science

PLOS and figshare make open science publishing more open

Puneet Kishor, January 31st, 2013

PLOS and figshare announced a partnership earlier today that will allow authors publishing in PLOS journals host their data on figshare. The authors would also benefit from the visualization capabilities that figshare provides right in the browser alongside the content. This partnership symbolizes all that is good about a healthy scientific publishing process that is enabled by innovative thinking aided by open licensing tools from Creative Commons.

When PLOS launched ten years ago, everyone involved could only hope for the kind of success it has seen in promoting open access publishing. Now with seven journals, six Currents sections, a network of blogs and new ways such as hubs and collections to organize content post-publication, PLOS spans a range of options from very selective to relatively inclusive. PLOS is the undisputed leader in the open access publishing space, and everything published by PLOS is under a CC license. But PLOS is constantly thinking of new ways to make the publishing process better.

John Chodacki, Director of Product Management at PLOS: “We know that Supporting Information acts as a container for valuable resources and data, but can remain relatively hidden from readers. With our partnership with figshare we are opening this data up to PLOS readers and showcasing its value.”

figshare is much younger. Founded by Mark Hahnel, a young scientist frustrated with the stunted mechanism for data sharing, figshare also adopted a blanket open licensing policy based on CC licenses and public domain dedication, and made it easy to upload, visualize and share data.

Mark says, “The common goal of PLOS and figshare for open access to research are connected by the liberal licensing of content, giving authors control over their outputs. Without the standards set out by Creative Commons, partnerships such as this would be much less achievable. Long may it continue as the academic space moves into new ways of disseminating research”.

Both PLOS and figshare leverage the internet to the fullest giving scientists a better way to publish research results and data. This directly promotes CC’s vision of realizing the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity.

By complementing each other, PLOS and figshare help the entire scientific process take another step toward being truly open. They are shining examples of leveraging the open licensing and public domain dedication tools created by Creative Commons. We wish them continued success and a future full of innovations we hope will continue to surprise and delight us.

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New Zealand Open Data Conference

Puneet Kishor, December 22nd, 2012

As research communities worldwide look for new ways to make the scientific process and its data and results more open and participatory, New Zealand is showing us how it is done.

In July 2010, The New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing framework (NZGOAL) approved by the Cabinet provided guidance for agencies to follow when releasing copyright works and non-copyright material for re-use by others. NZGOAL seeks to standardise the licensing of government copyright works for re-use via Creative Commons New Zealand law licences and recommends the use of ‘no-known rights’ statements for non-copyrighted material.

Then in August 2011, the Declaration on Open and Transparent Government was also approved by the Cabinet whereby the government committed to actively release high value public data “to enable the private and community sectors to use it to grow the economy, strengthen the social and cultural fabric, and sustain the environment… to encourage business and community involvement in government decision-making.”

And earlier this month in December 2012, a report of the Education and Science Committee presented to the House of Representatives of the 50th Parliament an Inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy. Among its recommendations were that the Government:

  • review the intellectual property framework for (NZ) education system to resolve copyright issues that have been raised, including considering Creative Commons policy.
  • consider the advantages and disadvantages of whether all documentation produced by the Ministry of Education for teaching and learning purposes should be released under a Creative Commons licence.

In keeping with this spirit, a group of researchers committed to bringing an Open Research conference to Australia and New Zealand are organizing a three day event February 6-8, 2013 in Auckland.

The purpose of this conference is to explore new, open models of research that speed up the effective transfer of research results and improve economic, environmental and social impacts. A growing community of researchers around the world are investigating new commercial and academic models to enhance the reach of their research. These new ways of doing research openly are akin to changes happening in the IT and business world, where open innovation has enabled people to achieve more together than they ever could alone.

Creative Commons plays a key role in promoting openness in science. Events such as this one in Auckland demonstrate the concern about open science that the community shares with Creative Commons. In the end, only good things can come out of openness, sharing and broad participation. Creative Commons is very pleased to see this event take place, and wishes it utmost success.

