I had the privilege yesterday, on Darwin Day, of attending a breakfast meeting where the discussion topic was the development of the World Wide Web Foundation (W3F). Other discussants included Tim Berners-Lee, the revered inventor of the Web itself and now based at MIT, and Bob Geldof, the musician-philanthropist. The W3F has lofty goals (its slogan is ‘humanity connected’) as it ‘seeks to advance the Web to empower all people and benefit humanity’. Much has already been achieved with Web 1.0 as we transition to Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web, though a significant fact is that 80% of the world’s human population does not presently have internet access. Goals for the Web of the future are therefore that it be accessible, useful, robust, free and open. One issue, on which I spoke, is the question of Open Access to the scientific literature. The chief drivers of economic growth are based on science and technology (see the 1987 Nobel lecture by Solow), and any scheme that wishes to promote scientific and economic growth will benefit from free and unfettered access to human knowledge as encapsulated in the scientific literature. Given that most science and the costs of its publication are publicly funded, we need to move swiftly to business models that encompass both the reasonable commercial needs of scientific publishers and the availability of all the literature to anyone with Web Access. This is both for disseminating this knowledge and so they can add value using (e.g.) the methods of literature-based discovery. Public-ation means making public. The W3F can help drive this.
- Weeber, M., Kors, J. A. & Mons, B. (2005). Online tools to support literature-based discovery in the life sciences. Brief Bioinform 6, 277-86