If your news sources are anything like my news sources (disclaimer: NPR nerd here!), then you’ve undoubtedly heard about the new human species remains found in South Africa. Homo naledi was a previously unknown early human ancestor, and the amount of skeletal remains found in a South African cave point to the earliest known ritual habit–burial of the dead. Pretty cool, right?
I always nerd-out on science news, in part because in our global, constantly-connected world, it sometimes seems as though we have all the answers. But (happily) we don’t. New discoveries are being made all the time. New knowledge is generated and shared daily. New insights into who we are and how we got here are coming forth. And this latest discovery? It’s huge! But not just because of the sample size (largest at a single African site), or the age (not yet sure, but definitely millions of years), or the backstory (spelunkers tipped off scientists).
That’s right, open access. As in, anyone with internet access can read the scientific papers behind this amazing discovery. Unlike previously monumental scientific discoveries shared in respected, but inaccessible, subscription-based scholarly journals, the 60+ scientists who bring knowledge of Homo naledi to the world are doing it openly, without access barriers.
You can read them. I can read them. High school students can read them. Researchers can read them. Journalists can read them. The spelunkers who initially spotted bones in the Rising Star cave can read them. ANYONE CAN READ THEM!
This, this right here, is evidence of evolution: Homo naledi is evidence of human evolution, and publishing the discovery open access is evidence of knowledge evolution. And it’s huge!