Missouri Botanical Garden Open Conference Systems, TDWG 2016 ANNUAL CONFERENCE

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Sustainable development and Biodiversity in access to information and knowledge: challenges faced
Graciela Quesada Fernández

Last modified: 2016-10-30


In ancient Mesopotamia, access to written texts was the privilege of the scribes, together with secular powers, who knew, taught and directed the acquisition and disposition of knowledge. After many centuries of remarkable technological developments, we have innovative libraries, e-books, databases online, and endless opportunities for access to the latest information, yet there are still obstacles to progress in achieving the famous "information and knowledge society".

According to the United Nations' Lyon Declaration on access to information and development, a new sustainable development agenda is designed to succeed the Millennium Development Goals for the period 2016–2030. This declaration seeks an international commitment for the parties to undertake to ensure that “everyone has access to, and is able to understand, use and share the information that is necessary to promote sustainable development and democratic societies.” (http://www.lyondeclaration.org/)

Today the role of libraries focuses more on being an intermediary of information, where we collaborate to develop mechanisms for social welfare, to promote opportunities for dialogue between communities and create strategic alliances. It is clear that the role of libraries is changing and it is far from a simple bookstore or warehouse.

However, it is necessary to discuss the methods by which we make information accessible to our users. Most scientific journals and databases on topics like biodiversity and sustainable development are available only to individuals and institutions with the financial power to pay the high cost involved for access. Yet such information can make the difference between social, technological and economic progress in a country. In this sense, what is the role of the librarian to spread "private" (journals and data requiring paid subscriptions) information? How many "social" costs must a country continue to pay to make advancements, if this progress depends on access to "private" information? And what it is the "moral" responsibility of the scientist to society, when publishing research supported by public funding? I will not pretend to answer all concerns that such a sensitive issue might contain, but at least attempt to give a view of the world that could be, if these concerns had been resolved decades ago.