I happened to hear an episode of the TED Radio Hour yesterday called “Citizen Science.” As I listened to the segment with Sharon Terry who, with her husband, tackled the rare genetic disease with which both their children had been diagnosed, it struck me how incredibly lucky they were to have been in the Boston area with easy access to incredible research Library collections and top-notch academic bookstores. Without this access, it would have been extremely difficult for them to access, read, and interpret the hundreds of articles they located on the rare disease PXE. With this access, they were able to learn, research, and force promotion and tenure-seeking scientists to collaborate.
This story represents why open access is so important. How many more citizen science advances could affect real lives if more “average people” had access to scientific and medical research? How much research and how many cures could be found if academic institutions reimagined the promotion and tenure system to embrace openness and collaboration above grant dollars and patents? I can only imagine.
Research should be open in order to support citizen scientists.