Tuesday, July 17, 2012

mildly mathematical: ".. a new birth of freedom — and that the science of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth .."

i've been hearing some awesome news about education, research, and freedom:

here's the research part ..

Free access to British scientific research within two years

, science correspondent

The government is to unveil controversial plans to make publicly funded scientific research immediately available for anyone to read for free by 2014, in the most radical shakeup of academic publishing since the invention of the internet.

Under the scheme, research papers that describe work paid for by the British taxpayer will be free online for universities, companies and individuals to use for any purpose, wherever they are in the world.
.. The move reflects a groundswell of support for "open access" publishing among academics who have long protested that journal publishers make large profits by locking research behind online paywalls.
"If the taxpayer has paid for this research to happen, that work shouldn't be put behind a paywall before a British citizen can read it," Willetts said.
(cont'd here)
as for the education part, it seems like many well-known universities in the u.s. (and abroad) are taking part in the free on-line learning trend .. which is relieving to hear.

you'd think that these institutions would have the least to gain from cooperating with these new developments, unless you're willing to take the conspiracy-theorist perspective [2].
12 new universities join Coursera!
We are THRILLED to announce that 12 universities—including three international institutions—will be joining Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Michigan, and University of Pennsylvania in offering classes on Coursera.
(a link to their course catalog is here.)

at any rate, i think that the rise of online public lectures like those from ted and the99%, and others is already a good sign. call me an idealist, but if there is such an interest purely in learning, then maybe there is hope for the future and for the internet, after all ..

[1] quoted from abraham lincoln's gettysburg address in 1863, with changes put in italics; my hope is, like that battle, that this be a turning point in scientific publishing ..

[2] two thoughts:
        (A) many students will still be willing to pay a premium for a degree from prestigious universities, so those on the list are safe .. at least for another generation. it's the middle-tier universities, with comparable tuition costs as these places, that should worry about their enrollment; if one day a web-based college degree becomes a good, viable option for middle- to lower-class society, then why pay tens of thousands of dollars just for physical proximity?
        (B) a free course online is like advertising for the university; these lecturers will be delivering their courses anyway, and the amount of server space (or whatnot) is negligible. my guess is that when most high school students think of university, they think of large, boring lectures and wild campus life. the benefit to these universities is that really good lecturers can "wow" prospective students, inspire them, convince their parents to take out loans .. \-:

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