Over the last year we’ve been working on developing two new projects: the Open Policy Network and the Institute for Open Leadership. Both of these initiatives arise out of a direct identified need from the Creative Commons community. Let’s explain a bit more about each of these projects.
Over the last several years, Creative Commons and related organizations have been contacted by multiple institutions and governments seeking assistance on how to implement open licensing and develop materials and strategies for open policies. By “open policies” we mean policies whereby publicly funded resources are developed and released as openly licensed resources. The $2 billion Department of Labor TAACCCT grant program would be considered an open policy. There is a pressing need to provide support to policymakers so they can successfully create, adopt, and implement open policies. And CC affiliates from around the world have asked for an informational hub where open policies could be shared and discussed.
The open community needs access to existing open policies, legislation, and action plans for how open policies were created, discussed and passed. Advocates need to know what barriers were encountered and how they were overcome, and because politics and opportunities are local, open advocates may need support customizing an open policy solution and strategy. This is why we need the Open Policy Network (OPN).
The mission of the Open Policy Network is to foster the creation, adoption and implementation of open policies and practices that advance the public good by supporting advocates, organizations, and policy makers with information and expertise, and connecting policy opportunities with those who can provide assistance.
Description of activities
The OPN supports the creation, adoption, and implementation of open policies around the world. We will engage in the following activities:
- Connect policy makers and other interested parties to expert open policy advocates and organizations who are able to provide assistance and support when open policy opportunities arise.
- Identify and build new open policy resources and/or services only where capacity and expertise does not currently exist, by providing needed resources, information, and advice.
- Provide a baseline level of assistance for open policy opportunities as they arise, to ensure no open policy opportunity goes unfulfilled.
- Link to, catalog and curate existing and new open policies and open policy resources from around the world.
- Connect open policy advocates and organizations on a listserv and monthly phone conference to maximize knowledge transfer and cooperation.
- Build new constituencies and advocates in support of open policies.
- Operate in a manner respectful of member organizations’ existing messaging, communities, and business models.
- Release all content produced under the project under CC BY and data under CC0, in a fully transparent manner on the project website.
- The adoption of open policies can maximize the return on public investments and promote a global commons of resources for innovative reuse.
- Publicly funded resources should be openly licensed resources.
- Open policies should require, as a default, licenses compliant with the Open Definition, with a preference for open licenses that at most require attribution to the author (such as CC BY) for publicly funded content and no rights reserved (such as CC0) for publicly funded data. We recognize that there may be limited exceptions to the default.
- The OPN is a open network free for anyone to join as long as they agree to contribute and abide by the mission and guiding principles.
- The OPN work is aligned with the recommendations of existing initiatives such as the Budapest Open Access Initiative, Paris Open Educational Resources Declaration, Cape Town Declaration, Panton Principles, and the Washington Declaration on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest.
Join this project!
For the time being, the Open Policy Network is being led by Creative Commons, but we envision that the coordination of the Network can be transferred to another group after some time. We are looking for interested individuals and groups to join the network, and we’ll begin monthly organizing conference calls soon. You can sign up to the Google group now.
The Open Policy Network is committed to facilitating adoption of open policies around the world by improving access to resources and expertise for advocates of open policies. Creative Commons will begin to host an Institute for Open Leadership (IOL) to train new leaders in education, science, and public policy fields on the values and implementation of openness in licensing, policies, and practices. The Institute will be a tangible project under the umbrella of the OPN.
The Institute for Open Leadership will select twenty applicants per year–through a competitive application process–to participate in an intensive weeklong training session with leading experts in open fields. Each participant will develop an outcomes-based plan for a capstone open project, and report on progress within one year. Through training and the project period, participants will develop the skills, relationships, and motivation to become leaders for openness in their institutions and fields. The Institute complements and strengthens the OPN’s mission, and generates open policy projects by training a new corps of leaders ready to inculcate open policies and practices in their institutions and across their professional communities. We will initially run two cohorts of the Institute (2 years), though the goal is to make the Institute an annual event.
Problem meant to solve
There is significant and growing demand for leaders to support open initiatives in educational, cultural, and scientific institutions, as well as governmental agencies. At the organizational level, our capacity to meet this demand is limited. Yet we believe that there is strong potential to transfer and scale leadership experience to new champions for openness, and to systematically cultivate a broad network of leaders to meet the increasing demand. There is also significant interest among discretionary institutional funding programs (such as publicly funded national and state/provincial grants) to learn about and adopt CC licenses. A new and broader group of leaders could address this interest by reaching and educating institutions and professional communities about copyright and the benefits of open licensing and open policies.
As open movements approach mainstream status, there is a vastly increased need for more leaders who share the values of open licensing, the understanding of openness best practices (e.g. open technical formats, modular design, and accessibility standards), and the desire to guide some portion of this ecosystem. The IOL will relieve the strain on existing leaders and resources by recruiting and training a new group of experts who can meet the demand for expertise on open licensing, pursue new opportunities for publishing and using open content, and directly influencing policy decisions in institutions and across fields of work.
Application and selection process
Creative Commons will solicit applications from interested persons around the world to participate in the Institute. We will select a maximum of twenty participants each year for two years. We plan to target persons who are mid-level managers and/or potential leaders who are not currently involved in the open movement, but who are moving toward leadership positions in their institutions or fields of work over the next 5-10 years. The selection criteria will include an evaluation of which candidates the committee estimates will have the highest impact when they return to their home institution/government. All applicants will be required to propose a capstone open project they will complete after attending the IOL. These projects must be properly scoped and must contain a strong open policy component and contribute to increasing openness within their institution and field.