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Introducing the CC Science Advisory Board

Puneet Kishor, November 16th, 2012

Creative Commons has formed a new Science Advisory Board (SAB) to guide its science program and to provide overall strategic vision and focus. The SAB brings legal, institutional as well as domain-specific knowledge in the use and sharing of scientific tools and data. Our SAB is made up of eminent scholars and practitioners from different disciplines and four continents who have volunteered to provide us both the domain expertise as well as regional perspective to help create a truly globally responsive program. We are grateful to Gilberto Camara, Michael Carroll, Robert Chen, Juncai Ma, Peter Murray-Rust, Mackenzie Smith, and John Wilbanks for their time and insight.

Creative Commons works with scientists and institutions, providing education and outreach on the right technologies and licenses to maximize legal interoperability of scientific data and tools. Since most science is both cross-discipline and cross-border, legal interoperability of data and tools facilitates collaboration, enables reproducibility and verifiability, and makes it possible to extract a higher return on investment in publicly funded scientific programs through reuse of information.

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Geoscience Australia to License Satellite Images Under CC BY

Elliot Harmon, October 11th, 2012

Geoscience Australia recently announced that it will license all images from the Landsat 8 satellite under CC BY. (Geoscience Australia is a partner of the United States Geological Survey in the Landsat program.)

Creative Commons Australia reports:

The new Landsat 8 satellite is scheduled to be launched in early 2013, with GA’s full implementation being scheduled for May or June 2013.

Upon full implementation, which involves the deployment of major infrastructure upgrades by GA, data will be beamed from Landsat 8 on a daily basis to GA-operated ground stations in Alice Springs and Darwin. As soon as possible after receipt and processing, GA will make the satellite images publicly available free of charge.

GA will make the data available under a Creative Commons CC BY Australia 3.0 licence, which will facilitate legal reuse of the images.

GA is expecting a major upsurge in demand for the images when its free to air service is up and running. Jeff Kingwell, Section Leader of GA’s National Earth Observation Group, has indicated this prediction is based on the experience of its senior partner Geological Survey where there was a 1000 fold usage increase on commencement of its free to air service online. “Our experience is that using the Creative Commons Attribution Licence — which is the default licence for GA information — makes the data more useful and easier to apply. For example, to help the Indonesian government to monitor forest management, GA supplies Landsat data from a number of foreign data archives. Since we can apply the same licence conditions to each data source, the information is much more useful and easier to share and reuse.”

(Read the full article.)

Here at Creative Commons, we applaud governments and intergovernmental organizations licensing their information and data under CC licenses (or the CC0 public domain waiver). Australia’s partnership with the United States in the Landsat program is a perfect example of why it’s important to use a license that’s open and internationally applicable.

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Support Grows for Open Access to Science Research

Elliot Harmon, June 29th, 2012

PeerJ Founders Peter Binfield and Jason Hoyt
PeerJ Founders Peter Binfield and Jason Hoyt / Duncan Hull / CC BY

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)

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Seeking Project Coordinator for Science and Data

Jane Park, April 25th, 2012


Open Science Logo / gemmerich / CC BY-SA

Creative Commons is seeking a Project Coordinator for Science and Data! The Project Coordinator will organize, coordinate and manage projects related to data policy and governance and perform research and analysis on data governance topics across relevant sectors — particularly for science — and communicate results and recommendations from the project via writing and related outreach.

We are looking for someone who is experienced in policy analysis, development and processes, in addition to Open Source Software, Open Access/Open Data and other Open content projects. A science and/or legal background with international experience is highly desirable — especially as the position will be representing Creative Commons at global events in the Open Data and Open Science communities! See the job posting and apply at our opportunities page.

We will stop accepting applications after 11:59 p.m. PDT, May 25, 2012.

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Data Governance, our idea for the Moore Foundation

Cathy Casserly, August 23rd, 2011

The Moore Foundation has called for community feedback on where to invest in the area of data-intensive science. We’ve submitted our own idea — data governance — and would love your feedback and support for the idea. We have been exploring data governance issues, including data licensing, since 2004 in our science work, and we’re planning to make data governance a priority across the Creative Commons organization going forward.

