open access

Congress passes spending bill requiring free access to publicly funded research

Timothy Vollmer, January 16th, 2014

agencylogos

Update: The bill was signed by President Obama January 17, 2014.

Both the U.S. House of Representative and Senate have passed the 2014 omnibus appropriations legislation (2.9 MB PDF). President Obama is expected to sign the bill shortly.

What’s so special about this legislation? Federal agencies with research budgets of at least $100 million per year will be required provide the public with free online access to scholarly articles generated with federal funds no later than 12 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The agencies affected by the public access provision of the appropriations bill include the Department of Labor, Department of Education, and Department of Health and Human Services (which includes research-intensive sub-agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

According to SPARC, the bill “ensure[s] that $31 billion of the total $60 billion annual U.S. investment in taxpayer-funded research is now openly accessible.”

The inclusion of the public access provision builds upon existing initiatives, such as the NIH Public Access Policy. And it echoes the more recent push for public access to publicly funded research advocated through the introduction of the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) and the White House directive. But with FASTR tabled in Congress last year and the federal agencies dragging their feet on complying with Obama’s public access directive (plans were due in August 2013), the passage of the 2014 spending legislation is a welcome measure for increasing access to publicly funded research.

SPARC thinks the language in the bill could be strengthened by adopting a shorter embargo period (e.g. six months), which would benefit the public without harming journal publishers. In addition, they suggest that research articles be shared via a central repository similar to PubMed Central and incorporate provisions to ensure the ability to conduct text and data mining on the entire corpus of federally-funded articles. Creative Commons and other groups have also communicated the need for not only free public access, but also access whereby publicly funded research is made available under open licenses.

Open Access icon was created by Duke Innovation Co-Lab and in the public domain.
U.S. Department of Education seal is in the public domain.
U.S. Department of Labor seal is in the public domain.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services seal is in the public domain.

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BioMed Central moves to CC BY 4.0 along with CC0 for data

Puneet Kishor, December 18th, 2013

CC 4.0

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BioMed Central, The Open Access Publisher chemcentral_logo SpringerOpen

BioMed Central (BMC) is one of the largest open access (OA) publishers in the world with 250 peer-reviewed OA journals, and more than 100,000 OA articles published yearly. BMC is also long-time user of CC licenses to accomplish its mission of husbanding and promoting open science. BMC has been publishing articles under a CC license since 2004.

In June of least year, BMC’s Iain Hrynaszkiewicz and Matthew Cockerill, published an editorial titled Open by default in which they proposed a copyright license and waiver agreement for open access research and data in peer-reviewed journals. The gist of the editorial was that

Copyright and licensing of scientific data, internationally, are complex and present legal barriers to data sharing, integration and reuse, and therefore restrict the most efficient transfer and discovery of scientific knowledge, (and that implementing) a combined Creative Commons Attribution license (for copyrightable material) and Creative Commons CC0 waiver (for data) agreement for content published in peer-reviewed open access journals… in science publishing will help clarify what users—people and machines—of the published literature can do, legally, with journal articles and make research using the published literature more efficient.

Starting September 3, 2013, in keeping with its forward-looking mission, BMC started requiring a CC0 Public Domain Dedication for data supporting the published articles.

This is good because CC0 reduces all impedance to sharing and reuse by placing the work in the public domain. Good scientific practices assure proper credit is given via citation, something scientists have already been doing for centuries. Marking data with CC0 sends a clear signal of zero impedance to reuse. CC0 is a public domain dedication, however, wherever such a dedication is not possible, CC0 has a public license fallback. Either way, the impedance to data reuse is eliminated or minimized. Making CC0 the default removes uncertainty, and speeds up the process of accessible, collaborative, participatory and inclusive science.

But wait, there is more… starting February 3, 2014, BMC, Chemistry Central and all of SpringerOpen family of journals are also Moving Forward to the latest CC BY 4.0 license. Changes in CC-BY — version 4.0, released on Nov 25, 2013, represent more than two years of community process, public input and feedback to develop a truly open, global license suitable for both copyright, related rights and, where applicable, database rights. By moving to CC4.0, BMC is not only getting set for reliable, globally recognizable mark of open, it is also setting a high bar for the future of open science.

We at Creative Commons are big fans of BMC, and we applaud their move to creating a stronger, more vibrant open commons of science.

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Launch of the Open Access Button

Timothy Vollmer, November 18th, 2013

Today marks the launch of the Open Access Button, a browser bookmark tool that allows users to report when they hit paywalled access to academic articles and discover open access versions of that research. The button was created by university students David Carroll and Joseph McArthur, and announced at the Berlin 11 Student and Early Stage Researcher Satellite Conference.

