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Open Access, Conspiracy Theories and the Democratization of Knowledge

How to prioritize open access in a time of political upheaval

In the U.S., we are in the middle of a new political dynamic here – one that has been building for over a decade. This new dynamic has meant that science and scientists are being viewed with a level of distrust – and even, at times, hostility – that is unprecedented in modern times, even as the advanced technologies that scientists create become more and more intertwined with everyday life. In this post, I suggest that while Open Access (OA) does democratize science to some extent, certainly for those who can understand the content, in isolation it is not enough and other actions should be considered.

There is an inexorable and healthy move towards open science, global scientific collaborations, and important advances that depend upon this openness – such as the development of vaccines with new mRNA delivery models, and the role of CRISPR and its extension to focused gene editing in potential treatment of some of our most pernicious diseases – advances that are squarely a product of global and public and private collaborations. So, clearly, openness generally is a good thing, allowing the research ecosystem to flourish. But, in our rush to prioritize Open Access, have we left the world behind? Do we need to consider how to not just make information available, but how to democratize science and technology? How do we communicate an understanding of how science works, and what science may do for you in your life as a voter, a family member, a caregiver, and toward your ability to earn a living?

It is worth considering how we may have reached this point – a point where the scientific community is comfortable in its own elitist framework. The first place to look is in the political frame — a frame where liberalism has more or less defeated less democratic ideologies, but in its wake has left a distrustful and frustrated population. Think about the examples provided above. To the general public, "gene editing" has an ominous ring, and promises that such editing might be a boon to public health evoke only suspicion.

Please select this link to read the complete article from The Scholarly Kitchen.

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