The Guardian’s blog features Mike Taylor who uses a parable for a world where food is cheap and freely available to expose the conflict between access to science and paywalls set up by its distribution. Of all the shrill verbage I have read on the issue of open access I think his piece provides by far the most telling insight. A few snippets are below but the whole post only takes a few moments to read.It leaves an image on the back of the eyelids. The view it provides has made me finally seriously reconsider the whole access to published papers issue. I am an associate editor for the Elsevier journal ‘Genomics‘. I am becoming more and more uncomfortable with this role as I am effectively putting my time into something that I am not sure is going to be an effective investment into the future. I have not left the board, but questions I have raised with the company on open access have not been answered.
“With the new machines, anyone who came upon a particularly delicious or nutritious morsel of food could send it to all of his friends. Farmers could send their newly harvested crops directly to other farmers, even those on the other side of the world. “
“Wait a minute,” said the distributors, “what about us? We’re a valuable part of the supply chain. We add value. It would be much better if we continued to distribute food the old way, with trains and ships. But everyone immediately saw that this was silly. The old technology was obsolete, the new was better in every way. Facing an outcry, the distributors saw that they wouldn’t be able to go on as before, pretending that Teleporting Duplicators didn’t exist.“
“You can’t just cut us out of the food distribution process”, they said. “It would be much better if farmers and ordinary people were not allowed to operate Teleporting Duplicators. We’ll operate them for everyone, and sell the duplicated food.”