Open Access: The Devil’s in the Details

(1) Two Kinds of OA: Gratis and Libre: There are two kinds of Open Access (OA) — “gratis” (free online access) and “libre” (free online access plus certain re-use rights) — but Gideon Burton seems to be writing about OA as if there were only one kind (“libre”). (See: “Open Access: ‘Gratis’ and ‘Libre’“)

The gratis/libre distinction matters a lot, because it is critical to the strategy for successfully achieving OA (of either kind) at all. There is still very little OA today, but most of what OA there is is gratis, not libre. The fastest and surest way to achieve 100% OA is for universities and funders to mandate OA, and they are at last beginning to do so. But universities and funders can (and hence should) only mandate gratis OA, not libre OA. All peer-reviewed journal article authors are “give-away authors“: They want their work to be freely accessible online. But most do not want their texts themselves (as opposed to just their findings) to be re-used and re-mixed as if they were data, software, or disney cartoons. Author-sanctioned re-use rights can come after we have reached 100% gratis OA; needlessly insisting on them pre-emptively only hampers progress toward reaching 100% OA itself. (See: “The Giveaway/NonGiveaway Distinction”)“.

(2) Two Ways to Reach 100% OA: The Golden Road and the Green Road: There are two roads to 100% OA, the “golden road” of authors publishing in OA journals and the “green road” of authors publishing in conventional journals but also self-archiving their articles in their own Institutional Repositories (IRs) to make them OA. (See: “OA Publishing is OA, but OA is Not OA Publishing“).

The green/gold distinction matters even more than the gratis/libre distinction, because Green OA can be mandated by universities and funders, whereas gold OA cannot. Moreover, most journals already have a green (63%) or pale-green (32%) policy on author OA self-archiving, whereas only about 15% of journals are gold OA journals, and the rest cannot be mandated by universities and funders to convert. Universal green OA self-archiving mandates may eventually induce publishers to convert to gold, but they cannot do so if we do not first adopt the green mandates. “Gold Fever” — treating OA as if it just meant gold OA — is the single most common error made by commentators on OA (whether proponents or opponents). (See: “Please Don’t Conflate Green and Gold OA“).

(3) Two Ways Not to Try to Mandate OA: Too Strong and Too Weak: Gideon Burton is a proponent of a green OA mandate at his own university (Brigham Young University, BYU), and this is very timely, valuable, and welcome. But in advocating the Harvard mandate model — which is not just a mandate to provide green, gratis OA by depositing articles in the institutional repository, but a requirement for authors to successfully negotiate with their publishers the retention of certain re-use rights — Gideon is advocating a mandate that is both stronger and weaker than necessary. Not only does such a nonoptimal mandate model make it less likely that a consensus will be successfully reached on adopting an OA mandate at all (has BYU adopted this OA mandate?) but it also makes full author compliance uncertain even if a consensus on adoption is successfully achieved. (See: “Which Green OA Mandate Is Optimal?“)

The reason the Harvard mandate model is too strong is that it requires more than just self-archiving in the university’s IR: It requires successful rights renegotiation by each author, with each publisher. But since only Harvard authors are subject to the mandate, and not their publishers, the successful outcome of such a negotiation cannot be guaranteed. So the Harvard mandate allows authors to opt out — which in turn weakens it into something less than a mandate, as authors need not comply. The mandate is too strong, in that it demands more than necessary, which in turn makes it necessary to allow opt-out, weakening it more than necessary. And the mandate is also needlesly weak in that it fails to require immediate deposit, without opt-out, irrespective of the success or failure of rights renegotiations. On the Harvard model, if any author elects to opt out of rights renegotiation, he need not deposit at all.

And yet a mandate to deposit the author’s final, peer-reviewed draft, immediately upon acceptance for publication, regardless of whether rights have or have not been successfully renegotiated, can provide immediate OA to at least 63% of deposits (as noted above, because 63% of journals are already green on author OA self-archiving) and immediate “Almost-OA” for the remaining 37% (thanks to the IR’s semi-automatic “email eprint request” Button, whereby any user webwide who reaches any deposit to which access is closed rather than open — because the publisher has vetoed or embargoed OA to the deposit — can, with just one click, request a single copy for personal research use, and the author can in turn, likewise with just one click, authorize the immediate automatic emailing of that single copy to the requester by the IR software).

“Almost OA” can tide over research usage needs during any publisher embargo period — but only if immediate deposit is mandated, without opt-out. The Harvard model does not mandate immediate deposit, without opt-out. Most Harvard authors may have the clout and the gumption to successfully negotiate rights retention anyway, but it is far from clear that all, most or even many authors at other universities worldwide would have Harvard-authors’ clout or gumption. So not only are many likely to opt out of such an opt-out mandate, but they and their institutions are hence far less likely to opt for adopting such a needlessly strong (and weak) mandate in the first place.

