Have you heard of the Berlin Declaration? If you're like me, and hadn't, you might guess it has something to do with World War II. While there is a similarly-named document associated with the war, the Declaration I'd like to talk about today involves freedom of information, the internet, and K-State's support of the idea that the internet should be a "functional instrument for a global scientific knowledge base and human reflection".
The Berlin Declaration arose from a 2003 conference (held in - you guessed it - Berlin) organized by the Max Planck Society and the European Cultural Heritage Online (ECHO) project. The declaration asserts that "the Internet has fundamentally changed the practical and economic realities of distributing scientific knowledge and cultural heritage. For the first time ever, the Internet now offers the chance to constitute a global and interactive representation of human knowledge, including cultural heritage and the guarantee of worldwide access."
Recently our provost, Dr. April Mason, put her name to the declaration on behalf of Kansas State University, adding our institution to an international list of some 300 universities, libraries, scientific institutes, and academic associations who pledge support to an open access paradigm. This paradigm asserts that disseminating knowledge is not complete until information is made readily available to society. In real world terms, this means that publishing research in journals that restrict access to only those able to pay increasingly high subscription rates is not enough; that same research must be made available freely and openly to everyone, regardless of their institutional affiliation or ability to pay.
The declaration outlines steps that the signatories intend to take towards ensuring open access, which include:
- encouraging researchers/grant recipients to publish their work according to the principles of the open access paradigm.
- encouraging the holders of cultural heritage to support open access by providing their resources on the Internet.
- developing means and ways to evaluate open access contributions and online-journals in order to maintain the standards of quality assurance and good scientific practice.
- advocating that open access publication be recognized in promotion and tenure evaluation.
- advocating the intrinsic merit of contributions to an open access infrastructure by software tool development, content provision, metadata creation, or the publication of individual articles.
You can read the full text of the Berlin Declaration online, of course. For such a powerful and challenging document, it's surprisingly short, and I've actually reproduced much of it in this post. Take a look today; it will help you understand the future of access to information.