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Christopher Wilde
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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Endowment

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa has been suggesting that universities be forced to spend their endowments to lower tuition.  However when I began to hear the figures in the billions that make up these endowments my immediate suggestion was that use some of this money to release their hold on knowledge.

Many of these colleges maintain databases of research papers, text books produced by professors, and gigantic historical documents.  While many of this information is now online, and almost all of it can be retrieved by visiting the libraries directly.

Now, a database like PsychINFO is maintained and owned by the American Psychological Association, and is usually free to students to utilize, however it should be free to everyone.  A one year gold membership to psych info for a non-APA member individual is $500 a year.  I consider that to be ridiculous.  Granted their is a cost in producing this information, but it is arbitrary.

Often the articles and research that end up in PsychINFO was first produced at a major university by faculty and the labor of volunteer students with research subjects made up of students paid paltry sums.  The research is "validated" by being submitted to a  peer reviewed journal which then sells its magazines, usually for close to one hundred dollars or more an issue.  Then the full article, or the abstract is licensed to the APA, and ends up in PsychINFO.

The end result is that knowledge, the important knowledge, the knowledge that individuals like myself enjoy reviewing is limited to the very wealthy professionals that can afford to pay the fees.

So use a percentage of these endowments to put pressure on premium information providers to make this information public.

Here's another idea.  Make it so I can walk into Harvard, take and (assuming I'm capable) pass all the tests a student takes, and walk out with a Harvard degree.  Keep your hollowed halls, and tedious lectures.  Give me the knowledge and get out of my way!  Better yet, save me the walk put it all online for $19.95!

Here's the Good News

"This week, rules went into effect that say that reports of research funded by the National Institutes of Health, the major medical research funding agency in the United States, must be made freely available after a maximum of one year." This from science Friday.

It feels so good to think something, wait a month or so, and viola!  It begins to happen and I didn't have to do a thing.  That means the NIH Study I'm about to tell you about (in my next post) will be available in a year!  I use to wait that long for a good film to go to video.

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