From the press release:

The Open Access Button is a browser-based tool that lets users track when they are denied access to research, then search for alternative access to the article. Each time a user encounters a paywall, he simply clicks the button in his bookmark bar, fills out an optional dialogue box, and his experience is added to a map alongside other users. Then, the user receives a link to search for free access to the article using resources such as Google Scholar. The Open Access Button initiative hopes to create a worldwide map showing the impact of denied access to research.

oabutton

The creators have also indicated that they plan to release the data collected by the Open Access Button under CC0. Congratulations on the release of this useful tool.

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The past year in Open Access

Timothy Vollmer, October 21st, 2013

OAlogo

Today marks the start of Open Access Week 2013. Open Access Week is a global event for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research. There are many events you can participate in this week, both in person and virtually. Now is a great time to take a look back at the last year in open access developments. Here’s a small sample.

  • The European Commission released a report that said open access to research publications is reaching a tipping point. It noted that 40% of scientific peer reviewed articles published worldwide between 2004 and 2011 are now available online for free access.
  • CC developed a set of graphics that help explain the the current commercial publishing situation and what an open access would do to promote increased access and reuse to research.
  • The Public Library of Science and Figshare announced a partnership that will allow authors publishing in PLOS journals host their data on Figshare.
  • In the United States, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) was introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. FASTR requires federal agencies with annual extramural research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to the research articles stemming from that funded research no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • The White House issued a directive on public access to research produced by federal agencies. Each agency covered by the Directive must “Ensure that the public can read, download, and analyze in digital form final peer reviewed manuscripts or final published documents within a timeframe that is appropriate for each type of research conducted or sponsored by the agency.” The public is still waiting to see the details of the agency public access plans, which were due August 22, 2013. In addition, the White House announced an executive order in support of open data, and launched Project Open Data, an open source initiative looking for input and collaboration on how the federal government should manage open data. There’s been some great work to-date on Project Open Data, but there’s still some unresolved questions about licensing (or public domain tools) appropriate for data produced by the federal government.
  • Also in the United States, there’s been several state-level bills introduced in support of public access to publicly funded research. Perhaps the most active is the legislation introduced in California–AB 609–the California Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act. If you live in California you can write to your representatives today to tell them to support AB 609.
  • The University of California passed a system-wide open access policy. The open access policy will cover 8,000 faculty who author approximately 40,000 articles each year.
  • The Research Councils UK passed an open access policy, but there’s been some confusion about the open licensing provisions in the policy. And, the Business, Innovation, and Skills Committee released a report criticizing the policy and urged RCUK to reconsider several aspects of the policy, including the preference for gold open access publishing, acceptable embargo periods, and licensing options.
  • PLOS hosted the Accelerating Science Award Program (ASAP). The high-profile award program seeked to highlight individuals who have used, applied, or remixed scientific research — published through open access — in order to realize innovations in science, medicine, and technology. The winners of the program will be announced today!
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WikiProject Open launches “Collaboration of the Week” for Open Access Week

Jane Park, October 21st, 2013

Below is an invitation by members of WikiProject Open to help improve two Wikipedia articles related to openness. Wikiproject Open is a collaboration with the School of Open.

wikiproject open.001

WikiProject Open is a community of new and experienced Wikipedians, dedicated to improving Wikipedia’s coverage of all things “open,” and to using openly licensed content to improve Wikipedia articles in general. In celebration of Open Access Week, we invite you to join us in improving two Wikipedia articles this week:

  • Open Access Week: We should have plenty of new news coverage to draw from in improving this article
  • Creative Commons license: Let’s make sure this central article is thorough and accurate; we will consider splitting off sub-articles, etc.

For those new to Wikipedia, you’ll find some tips to get you started on our “welcome” page.

Then, just get to work on the “Open Access Week” and “Creative Commons license” articles! Be sure to check each article’s talk page (you’ll find the tab in the upper left), because we’ll surely be discussing what needs to be improved and how we want to approach it as WikiProject Open’s Collaboration of the Week (COTW) gets underway.

Collaboration of the Week programs have been implemented by a number of wiki communities over the years. Academic studies have found them to be a highly effective way to keep people engaged and productive, in addition to building a sense of community. We hope you will join us as we launch this program, and help us improve Wikipedia’s coverage of important topics in the world of openness!

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Public Access to Publicly Funded Materials: What Could Be

Billy Meinke, September 25th, 2013

This blog post was written by Teresa Sempere García, CC’s Community Support Intern June-August, 2013. The cycle graphics below were designed by Timothy Vollmer and Teresa Sempere García.

