Global Open Science

view from olin library

I believe we need to put all our infrastructures to work in the cause of Global Open Science. I mean Science in its broadest sense, as Knowledge, using the Latin definition of the word scientia.

We have to open up our collections. Libraries are already doing this by preserving and digitizing our collections, making them openly available. But we also need to partner with those commercial vendors willing to sign licenses that extend access to born-digital resources well beyond our own academic communities. Librarians like me want anyone to be able, as the 17th-century English scientist Sir Isaac Newton said of himself, to stand on the shoulders of giants. But they cannot easily do that if the giants are hiding behind a paywall.

We have to open up our expertise. There is always more to be done, but I am proud of Cornell University Library’s history of supporting the positive global impact of its university. Cornell Library staff are currently part of the team providing evidence to the multinational project called ceres2030, an initiative focused on the second of the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, “Zero Hunger.” Ceres2030 brings together a diverse and global community to build consensus on the interventions needed to end hunger and transform the lives of the world’s poorest farmers while protecting the environment.

We have to open up our technologies. Libraries in the U.S.A. have benefited from the so-called “network effect” for well over a hundred years, and we’ve developed an impressive ability to share information and knowledge.  Recognizing that, I believe it is better for libraries and their allies to concentrate on developing our own shared, open source software than to expect others to unlock theirs. We have the technological ability to walk away from closed or commercial systems. But do we have the courage?

We have to open up our spaces. Unlike any other part of the city, unlike any other part of the campus, the library should be a space where privacy is respected while intellectual curiosity is encouraged. We need to be inclusive for many reasons, not least because we don’t know who will have the next great idea. But everyone also deserves privacy, and if we allow library vendors or others to sell our patron’s data, we have not created the safe spaces that enable the work which will move us towards the UN’s goals.

And finally, we have to open up our services. Why do so many academic library services point inwards, like interlibrary loan for students and faculty, exhibitions for our on-campus communities, academic publishing for tenure and promotion reviews? I believe we have to look at ways to open up these operations to communities well beyond the traditional ones we have served.

Dec 17, 2019

Gerald Beasley

Gerald R. Beasley
Carl A. Kroch University Librarian
Cornell University

This piece has been edited from a panel presentation given at the first United Nations Open Science Conference, New York, New York, October 19, 2019.  For recordings of the full conference see research.un.org/conferences/media.

Views expressed are the opinions of the author and do not represent endorsement by Cornell University.
Image: View from Olin Library by Carla DeMello, Cornell University Library Communications