May 222010
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From open-access journals to research-review blogs, networked knowledge has made science more accessible to more people around the globe than we could have imagined 20 years ago.

Surely you’ve noticed: The scientific community is undergoing a research-and-data-sharing sea change. Perhaps slower to take to Web-based dissemination than some professions, science—the endeavor for which the World Wide Web was developed—has gradually been adopting new online methods for distributing knowledge. Some say the changes could accelerate scientific progress.

From open-access journals to research-review blogs, from collaboration by wiki to epidemiology by Blackberry, networked knowledge has made more science more accessible more quickly and to more people around the globe than could have been imagined 20 years ago.

And it’s not just new media businesses that are pioneering the Science 2.0 movement. Traditional scientific journals are part of this social evolution too, innovating ways to engage scientists online and enable global collaboration and conversation. Even the 187-year-old Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences has joined the digital age. The Academy now permits free public access to selected online content and has digitized every volume dating back to 1823.

That wider, freer, faster access to scientific data and research results will benefit the world is, to many, intuitively obvious. “We work on the assumption that the reason we publish is to keep science moving forward,” says Public Library of Science founder Harold Varmus. “If everybody can see the work that we do, and new work is built on what’s come before, science moves faster.”

Varmus is among a cadre of iconoclasts calling for immediate open access to scientific papers. They’re impatient for colleagues to give up their allegiance to the conventional process that they say keeps new research under wraps for too long. And they’re eager for publishers to break out of business models that require a paid subscription to read the most current publications.

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