Open Access Policy
In their excellent Washington Post opinion piece, Matt Cooper and Elizabeth Wiley suggest that federally funded research should be freely accessible over the Internet. They argue that when students lose their access to academic databases after graduation, society doesn’t get the same benefits it could from that research:
Students’ library cards are a passport to the specialized knowledge found in academic journal articles — covering medicine and math, computer science and chemistry, and many other fields. These articles contain the cutting edge of our understanding and capture the genius of what has come before. In no uncertain terms, access to journals provides critical knowledge and an up-to-date education for tomorrow’s doctors, researchers and entrepreneurs.
But should that access cease at graduation? Or would you rather a graduating medical student, perhaps your future doctor, be able to keep up with the latest advances? Would you rather an ambitious graduate student feel comfortable leaving the academy to found the next Google, knowing she still has access to the latest insight in her field and is able to build upon it?
Cooper and Wiley’s organizations — the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students and the American Medical Student Association, respectively — joined Creative Commons and many other allies in support of a petition on Whitehouse.gov for free access to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research. The petition quickly reached its goal of 25,000 signatures, sending a clear message that it’s time for the government to rethink open access policies.
Meanwhile in Britain, the Minister for Universities and Science recently commissioned a study on how the UK could adopt open access for publicly-funded research. Dame Janet Finch and her team released their findings last week, championing in particular the “gold” route to open access.
But how do the publishers themselves fit into the discussion? Some are actively exploring open access publishing models. This month, Peter Binfield and Jason Hoyt unveiled PeerJ, a new kind of peer-reviewed academic publisher. Contributors pay a $99 lifetime membership fee, and all articles are licensed CC BY. Funded by Tim O’Reilly, PeerJ has been getting a lot of attention in the mainstream press.
Coincidentally, science publishing stalwart Nature has also adopted the CC BY license, through its open access component Scientific Reports. Previously, researchers could choose whether to license their works BY-NC-SA or BY-NC-ND. Starting July 1, they’ll have the CC BY option as well. Nature’s Jason Wilde explains the decision to drop the required noncommercial stipulation:
There has been much debate about commercial reuse on open access articles […] We believe in offering our authors choice. And we now know some authors will want to choose CC BY, not least as a result of new funder mandates. Unlike Nature Communications and our other titles, Scientific Reports does not have established revenues from commercial reprints or licensing, making it an economically viable proposition.
With governments, publishers, and the public all rethinking ways to make research more freely accessible, the climate seems right for a major shift toward open access.
Related: First Thoughts on the Finch Report: Good Steps but Missed Opportunities (Cameron Neylon)3 Comments »
On Monday, the World Bank hosted an event called What the World Bank’s Open Access Policy Means for Development (you can view the video recording of the event at the link or embedded below). Participants included Peter Suber from Harvard University, Michael Carroll from American University (Mike is on the Board of Directors at Creative Commons), and Cyril Muller and Adam Wagstaff from the World Bank. The discussion was timely given the Bank’s recently-announced Open Access Policy and Open Knowledge Repository. We blogged about the Bank’s announcement of these two great initiatives. The World Bank’s Open Access Policy requires that all research outputs and knowledge products published by the Bank be licensed Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY) as a default.
The conversation Monday revolved around the impact and potential for World Bank research — and open access in general — for development in countries around the world. For example, how will access and reuse of research under an open access policy create opportunities to solve large global challenges such as climate change and hunger?
The panelists jumped in, and stated that an immediate, baseline benefit of the open access policy is that now, World Bank research is aggregated in one place and made available for free to anyone with an internet connection. This is not the case with subscription journals, where readers have to pay to view the articles. Mike Carroll noted the importance of addressing copyright concerns in open policies. Even when research is made available for free online, if readers are unclear about the rights available to them, the articles and data will not be as valuable or impactful. This is especially important in developing nations, where republication and moving information from the Internet to an offline environment requires copyright permission. With open licenses such as CC BY chosen by the World Bank, permission to republish and translate articles into other languages is automatically granted. Carroll pointed to related success in the Open Education space. He said that many MIT Open CourseWare materials have been translated and put into use in other countries (such as Vietnam) specifically because the original resources were published under an open license that permitted translation and reuse.
Suber and Muller said that one benefit of an open access policy (especially when combined with open access to the underlying data) is that it can help validate research and work toward consensus on a particular issue, such as climate change. This in turn can help policymakers make better, research-driven decisions. Muller said that open access promotes collaboration between colleagues, even those with different skill sets and backgrounds. With this comes the increased possibility of solving complex research problems in novel ways. Muller and Wagstaff noted that the Open Access Policy would help increase the visibility, access, and reuse of World Bank documents and research. This information will help increase the audience for important Bank research and will promote cross-border transfer of information, especially in a south-south direction (as opposed to north-south).
To highlight the dire situation in pricing for traditional journals, the panelists discussed Harvard’s recent announcement about the unsustainable cost of scholarly journal subscriptions. Suber noted that even with a journal budget of $9 million per year, the Harvard University Library realizes it cannot afford the ongoing agreements with commercial journal publishers. And clearly, if even Harvard can’t afford the full range of research, every other university in the world is worse off. However, Suber said that seven of Harvard’s nine colleges have adopted exemplary open access policies, thus retaining access to the research from Harvard faculty even if those faculty publish in traditional and expensive subscription journals.
