More OA Nonsense Down Under

A short-timer's plan is illogical, and seems to play into the very hands she seeks to slap

Cathy Foley is Australia’s Chief Scientist. Her three-year tenure ends in December, just nine months from now. A physicist, she has come out stating that her goal in these last months is to establish a “world-first open access model.”

Apparently, “world-first” means Australians would get access to all the material generated by the rest of the world, as her plan would establish a centralized digital library for all Australians to access free of charge, as long as they have the proper credentials (a MyGov account or educator credentials).

Foley’s logic — quoted in the Guardian — is flawless, of course:

You can get rubbish, nonsense and misinformation online for free but you have to pay for the good stuff. We need to make sure we’re getting the right information out there.

Which then would mean paying for it at a level adequate to ensure it is “right”? Does this repudiate the premise of OA, which makes information free to consumers, meaning it falls into the category of “nonsense” and not “the good stuff”? Remember, Stuart Brand’s famous aphorism had two arms to it:

On the one hand . . . information sort of wants to be expensive because it is so valuable—the right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information almost wants to be free because the costs of getting it out is getting lower and lower all of the time. So you have these two things fighting against each other.

Well, if anything, operationalizing the “information wants to be free” portion has taught us a few lessons that might not have been obvious to Brand at the time:

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