Saturday, July 30, 2011

Freedom of Information: Online Education and Open Access

I'm back and holding down the fort temporarily while Dinah's away. After five years of blogging it's a little difficult to find a new topic to get excited about, and no, I'm not going to write about the Norwegian spree killer.

Instead I'm going to put up this YouTube video by law professor James Duane giving a lecture about police interrogations and how anything you say---even when it's true and even when you're innocent---can and will be used against you. I'm posting this link for two reasons: I'm interested in why people confess to crimes they don't commit, and because I think it's incredibly generous of an academician to take the time and effort to give away knowledge to the world at large. I'm a firm believer in open access education. I like the idea of using social media to give anyone a chance to learn something new.

While many people complain about the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on medical research and clinical practice, you don't often hear people express concern about the stranglehold the publishing industry has on new medical knowledge. Think about it: if you're a doctor and you practice in an isolated part of the country, with no academic affiliation, how do you get your medical literature? Maybe through a hospital library (if the hospital has one), maybe through a limited number of journals published by a couple organizations you might belong to, but not to the global world of professional publications. And it's going to cost you hundreds of dollars. And pity the forensic professional who wants to get LexisNexis access---even for lawyers this costs thousands of dollars.

This is why I give extra props to organizations like the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law (disclosure: I'm a member, big surprise there!) which has chosen to keep it's journal free and available in full text to the world at large. I'm also a fan of the Public Library of Science and Open Courseware Consortium.

Information wants to be free.

Addendum: I forgot to mention the Google Books project, which is scanning books from various academic libraries. I found this book recently: The Mental Status of Charles Guiteau. Guiteau was the man who assassinated President James Garfield. Most potent quote so far: "Crazy, perhaps, but not so crazy he should not be hung."