The current system for public access to research articles and educational materials is broken: ownership is often unclear, and the reuse of knowledge is limited by policies that do not maximize the impact of public funding. The following graphics will try to simplify and compare two alternative funding cycles for research publications and educational resources that emphasize the positive impacts of open policies on publicly-funded grants. More information and links to a current directory of current and proposed OER open policies can be found in the OER Policy Registry on the Creative Commons Wiki.

Cycles for Research Articles

The existing system for producing and distributing publicly funded research articles is expensive and doesn’t take advantage of the possibilities of innovations like open licensing. Without a free-flowing system, access to the results of scientific research is limited to institutions that are able to commit to hefty journal subscriptions — paid for year after year — which don’t allow for broad redistribution, or repurposing for activities such as text and data mining without additional permissions from the rightsholder. This closed system limits the impact on the scientific and scholarly community and progress is slowed significantly.

A Closed Research Model

closed funding cycle for research

When funding cycles for research include open license requirements for publications, increased access and opportunities for reuse extends the value of research funding. As an example, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy requires the published results of all NIH-funded research to be deposited in PubMed Central’s repository, the peer-reviewed manuscript immediately, and the final journal article within twelve months of publication. Similarly, the recent directive issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy mandates that federal agencies with more than $100 million in research expenditures must make the results of their research publicly available within one year of publication, and better manage the resultant data supporting their results. These policies utilize aspects of the optimized cycle below, and are a step in the right direction for making better use of public funding for research articles.

An Open Research Model

optimised funding cycle for research

Cycles for Educational Resources

The incumbent system for developing and sharing publicly funded educational resources doesn’t guarantee materials are accessible and reusable by the public that paid for their creation.

A Closed Education Model

closed funding cycle for educational resources

If policies are put in place that mandate open licenses on publicly funded educational resources, knowledge can flow more freely because the public is clear about how they may reuse educational content, and the funders can realize a more impactful return on their investments. An example of better use of public funding for the production of educational resources, the US DOL TAACCCT Program mandates that all content created or modified using grant funds are openly-licensed (CC BY) and deposited in a public repository upon completion of the project. Being conducted in four waves, the TAACCCT program is making better use of a large (US$2 billion) investment of US taxpayer money by ensuring the public will have access the educational resources created during the four-year term, and is able to reuse and adapt them beyond what automatic copyright allows. The following graphic demonstrates an open funding model, with licensing and access recommendations to remove barriers to sharing and help speed access and reuse of publicly funded educational content.

An Open Education Model

optimised funding cycle for educational resources

Summary

Open policy — specifically, the idea that publicly funded materials should be openly licensed materials — is a sensible solution that ensures the public’s right to reuse the materials it paid for, and improves the efficiency of government grant funding. Open licensing is a sensible requirement for publicly funded grant programs.

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University of California adopts system-wide open access policy

Timothy Vollmer, August 2nd, 2013

Today the University of California (UC) Academic Senate announced the adoption of a system-wide open access policy for future research articles generated by UC faculty. The articles will be made publicly available for free via UC’s eScholarship repository.

According to the press release, the University of California open access policy will cover 8,000 faculty who author approximately 40,000 articles each year. From the UC statement:

By granting a license to the University of California prior to any contractual arrangement with publishers, faculty members can now make their research widely and publicly available, re-use it for various purposes, or modify it for future research publications. Previously, publishers had sole control of the distribution of these articles.

It appears that authors will have the option of depositing their articles under open licenses, such as Creative Commons licenses. The FAQ says,

Uses of the article are governed by the copyright license under which it is distributed, and faculty authors choose which license to use at the point of deposit. Faculty members may choose to restrict commercial re-use by choosing a Creative Commons license with a “Non Commercial” (NC) restriction when they deposit their article; or they may choose to allow it by choosing a license like the “Attribution only” license (CC BY). If no license is specified, a non-commercial license will be used by default.

Faculty are also able to opt-out of the policy on a per-article basis, which may limit the effectiveness of the policy overall if opt-outs become commonplace.

The UC policy builds on existing open access policies in California, such as the one at UCSF. Here’s a link the full text of the policy. Congratulations to UC for passing this policy, and we hope that faculty will embrace sharing research articles under open licenses.

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University proposal supports U.S. public access directive

Timothy Vollmer, June 12th, 2013

Last week the Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) released a draft plan on how they’d support public access to federally funded research aligned with the February 22 White House public access directive. The SHared Access Research Ecosystem, or SHARE, is a plan that would draw upon existing university infrastructure in order to ensure public access to publicly funded research. SHARE works through a federated system of university repositories. Participating universities would adopt a common set of metadata fields for publicly funded research articles. The metadata will communicate specific information so the article may be easily discovered through common search engines. Minimum metadata will include author name, title, journal, abstract, and award number. The university-focused SHARE plan was announced in the same week as CHORUS, an effort championed by a coalition of commercial publishers.

