Two recent stories may help give the Smithsonian courage to pursue an open-content strategy.
Item #1, MIT faculty votes for open publishing
Last week, MIT's faculty voted unanimously to mandate open access distribution of their scholarly articles. Other universities have open access policies within individual departments (Harvard, Stanford, and Boston University), but this is institution-wide. Their Office of the Provost will have authority and governance over the systems and business processes, in consultation with something called the Faculty Committee on the Library System. The policy allows faculty to opt-out on a publication-by-publication basis by submitting a request and justification to an as-yet defined review process.
MIT Faculty Chair Bish Sanyal is quoted as saying that the vote is "a signal to the world that we speak in a unified voice; that what we value is the free flow of ideas."
MIT's Web site says that "MIT's policy is the first faculty-driven, university-wide initiative of its kind in the United States."
I think it's especially encouraging that the faculty chose to go this direction since they do so from a position of experience - - the remarkable MIT Open Courseware project.
Item #2, U.S. Representative Mike Honda (D-San Jose) blogs on open content and crowdsourcing
Last week, U.S. Congressman Mike Honda (D-San Jose) wrote a guest article on the O'Reilly Radar Blog,
"How can Congress take advantage of web 2.0 technologies to transform the relationship between citizens and government? Instead of viewing the public as a customer for services, I believe that we should empower citizens to become our partners in shaping the future of our nation."
"Websites like [stimuluswatch.org] only become possible when government data is re-purposed to enable public participation. Until more government databases become available, however, the full potential of web 2.0 technologies will remain unfulfilled. A dramatic shift in perspective is needed before that need can be met."