Research Features

This Week in Science

Picture: University of Cambridge/Stephen Hawking)

It is officially Open access week! Open Access Week is an international celebration promoting unrestricted access to published scholarly research and academic journals online.

Hundreds of events will take place across the globe to highlight the power of Open Access to increase the impact of scientific and scholarly research during the 10th annual International Open Access Week taking place from October 23-29, 2017.

In a celebration of Open Access Week 2017, the University of Cambridge has given the public free access to Stephen Hawking’s 1966 doctoral thesis, and it has officially broken the internet.
No, really it has, it has crashed the University of Cambridge’s website.

According to Cambridge University, it is already the most requested item within the open access repository in its history.
A University of Cambridge spokesperson said: “We have had a huge response to Prof Hawking’s decision to make his PhD thesis publicly available to download, with almost 60,000 downloads in less than 24 hours.
It had that many downloads the universities website became temporally unavailable.
The thesis written in 1966 considers implications and consequences of the expansion of the universe, and its conclusions include that galaxies cannot be formed through the growth of perturbations that were initially small.

Prof Hawking said by making it available he hoped to “inspire people”.
He said: “Anyone in the world should have free, unhindered access to not just my research but to the research of every great and enquiring mind across the spectrum of human understanding.”
This is great news for the world of open access, it is hoped that Hawking’s movement will help to inspire others.
Dr Lauren Cadwallader, deputy head of scholarly communications at Cambridge University, said when Prof Hawking was asked whether he wanted to make his PhD available to all he agreed almost immediately.
Dr Cadwallader said she hoped it would be a “great example for academics writing their theses now that maybe in 51 years’ time they’ll be having theirs still read”.
Cambridge University said it is hopefully going to actively encourage its other former academics to make their work available to the public like Prof Hawking has.

Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC, which created Open Access Week and works to broaden support for Open Access to scholarly research said: “Since Open Access Week first began, we’ve made significant progress in building global awareness of the benefits of opening up access to research and scholarship. Around the world, institutions and individuals are increasingly embracing the use of “Open” as an enabling strategy,”

“Whether your mission is to tackle critical problems like climate change or ending poverty or to capitalize on the enormous opportunities that having the world’s knowledge at your fingertips presents, Open Access practices and policies can help you speed up progress towards achieving your goals—and that’s a very powerful, very appealing prospect.”