Providing access to information has long been the hallmark of scholarship. Digital sharing is today’s equivalent of a global town crier. Being within earshot of the source of news in an 18th century town square is one thing, but being able to access information as soon as it is posted is the key to accelerating creative solutions to today’s grand challenges in science and engineering.
Digital sharing speeds the dissemination of data, knowledge and expertise to those that can process and use it no matter where they happen to access the information. In biology certain discoveries became useful only after they were “rediscovered.” They were overlooked the first time due to inadequate means for dissemination of the initial discovery. Two examples come to mind. The etiologic agent of cholera was discovered in Italy before it was rediscovered and publicized by Koch. Also Mendel’s work, although published, had little impact on the progress of genetics until it too was rediscovered and much more widely disseminated.
Distributed innovation and parallel innovation are hastened by access to information. Speeding the delivery of discoveries into practical use can help us to innovate our way out of the current world-wide financial downturn.