The incident of Scanzano Jonico, in Italy's Basilicata region, has been something more than a lesson for those who handle the relationships between science and society. During November and December 2003 in this small southern Italian town a theory has been proven false. According to this theory, in the modern world, the best way to solve the problems put before society by science and technology would be for the experts to discuss them behind closed doors.
To appreciate what a huge difference there is between the author of a peerreviewed journal article and just about any other kind of author we need only remind ourselves why universities have their "publish or perish" policy: aside from imparting existing knowledge to students through teaching, the work of a university scholar or scientist is devoted to creating new knowledge for other scholars and scientists to use, apply, and build upon, for the benefit of us all. Creating new knowledge is called "research", and its active use and application are called "research impact". Researchers are encouraged, indeed required, to publish their findings because that is the only way to make their research accessible to and usable by other researchers. It is the only way for research to generate further research. Not publishing it means no access to it by other researchers, and no access means no impact in which case the research may as well not have done in the first place.
Scientific communication in court is particularly important for the understanding of the process of post-academic science communication. The purpose of this study, carried out through a qualitative approach, is: 1) verify whether and how the dynamics of an expert`s science communication in court can be traced back to the problem of public science communication. 2) underline specific characteristics of science communication in court. 3) propose a sample of a "general table on science communication", in order to be a ble to a nalyse every possible communication between the different parties of a legal proceeding.
Science was born when knowledge was no longer kept secret and became public. Its development is inextricably tied to the possibility that researchers continue to share the results of their discoveries as easily as possible. These are the points on which the concept of access to scientific information is based and on which the scientific community has founded its model of communication. However, there are currently numerous obstacles, mostly economic, preventing researchers from being real actors in the creation, control and verification process of scientific knowledge. Despite the technologies made available by the Internet, free access to scientific information continues to be limited by the cost of magazines and the opposition by the publishers. Hence, scientists have promoted an increasing number of initiatives with a view to re-confirming the principles of open access.
A ghost is wandering around the web: it is called open access, a proposal to modify the circulation system of scientific information which has landed on the sacred soil of scientific literature. The circulation system of scientific magazines has recently started faltering, not because this instrument is no longer a guarantee of quality, but rather for economic reasons. In countries such as Great Britain, as shown in the following chart, the past twenty years have seen a dramatic increase in subscription fees, exceeding by far the prices of other publishing products and the average inflation rate. The same trend applies to the United States.
Some recent events have brought to the attention of the general public the issue of free access to scientific information. On many occasions basic scientific information has been said to be constantly available to scientists. In truth, a group of scientists (those who live in the developing countries) have long remained on the fringes of the international research community and in part still are, mainly because of the existing difficulties in accessing scientific publications. However, this fact has never been as blatant as it was with the Human Genome Project. Indeed, the project saw an attempt to conceal and privatize the results of advanced basic research. On that occasion, the fear of a private exploitation of scientific results became a real threat.
In the midst of a debate on access to information, the World Health Organization and the FAO have decided to develop a strategy to guarantee the right of poor countries to have free access to scientific publications. This right is often denied, mainly because of high subscription costs. For this reason, universities and research centres in southern countries must forego buying magazines, which are a valuable instrument for updating, and exchanging information on research and scientific issues. This choice has been made in an historical period when the industrialized world is marked by a knowledge-based economy.