Data governance is more than just licensing. It’s the system of decision rights and accountabilities for data-related processes that describe who can take what actions with what information, and when, under what circumstances and using what methods. Our work on the Neurocommons project — using web standards to mark up copyright licenses and developing technological infrastructure to make the commons searchable and usable — all inform our ideas on data governance.

We are actively planning for a major project in data in 2012, and look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please register and vote, and not just on our idea — participation in processes like this is a great way to increase their usage by foundations in making funding choices that can benefit the commons.

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European Commission hearing on access to and preservation of scientific information

Diane Cabell, June 8th, 2011

Along with over 50 organizations, I attended a recent European Commission public hearing on access to and preservation of scientific information. Among those present were representatives from national and regional ministries, higher education institutions, libraries, data repositories, public and private funders, scientific societies, supranational research centres, journal publishers and advocacy groups. A majority of those at the hearing were strong proponents of open access (OA).

Because science and digital technology are evolving so rapidly, the hearing was held to collect information in order to re-assess the European Commission’s 2007 Communication on scientific information in the digital age: access, dissemination and preservation. European Commission communications are used to make policy, propose legislation, fund research, and raise awareness. European Commission communications also have a substantial impact on member state national activity.

Supporters of open access asked for continued European Commission financial and political support. The following specific observations and recommendations were made.

  • Open access accelerates the speed of science. Time is wasted in serial submissions as researchers first seek the prestigious journals. Publication is not simply a method for communication among peers; it also has practical impacts (social, economic, consumer) that should also be taken into consideration when evaluating impact. A shift is needed away from evaluation of research based at the journal level to one that is based at the article level which can include a wider and more sophisticated variety of post-publication impact metrics beyond mere citations in other journals.
  • The European Commission should encourage rewarding the release of data as well as of text articles. Support curation and preservation of data (in digital and non-digital forms such as images, artifacts, and tissues) as well as access. These fields require research themselves to produce globally useful, efficient, transparent and realistic data management plans with sound policy guidelines, longevity and consistent terminology.
  • Careful investigation and planning will be required in order to build a strong and useful information architecture for a global research system. The architecture could do many things (link related information such as data sets and software to text articles, collect usage metrics, integrate user-friendly attribution and citation tools, develop unique identifiers for both research output and individual researchers, and develop methods of expressing linked data, structuring metadata, and for publishing data schema and code books that allow machines to give context); however choices should be made based on thorough study.
  • Research and dissemination belong together as do access and re-use. The European Commission should recognize OA as a main strategy and support an open access ethic among researchers to encourage them to understand and value non-traditional assessment tools—as well as the value of sharing data—and to willingly contribute useful metrics to the open access publication. Dedicated funding and training should be provided for OA publication and compliance should be monitored.
  • Scientific publication needs its own rules because it is profoundly different from revenue-generating work. Scholarship exists only as it is shared and circulated and should be treated as “give-away literature.” Intellectual property rights and even tax laws also need to be harmonized to enable, rather than inhibit, data use and mining and copying for preservation. An author’s right to self-publish in his own institutional repository should be ensured; a fair-dealing exemption should be established for text and data mining—including format shifting for technical purposes—for research purposes; and permissions should be extended for use of orphan and out-of-print works. Contract law should not be allowed to override such protections.
  • Government agencies should publish their data management plans and budget for compulsory data preservation. Open formats should also be used in preservation to ensure consistency and compatibility. Clinical trial data should be publicly available to ensure integrity.
  • OA needs to be approached globally. The European Commission should set standards for harvesting, curating, trusted processing and presentation of results.

Speakers from the funding, publishing and research communities also urged the adoption of Creative Commons licenses because of their widespread use.