So I suggest that BYU (and all other universities — and funders too) opt for the optimal green gratis OA mandate — Immediate Deposit (without Opt-Out) plus Optional Access-Setting (as OA or Closed Access plus the “Almost-OA” Button). (I call this mandate the IDOA mandate and Peter Suber calls it the DDR (Dual Deposit Release) mandate.) If a stronger mandate can successfully achieve consensus on adoption, then by all means adopt that! But on no account delay or imperil achieving successful consensus on adopting a mandate at all, by insisting on a needlessly stronger mandate — and on no account needlessly weaken the mandate by allowing opt-out from deposit itself. The devil is indeed in these seemingly minor details. (See: “Optimizing OA Self-Archiving Mandates: What? Where? When? Why? How?“)

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum

Call for OA to raw microarray datasets

Maxine Clarke, Call for authors to deposit microarrays in public databases, Nautilus, December 8, 2008.  Excerpt:

In a Correspondence to Nature Methods (5, 991; December 2008) responding to an Editorial in the March 2008 issue of the journal (Nat. Meth. 5, 209; 2008), Scott A Ochsner, David L Steffen, Christian J Stoeckert, Jr and Neil J McKenna report a study showing that researchers are not routinely depositing supporting raw microarray datasets into a public database.

The Correspondence authors surveyed papers from the 2007 issues of 20 journals, searching the text for reference to deposition of a microarray dataset. They find that the rate of deposition of datasets was less than 50 per cent. The authors note the effort required by authors to deposit these complex data in public microarray repositories, even though repositories are simplifying submissions while encouraging compliance with MIAME (minimum information about a microarray experiment) standards. They write: "Although microarray datasets are most useful to bioinformaticians in their raw, unnormalized forms, which facilitate cross-comparison with other datasets, processed datasets are more useful to the bench scientist. Moreover, unless a description of the experimental details is available, neither form of the data are biologically interpretable." They urge repositories to require deposition by authors and propose journals require a statement in the manuscript identifying a repository and accession number at the time of submission, with the record embargoed until acceptance of the paper. (Of the 16 Nature journal papers that were part of the survey, such accession numbers were provided in 15 cases.) They conclude: "Seven years after the elaboration of the MIAME principles, the emerging discipline of microarray meta-analysis, exemplified by the cancer gene expression resource Oncomine, continues to be hobbled by the mundane, time-consuming and often fruitless exercise of tracking down annotated full datasets. We call for a renewed collective effort from researchers, publishers and funding organizations to redress this situation and secure these data-rich research resources for posterity."

The full text of the Nature Methods Correspondence, with supporting data, is here.

Policy note: the Nature journals have for some years required authors to submit MIAME-compliant microarray data to the GEO or Arrayexpress public repository. Details of the journals’ polices can be found here.

PS:  Thanks to Heather Piwowar for the alert, and thanks to Maxine Clarke, the Publishing Executive Editor of Nature, for excerpting this TA correspondence to Nature’s OA blog.

More on populating repositories

Sally Rumsey, Towards a Knowledge Lifecycle: Populating Repositories “Upstream”, HatCheck Newsletter, December 16, 2008. (Thanks to Fabrizio Tinti.)

… It is a reasonable assumption that institutions want to retain copies of their own research assets for a number of purposes. Many potential users have no objection to the concept of an institutional repository. The problem lies in translating that latent interest into actively contributing to populating a resource. It is common for repository managers to find that they can ‘lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink.’ Even with clear guidelines and easy-to-use online facilities potential contributors have not yet incorporated regular repository deposit into their scholarly workflows. …

To encourage deposit in a repository users, both active and potential, need to be aware of, and value its benefits. Such benefits vary according to the audience: a contract researcher will value services that a senior manager will not. To address this, a repository needs to have a clearly stated purpose and provide features, functions and services to attract a variety of users. Value-added services such as automated creation of publication lists, links between related items, export for data in a specific format, usage statistics and reporting are all examples of useful scholarly functionality. …

Institutions have the option of using the carrot or stick approach to deposit. Enticements include benefits to users, both depositors and end users. Some institutions have opted for sticks by adopting a mandate requiring authors to deposit a copy of their articles in the repository. …

Mediated deposit has been adopted by many institutions as a means to encourage deposit, particularly of legacy items, to mitigate difficulties and kick-start the repository. However, this method of filling repositories is often not scaleable, particularly in large institutions. The aim is often to encourage self-deposit, where the author submits his or her items on completion. Such a method needs to be much easier than it is currently: the expectation that every academic will complete a deposit form dutifully for every eligible item is not realistic. …

More on the barriers to the use of images in scholarly publications

The International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art (RIHA) adopted a Resolution on Copyright on November 8, 2008.  Excerpt:

…RIHA, the International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art, is concerned that recent developments in technology, legislation and practice have meant that the various copyright exemptions that exist to promote the advance of creative and scholarly work are not being applied to achieve their intended effect. RIHA strongly believes that neither copyright nor licensing rules should inhibit the development and diffusion of original scholarly research, regardless of the way in which it is published or otherwise disseminated.

