Swan to Mao goes too far. Here is the sentence that leaped out:

" In the late fifties Mao Zedong introduced that Great Leap and now fifty years later we are going to take a giant leap according to Dr Swan."

I don't often agree with Swan, but civil discourse is, well, civil, and Mao was uncivil on an order rarely seen. Isn't it enough to say we disagree and say why? Comparing Swan to Mao, Mother Theresa, or John Lennon doesn't make her arguments right or wrong, though if the comparison with Lennon is apt, perhaps she will hum a tune for us.

Swan wrote a fairly detailed critique (and entirely wrong!) of a blog post of mine (at http://pubfrontier.com), but she she did not lapse into abuse and managed to be entertaining in the bargain. There is something to be said for that, in my opinion. The protocols of civil discourse are as important, and perhaps moreso, than the matters we debate: it is what makes a community a community.

I did note that someone cited the Communist Manifesto on this list a while back (woke me up!), and that contributor was immediately and roundly criticized for it.

On one point I do agree with Swan, and that is her comment about the evolution of "machine brains." That indeed is where things are headed: the use of sophisticated IT to automate portions of the research process. It's not far-fetched to imagine a research community that is 30% smaller than it is today but with superior output; machines nibble at biochemists and stevedores alike. But open access has nothing to do with this, nor does Mao.

Joe Esposito

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jan Szczepanski" <jan.szczepanski@ub.gu.se>
To: <liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 2:18 PM
Subject: The giant leap

In his latest talk with with prominent open access advocates Richard Poynder is talking to Dr Alma Swan. It's a fascinating and scary picture that is presented.

In the late fifties Mao Zedong introduced that Great Leap and now fifty years later we are going to take a giant leap according to Dr Swan.

In China backyard steel furnances would do the job; in Dr Swans world it's the mandate and local institutional repository that is going to change the world away from big industry and the capitalist society.

Open Access is inevitable according to Dr Swan, as once Socialism was. Mandate is the key to the Open Access World.

Instead of Five Year Plans we will have Metrics to see to it that the way forward is the Green Way.

The commissars overlooking that the Giant Leap will happen is "Pro-Vice- Chancellors" at the universities, the real reprsentatives of the research communities.

A citatation from Wikipedia:

These reforms (sometimes now referred to as /The Little Leap Forward/) were generally unpopular with the peasants and usually implemented by summoning them to meetings and making them stay there for days and sometimes weeks until they "voluntarily" agreed to join the collective.

A citation by Dr Swan:

AS: Mandates are essential for lots of reasons. One reason is that they make researchers aware of Open Access where they weren't before. The level of ignorance is still very high. And if their university suddenly requires them to do something it will focus researchers' minds. More mportantly, of course, a mandate will actually make them do it, because regardless of the Open Access Advantage, they won't put their research into a repository if they don't have to. It's another bureaucratic thing to do. And they still have worries about the legality of it. Being told by their institution to do it gives them the feeling that it is safe and sensible to do it. So to make them do it you need to tell them that they have to!

Richard Poynder's comment:

Dr Swan has a clear eye for what is needed

How will the future be?

AS: Once the content and the infrastructure are in place we are going to see knowledge take a giant leap. The way to view it is that the last 7-8,000 years or so of human civilisation's struggle for knowledge has taken place on one plane, determined and constrained by what our own brains can absorb, put together and make sense of: now we are about to move to another plane altogether, with the help of machine brains.

From profit makers to machine brains, what a future!

Jan Szczepanski
Forste bibliotekarie
Goteborgs universitetsbibliotek
E-mail: Jan.Szczepanski@ub.gu.se