HPAC Magazine

Sleeping With The Enemy To Save The World

May 1, 2014 | By Adam Dras


“Information is power, and like all power there are those who want
to keep it for themselves.”     Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, Aaron Swartz

A few years ago at the Building Envelope Conference in Winnipeg, I sat in on a class on sustainability in architecture delivered by Terri Meyer Boake, LEED AP Professor at the School of Architecture at the University of Waterloo in Cambridge, ON. Afterwards we talked about access to information. She passionately expressed how irritated she was with some institutes who in my opinion essentially hold research ransom to the general public. Many of these tax dollar subsidized papers are served up to publishers who continue to make a small fortune selling access and copyrights. In her words, “Don’t you know we’re trying to save the world – release your @#$%% information.”

Thinking to myself that I, as a good citizen of the construction industry, had always made my presentations available for free; but she however was trying to save the world! I felt humbled in only a way a Canadian could. I stared at my feet through the bottom of my beer and pondered my own ethos in light of her global ambitions.

In the world of those trying to save the world, Canada used to be among the best. We had the NRC Institute For Research In Construction with its campuses and researchers publishing free software and legendary books like Hutcheon and Handegord’s “Building Science for a Cold Climate.” We launched world class initiatives such as the R2000 and EQuilibrium programs, together with CMHC publishing (likely one of the best online building research libraries anywhere on the worldwide web – now a monstrous mess). Canada was also the training ground for some international stars such as Lstiburek who rose out from the R2000 program. He went on to launch Building Science Corporation – the über online resource for building professionals. Lstiburek & Co., with fellow Canadian Straub and Co. from Waterloo, ran a marathon of research projects out of its U.S. office for the Building America Program and various other blue chip clients. They then made them all available online for the whopping price of FREE.

In fact, all the überness in building research is readily available at the click of a mouse. This is with the exception of the snobbish stuff exclusively available from closed shop publishing houses. These publishers harvest the work off researchers and make gobs of money selling it to whomever is willing to pay. I am all about operating businesses for profit but I pinch my nose when having to deal with companies profiting off the backs of publicly-funded research. Consider that the “product” was developed through the hard work of researchers who paid for their education with a combination of self-funded resources, along with publicly-subsidized student loans.

One would think that if our tax dollars go to support education, the education ought to be accessible by the taxpayers. It does not seem to be an unreasonable request. So rather than make a list of all the bad, evil, money hungry publishers of research I have taken a page out of the Dragons’ Den book. The only way to get affordable access is to exploit the system. I have put those publishing companies in my stock portfolio. Hopefully, the financial gains will fund my purchases of research done by those who unfortunately have been reduced to getting published by any one of the greedy corporations sitting in my stock portfolio.

I am all for the good but I am not stupid – sometimes saving the world means sleeping with the enemy. Kevin O’Leary – Mr. Wonderful – would be proud. <> 

Robert Bean, R.E.T., P.L.(Eng.) is president of Indoor Climate Consultants Inc. and a director of www.healthyheating.com. He serves on ASHRAE Committees: T.C.61. (CM), T.C.6.5 (VM), T.C. 7.04 (VM), SSPC 55 (VM). www.healthyheating.com



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