Carroll pointed to a more fundamental problem with the current scholarly publishing ecosystem. Scholars have always written to maximize impact; the web helps makes it easy to publish to wide audience, at near zero cost. The logical conclusion to these two assumptions is that all scientific and scholarly research should be widely available for free online. However, this is not how things have shaken out. Instead, prices to access scholarly research has gone up dramatically, as half of science literature has been published by commercial houses. These commercial publishers have enjoyed up to 36% profit margins, even amid the worldwide financial crisis. This points to a larger problem, and hints that the current publishing system overall is broken. However, Suber said that there are currently some for-profit open access journals that are indeed profitable. However, he guessed that the profit margins at those companies was probably closer to 2-5%.
A related question from the audience asked why a scholar would want to publish research as open access if given the chance to publish her work in a “shiny” established journal. Panelists pointed out that the World Bank Open Access policy allows authors to do both. The policy requires that authors deposit a copy of their final paper in the Open Knowledge Repository, and doesn’t preclude researchers from publishing in traditional journals. Of course, while this framework is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t solve the underlying problem because big publishers continue to enjoy huge profit margins on their access-controlled subscription journals because university libraries continue to pay for the access that their faculty require.
Suber pointed out that there are other benefits to publishing work as open access. He said that publishing in open access journals allows authors to attach open licenses (such as CC BY) to their work. When they do so, they make the work more useful to readers and users. So, the smallest open access journal has a potentially larger audience than even the most popular paywalled journal because the work can reach anyone in the world with access to the Internet. When you couple this massive potential audience with the permission to republish and reuse via an open license, authors can maximize the impact of their work beyond the reach of any closed journal.
Mike Carroll also brought up the importance of new technologies and methods such as text mining as another tool to help solve complex problems. Challenges such as climate change are huge, and can’t be tackled by researchers individually. At the same time, there is now a huge body of research articles on the subject, and scholars are facing an information overload problem. That’s where text mining comes in, and allows researchers to conduct intensive computational analyses on huge sets of scientific texts in order to identify correlations, patterns, and unforeseen connections that would be impossible to understand by reading the articles by themselves. While the traditional publishing models typically block such text mining efforts, open access gives permission in advance, helping researchers solve problems faster and promote scientific innovation. Questions around the legal implications of text mining in relation to copyright are currently being discussed in the UK.2 Comments »
World Bank stakes leadership position by announcing Open Access Policy and launching Open Knowledge Repository under Creative Commons
The World Bank has announced a new Open Access Policy! Effective July 1, 2012, the Open Access Policy requires that all research outputs and knowledge products published by the Bank be licensed Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY) as a default. Today, as the first phase of this policy is unfolded, the Bank launched a new Open Knowledge Repository with more than 2,000 books, articles, reports and research papers under CC BY. President of the World Bank Group, Robert B. Zoellick, said in the press release:
“Knowledge is power. Making our knowledge widely and readily available will empower others to come up with solutions to the world’s toughest problems. Our new Open Access policy is the natural evolution for a World Bank that is opening up more and more.”
CC BY is the most permissive Creative Commons license, allowing others to reuse, remix and redistribute works, even commercially, as long as attribution is given to the copyright holder. It is recommended for those seeking maximum dissemination and re-use of their materials while preserving copyright. We applaud the World Bank for its leadership and embracing this objective by incorporating CC as the framework for its Open Access Policy.
Lawrence Lessig, Board member and co-founder of Creative Commons, says,
“The World Bank is not only leading by embracing the principles of open access. But by making its works available under a CC BY license, it is encouraging the widest spread of the knowledge it is producing. This work is incredibly valuable in assuring access to knowledge universally, and not just at elite universities.”
The Open Access Policy reinforces scholarship norms. The terms require that publishing embargoes are respected and research is made available under CC BY. The Bank “expects the amount of time it takes for externally published Bank content to be included in its institutional repository to diminish over time” and that the working paper versions of journal articles will be made available under CC BY without any embargo period. Additionally, the CC BY policy only applies to works published by the Bank. Works published by third party publishers will be made available in the repository under CC BY-NC-ND, with the option of CC BY should the publisher choose.
All of this content will be aggregated via the Open Knowledge Repository, which has been built with an eye toward maximizing interoperability, discoverability, and reusability by complying with Dublin Core metadata standards and the Open Archives Initiatives protocol for metadata harvesting:
“The repository will be fully interoperable with other major international repositories such as RePEc (Research Papers in Economics), SSRN and Economists Online. This means that the World Bank publishes just once in its own Open Knowledge Repository while its research is also “harvested” and made openly available through many other searchable online repositories, increasing the number of people able to find World Bank content.”
Currently, the repository contains books and papers from 2009-2012 in various fields and from all around the world, including the World Development Report and two World Bank journals, the World Bank Economic Review (WBER) and the World Bank Research Observer (WBRO). The Bank will continue to add new and old content, including those works published prior to 2009, and beginning in 2012, the Bank will include links to research-related datasets.
To learn how this exciting new move builds on the Bank’s other open efforts, read the press release.12 Comments »