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Common Knowledge, Open Science

Date & Time:
10:00:00 - 12:30:00,
Thursday 4 December, 2008


We are seeing the transformation of knowledge from something that is primarily conveyed in paper formats into something else: a computable graph, in which the knowledge is written in formats that computers can understand and interconnect, based on the same technologies that underlie the internet and web. Paper technology simply contains expressions of ideas, but the very technology of paper makes integration of ideas very difficult, if not impossible.

Graphs allow ideas to ‘snap’ together into larger and larger networks, which can in turn allow computers to help us interrogate the knowledge more effectively. There are competing technologies to achieve this, but the idea of ‘the paper’ as the core container for knowledge is dying, and technology will be the killer. This transformation is happening first, like the transformation of documents to the Web, in the sciences.

But this is ‘uncommon knowledge’ – we’ve never dealt with knowledge this way, and it shows. There is a significant amount of legal and technical infrastructure failure to be addressed. And there’s a lot of barn raising to be done.

Data Dump to delete


  • Name: John Wilbanks
  • Affiliation: VP of Science, Creative Commons
  • Role:
  • URL:
  • Bio: As VP of Science, John Wilbanks runs the Science Commons project at Creative Commons. He came to Creative Commons from a Fellowship at the World Wide Web Consortium in Semantic Web for Life Sciences. Previously, he founded and led to acquisition Incellico, a bioinformatics company that built semantic graph networks for use in pharmaceutical research and development. Before Incellico, John was the first Assistant Director at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and also worked in US politics as a legislative aide to US Representative Fortney (Pete) Stark. John holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Tulane University and studied modern letters at the Universite de Paris IV (La Sorbonne). He is a research affiliate at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in the project on Mathematics and Computation. John also serves on the Advisory Boards of the US National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central, the Open Knowledge Foundation, the Open Knowledge Definition, and the International Advisory Board of the Prix Ars Electronica’s Digital Communities awards. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Fedora Commons digital repository organization.