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Encouraging Sharing

Whenever I say “it’s immoral to prevent people from sharing knowledge” it brings a smile to the lips of whomever I’m talking to. That’s nice, it’s a good emotional line — also one that needs a little nuance in order to work. But once you’ve got a smile, the rest of the conversation is easier.

In academia and education, dissemination and sharing of knowledge is what it’s all about — there the prevention of knowledge sharing really is at odds with hundreds of years of academic tradition, and the “immoral” argument gains strength. It’s always seemed odd to me how closed academic publication is (although to be honest the actual published papers by me are insignificant). One of the projects I’ve done is CodeYard, which tried to get Dutch students to build Free Software as part of the curriculum at high-school — in the open, as a way of sharing and demonstrating knowledge.

For educational materials as such for the Dutch computer science (informatica) classes in high school, there was the “Turing” method, which I thought had moved into an open contribution model — but I can’t find any indications of that quickly. One of the best sources for HS-CS information in the Netherlands is InformaticaVO, which also encourages sharing of information between teachers. I’m also happy to see Poland adding incentives for sharing to the creation of educational materials. Once learning materials are created (by teachers, on the public dime) there’s no economic reason to stop dissemination, and indeed a moral obligation (smile!) to share widely.

At an academic level, we have Open Access; there was even an Open Access Week (in Dutch) three weeks ago. I must say it passed largely unnoticed by me, but I might have been traveling. The University of Nijmegen had an event related to that week too, with a press release. There’s some push towards a semi-open-access repository called the “Radboud Repository”, but ironically it has CS papers only up to 2008 and every one I looked at there was closed, in the sense of no actual content, no link to the paper, no reference to where the content could be obtained; one paper was published in an NLUUG bundle, so I know that that one isn’t strongly protected by the publisher, and the one article that I spotted that is published by the university (R08007, on Size Analysis of ADTs) has no content link but does have a “related link” attached that doesn’t work.

By a roundabout way, suffice to say that the Radboud University might want to support Open Access, but it still has to lot of work on the “making it work” side of things. But sharing is, on the whole, doing well. I wonder if anyone has baked the peanut-butter cookies for which I shared a recipe during my Latinoware talk?

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