RIHA calls upon copyright holders and other stakeholders including publishers, galleries, museums, and collecting societies, when dealing with scholarly research, to:

Subscribe to the definition of scholarly research as stated in section 2 of this document ["A type of non-commercial research whose principal objective is public benefit rather than private profit"]

Apply the existing copyright exemptions in keeping with their intended purpose

Refrain from demanding or refusing unnecessary permissions, or granting these permissions on unreasonable terms.

RIHA further calls upon collecting societies and monopoly copyright holders, when charging for the use and reproduction of images in scholarly publications, to charge solely the marginal cost to the institution of making the specific reproduction for delivery to the researcher, rather than the costs of creating and maintaining a collection of images or of making provision for a profit margin on transactions….

Thanks to Klaus Graf for the alert and for collecting together links to similar statements and links more generally to the "art history image permission crisis".  Also see our own past posts on permission barriers in art history.  Because RIHA generally adopts the recommendations of the British academy, also see our past posts on the BA recommendations (1, 2).

Obstacles to online publishing in French law

André Gunthert, La Publication Scientifique en Ligne Face aux Lacunes du Droit Français, Revue de Synthèse, September 27, 2008.  (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)  In French with this English-language abstract:

While Internet seemed to be able to open new capacities to scientific publishing, the legislative hardening in favour of protecting the copyright complicated the use of multimedia documents. By excluding the application of any fair use in scientific or pedagogic publishing, the French law appears henceforth as an abnormality in an international context of reproduction of the on-line resources. As a symptom of the failure of the current regulation, wild practices multiply to remedy unsuitable conditions.

Free KnewCo discovery button now available

Jan Velterop, The discovery of more knowledge (in repositories, research web sites, blogs, and the like), The Parachute, December 23, 2008.  Jan is the CEO of KnewCo.  Excerpt:

In my previous post I was announcing the knowledge discovery ‘button’ that could be used to enhance any repository, science blog, or any researcher’s, scientific society’s, or publisher’s site for that matter. Well, it is here now. Available to all. Incorporation of a small bit of code will equip any site who wants it with the knowledge discovery ‘button’ as you have it on this [Jan’s] blog in the upper right hand side (the orange one that says "discover more…")….

It really is a small bit of code that needs to be incorporated, and the fact that I managed to do it myself in this blog should give confidence to even the least HTML-savvy person that it really is easy….

Just cut and paste it in the code of your repository, web site or blog and enhance its ability to serve up relevant additional knowledge to its readers….

PS:  See Jan’s previous post on this button or our excerpt from it.  I haven’t included his example in the current post because it works best on his site where you can click the button and test the resulting links.  Click through and give it a try. 

LCA comment on the EU green paper

The Library Copyright Alliance has released comment on the EU green paper, Copyright in the Knowledge Economy.  Excerpt:

…Libraries routinely enter into licensing arrangements that enable online access to content. These licenses can make access more convenient to patrons. But this convenience comes at a significant cost. First, there is the economic cost. Largely because of consolidation, particularly in the science, technology, and medical publishing market, the price of journal subscriptions has increased dramatically over the past twenty years. The long-term solution to this problem involves the authors of these articles – typically university professors — exerting more control over their copyrights, rather than just assigning them away to publishers. The Commission should work assiduously to educate authors on how to exercise better control over their copyrights, and to promote the development of alternative distribution channels, such as open access publishers.

The second cost of licensing is the diminution of users’ privileges with respect to the content. Publishers routinely include in their licenses prohibitions on reproductions and distributions that the fair use doctrine or other exceptions under the U.S. Copyright Act would otherwise permit. LCA has long taken the position that the Copyright Act and the U.S. Constitution’s Intellectual Property and Supremacy Clauses preempt such prohibitions in non-negotiated licenses….There is precedent in the European Union for invalidating contractual terms that run contrary to intellectual property policy objectives….The EU should similarly invalidate non-negotiated licenses that diminish the effectiveness of exceptions to copyright protection….

New OA journal of materials science

Materials is a new peer-reviewed OA journal from MDPI.  (Thanks to Dietrich Rordorf.)  From Andreas Taubert’s editorial in the inaugural issue (December 2008):

…While in biology and physics, there is already a certain “tradition” of Open Access publishing, chemistry has been rather slow in picking up the concept. This is interesting, because Open Access does have several advantages: free access for anyone interested, color figures can easily be included at no cost (because the journals are published on the web anyway), publication is rapid, and, as the journals can be read by many scientists, including those that do not have access to the expensive subscriber journals, the long term impact is expected to be high.

As a result, the new Open Access journal Materials should be of interest to anyone working in the general area of materials synthesis, characterization, and application….