In order to promote broad access and reuse of publicly funded research outputs, the SHARE proposal says that federal agencies need to be granted permissions that enable them to make the deposit system work. Therefore, universities and principal investigators need to retain sufficient rights to in turn grant those permissions (access, reuse, archiving) to the federal agencies. From the plan:

Copyright licenses to allow public access uses of publications resulting from federal awards need to be awarded on a non-exclusive basis to the funding agency responsible for deposit in order for that system of public deposit to work [...] Federal funding agencies need to receive sufficient copyright licenses to peer-reviewed scholarly publications (either final accepted manuscripts or preferably final published articles) resulting from their grants to enable them to carry out their roles in the national public access scheme. Such licenses would enable the placement of peer-reviewed content in publicly accessible repositories capable of preservation, discovery, sharing, and machine-based services such as text mining, once an embargo has expired.

The need for universities and researchers to maintain rights to make their research available under open licenses is aligned with the recommendations that Creative Commons made to the federal government in our testimony during the public hearings at the National Academies. In our comments, we urged agencies to allow authors to deposit articles immediately in a repository under a worldwide, royalty-free copyright license that allows the research to be used for any purpose as long as attribution is given to the authors. By making it possible for authors to make their research articles available immediately as open access, federal agencies will be clarifying reuse rights so the downstream users know the legal rights and responsibilities in using that research. This would include important reuse permissions noted in the SHARE proposal.

We also suggested that federal agencies require that authors deposit their manuscripts into a public repository immediately upon publication in a peer reviewed journal. This is also in line with the SHARE plan. If an embargo is present, the SHARE repository will link to the commercial publisher’s website. And once the embargo period expires, the repository would be able to “flip on” access to the article which would then made available under the open license.

The SHARE proposal also notes, “licensing arrangements should ensure that no single entity or group secures exclusive rights to publications resulting from federally funded research.” It is important that universities and scholarly authors properly manage copyrights from the get-go in order to make sure that the final manuscript is made publicly available under the requirements set out by the White House public access directive. This important consideration has been widely discussed at the federal level when the NIH Public Access Policy went into effect. In addition, universities have passed open access policies that reserve the legal rights to archive research conducted by their faculty. And author-level copyright tools have proved to be useful for faculty to preserve some rights to the articles to which they submit to commercial publishers.

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California public access bill moves to Assembly floor vote

Timothy Vollmer, May 28th, 2013

ab609_468x60~s600x600

After passing through the Assembly Appropriations Committee last week (with bipartisan support), California’s Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act (AB 609) will now reach the Assembly floor for a vote this week. If the proposed bill passes the Assembly, it will move to the California State Senate.

To recap, AB 609 would require that the final peer-reviewed manuscript of research funded through California tax dollars be made publicly available within 12 months of publication. If passed, AB 609 would be the first state-level bill requiring free public access to publicly funded research.

The Association of American Publishes attempted to scuttle the bill by sending a letter filled with inaccurate, misleading information. However, public access advocates made their voices heard to appropriations committee members, again correcting the FUD spread by entrenched publishing interests.

If you’re a California resident, you can contact your Assembly member now to ask that they support AB 609.

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California Pushes for Public Access to Taxpayer Funded Research

Timothy Vollmer, April 25th, 2013

ca oa

As we mentioned last week, California has introduced AB 609, the California Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act. The bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Brian Nestande, would require that research articles funded through California tax dollars be made available online for free no later than 12 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. A letter from the University of California may have prompted the Assembly to modify the text of the draft bill to extend the embargo to 12 months (instead of six), and to include a provision exempting the University of California and California State University from the state agencies that must comply with the legislation, if enacted.

A group of organizations (including Creative Commons) sent a letter to Assembly Member Nestande thanking him for introducing the bill. The letter urged the Assembly to considering strengthening the proposed law by including reuse rights language, such as through the adoption of open licenses:

We encourage you to consider strengthening this legislation by including a provision to ensure that manuscripts reporting on state-funded research be made fully usable by the public. To fully unlock the value of the information contained in these digital articles, they should be made available in formats and under licensing terms that permit users to read, downloaded, search, compute on, data mine or analyze for any lawful purpose.

It also asked for the original 6 month embargo to be reinstated:

Additionally, while we would strongly prefer that these articles be made available to the public immediately upon publication, we would support the inclusion of an embargo period as originally proposed of no longer than six months.

A hearing in the Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review is scheduled for May 1 in Sacramento.

California residents can support the legislation by sending a message to representatives at the Alliance for Taxpayer Access site. More information on the bill is available on the SPARC website.

California icon by Christopher Scott, from the Noun Project, under CC BY.
Unlock icon by J. Ali, from the Noun Project, Public Domain.

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