Some publishers expressed caution lest the strengths and values inherent in traditional publication be lost. One approach may not suit all disciplines. Slow science is good for some and enhances the longevity of articles. Careful review procedures produce works with the level of integrity and permanence that deserve high prestige. These include taking time and resources for refereed interaction, keeping review independent from research funding, removing barriers for unfunded/underfunded authors, and ensuring long-term preservation of authoritative copies. And, lastly, open access needs to be sustainable.

My personal observations:

The majority of the attendees were text publishers, so discussion around data was limited with even less said about tissue samples or patent concerns. There are many technical, legal and social hurdles ahead and serious questions about how to best use OA for certain research disciplines. This observer wonders whether the European Commission will be able to coordinate the development of data architectures, standards and guidelines in time to avoid a plethora of incompatible market-generated systems and, even if so, how the European efforts will be coordinated on a global basis.

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Kwame Nkrumah University adopts CC Attribution for OER policy

Jane Park, May 11th, 2011

KNUST OER production workshop team<br />
KNUST OER production workshop team by bagaball / CC BY

The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) has adopted a university-wide open educational resources (OER) policy with CC Attribution as the default license for university material. KNUST’s “Policy for Development and Use of Open Educational Resources (OER)” (pdf) outlines the purpose, role, and process of OER production at the university, and specifically states that,

“Materials produced which do not indicate any specific conditions for sharing will automatically be considered to have been shared under a Creative Commons Attribution license.”

The policy is available at the KNUST website and, in line with their policy, is available for use under CC BY.

KNUST is a partner institution in the African Health OER Network and works closely with the University of Michigan Medical School and Dental School to develop and distribute health OER. KNUST OER is hosted at http://web.knust.edu.gh/oer but is also duplicated for use at the Open.Michigan and OER Africa sites.

You can help us improve the case study on KNUST here.

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Letter from CC Superhero Josh Sommer of the Chordoma Foundation

Allison Domicone, December 22nd, 2010

Josh Sommer

Josh Sommer

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“I’m in a race; a race to outrun a rare and deadly form of bone cancer called chordoma, with an average survival of 7 years. To find a cure, there is a lot that needs to happen sequentially, so to win the race, I need science to move quickly. Fortunately, uncanny new technologies in genomics, computing, synthetic biology, etc. have put cures for virtually any disease within the realm of possibility. Unfortunately, the way we practice science is not designed to move on the timescale of an individual’s disease.

Despite all of the technological advances that have been made in recent years, it still takes on average 1-3 years for results to be transmitted from one lab to the next; it still takes months or years for materials and data to be transferred between institutions; and untold masses of observations and creations never get shared at all. It’s no wonder, then, why it takes decades for discoveries to be translated into new treatments, and why the hurdles are often just too large to overcome for small-market diseases like chordoma.

For anyone affected, or whose loved one is affected, by a life threatening disease, this is simply intolerable. Think about it: in the very recent past, humankind has developed the tools and know-how to cure disease, yet we are stifled from maximizing the potential benefit of these new tools by social and legal systems that evolved in a bygone era. This has to change.

But let’s be realistic. Despite the fact that our scientific enterprise is not optimized for speed, it does have many virtues. And traditions such as academic tenure, peer review, intellectual property, and shareholder return are not going away any time soon – nor should they, necessarily. If we can sequence a genome in the course of a week, surely we can find sensible solutions to enable the data to be shared.

Creative Commons is leading the charge to find these solutions. By helping researchers make data open and available, by streamlining the material transfer process, and by uncovering and integrating data from various stakeholders, Creative Commons is grease to the wheels of science. It is a source of hope to me in the race to outrun my disease. It is a means to maximize our collective investment in research. That’s why I support Creative Commons, and why if there’s a disease you’d like to see cured, I urge you to give whole-heartedly to Creative Commons as well.”


Josh Sommer is the executive director of the Chordoma Foundation, which he co-founded with his mother, Dr. Simone Sommer, after he was diagnosed with a clival chordoma in 2006. He believes that patients should play an active role in bringing about treatments for their own conditions, and that patients represent a largely untapped source of funding, energy, and know-how in the treatment development process. Follow Josh on Twitter.

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