Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: Recent MIT Press Book Explores Open Access to Scholarship and Research

understanding knowledge larte
A recent collection from MIT Press offers perspectives on the ways knowledge acts as a shared socio-ecological system — or commons — and suggests how authors can participate in that commons to disseminate research as swiftly, broadly, and inexpensively as possible.

Among the perspectives:

  • James Boyle (professor of law, Duke University) works to identify the potential impact of “free, decentralized access to most cultural and scientific material.” He argues that “the traditions of the academy, of scholarship…dictate that openness in both content and structure should be our baseline, deviations from which require justification.”
  • Peter Suber (professor of philosophy, Earlham College, and director of the Open Access Project at Public Knowledge) makes a case for “creating an intellectual commons through open access,” focusing OA efforts on research literature that does not generate royalties, and is shared through a digital commons system that is “nonrivalrous” – one that is not diminished or depleted by use. He discusses the central role of authors in achieving an OA commons, and how to sufficiently support authors to promote its development.
  • Charles Schweik (professor of natural resources and public policy, UMass, Amherst) provides a history of open source software “as a framework for establishing a commons in science.” He places his discussion in the context of a long history of “open science,” a history that began in the 16th and 17th centuries.

In his chapter, Peter Suber summarizes why the idea of a knowledge commons matters to the academy. OA is “about accelerating research and saving money,” but it “is also about freedom from needless barriers, fairness to taxpayers, returning control of scholarship to scholars, de-enclosing a commons, and serving the underserved.”

As an MIT author, if you have questions about maximizing the reach and influence of your work by participating in this knowledge commons, visit the scholarly publishing website, or contact copyright-lib@mit.edu.

If you would like to read the book:

Borrow from the MIT Libraries

Buy from MIT Press

Buy from amazon.com

If you would like to read more about the concept of the commons (including a separate thread on the commons in academia, which includes comments about this book) see the “creativity and knowledge” section of the blog OnTheCommons.