Once selected, participants will be required, prior to attending, to complete any two online School of Open courses (e.g., copyright and open licensing, open education, open science, etc.).
Immersive training period
The IOL will be held at an appropriate conference facility or university campus. All participants and instructors will stay in the same accommodations and spend the majority of time together, creating the potential for informal discussions and relationship building. Institute instructors will be drawn from the top experts/leaders in the fields of open access, open science, open educational resources, open culture, etc. Each day of the week-long workshop will feature a concentration on open licensing and policy in one of the fields and include time for participants to consult directly with the instructors on their own open project plans.
Capstone project work
By the end of the workshop week, participants will have polished and expanded their proposed capstone projects and have integrated open policy aspects more thoroughly based on their newly acquired expertise and the assistance of the instructors. The point of the capstone project is for the participant to transform the concepts learned at the Institute into a practical, actionable, and sustainable initiative within his/her institution. Capstone open projects can take a variety of forms depending on the interests of the participant and the type of institution where the project will be implemented. Common features of a successful capstone open project will be to:
- Increase the amount of openly licensed materials in the commons;
- Increase awareness among colleagues or related stakeholders about the benefits of openness;
- Propose an open policy within the participants’ institution with an action plan to implement the open policy;
- Demonstrate measurable results and complete report after 12 months that analyzes project progress, challenges, and sustainability.
An example of a successful capstone open project might be a librarian at a university that is able to foster an open access policy at their institution whereby university faculty agree to contribute publicly funded research into the university repository under open licenses.
In addition to the written reports (shared under CC BY 4.0), there will also be a webinar scheduled 12 months after the Institute to share the outcomes of each participant’s project. All webinars will continue fostering the development of a new open leadership cohort.
Update June 2014: There’s a new timeline for the Institute for Open Leadership.
- March-May 2014: Cohort #1 application period
- July 2014: Cohort #1 week-long institute
- November 2014-January 2015: Cohort #2 application period
- March 2015: Cohort #2 week-long institute
- July 2015: Cohort #1 12-month follow up webinar & open projects completed
- March 2016: Cohort #2 12-month follow up webinar & open projects completed
We’re excited to get these two exciting initiatives up and running, and we look forward to working with many individuals and organizations to make them a success. Many thanks to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Open Society Foundations for funds to kickstart these projects!Comments Off
We are continuing our practice of providing official plaintext versions of the licenses, as we did with version 3.0.
- BY 4.0 (plaintext)
- BY-SA 4.0 (plaintext)
- BY-NC 4.0 (plaintext)
- BY-NC-SA 4.0 (plaintext)
- BY-ND 4.0 (plaintext)
- BY-NC-ND 4.0 (plaintext)
As said in the previous entry: “For most works, plaintext legalcode doesn’t matter as linking directly to the deeds (say with the copy-paste output you get with the license chooser) is good enough, even ideal. And it’s important to note that the XHTML licenses are still the canonical versions. But for some projects plaintext legalcode may be a very good thing. For example, it is traditional practice in free and open source software projects to bundle your licenses along with your project. More and more FOSS projects are using Creative Commons licenses or CC0 for their non-software content, so having plaintext legalcode will probably be very useful in these instances. Additionally, some other projects which release their content in a way that is largely offline may benefit from plaintext legalcode.”
If you need to mark your work with licensing information in plaintext, here is an example to follow:
<WORK> (c) by <AUTHOR(S)> <WORK> is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. You should have received a copy of the license along with this work. If not, see <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/>.
(The first line in this example is optional.)
For reference, here are the updated examples of how you would annotate your works for the 4.0 licenses.
CC BY 4.0:
<WORK> (c) by <AUTHOR(S)> <WORK> is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You should have received a copy of the license along with this work. If not, see <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/>.
CC BY-SA 4.0:
<WORK> (c) by <AUTHOR(S)> <WORK> is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. You should have received a copy of the license along with this work. If not, see <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/>.
CC BY-ND 4.0:
<WORK> (c) by <AUTHOR(S)> <WORK> is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. You should have received a copy of the license along with this work. If not, see <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/>.
CC BY-NC 4.0:
<WORK> (c) by <AUTHOR(S)> <WORK> is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You should have received a copy of the license along with this work. If not, see <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/>.
CC BY-NC-SA 4.0:
<WORK> (c) by <AUTHOR(S)> <WORK> is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. You should have received a copy of the license along with this work. If not, see <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/>.
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0:
<WORK> (c) by <AUTHOR(S)> <WORK> is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. You should have received a copy of the license along with this work. If not, see <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/>.2 Comments »
At the age of 15, Jack Andraka developed a new method for detecting a rare type of pancreatic cancer. Like all scientific discoveries, Jack’s research built on the work of other researchers. Unlike those researchers, however, he lacked access to the expensive scholarly databases usually paid for by their universities. Fortunately, open access databases carrying a Creative Commons license gave him the tools he needed.
“Access to knowledge is, you know, a basic human right,” Jack says. “Knowledge should not be commoditized; it wants to be free.”
There’s been a lot of talk about open access to science research over the past year. In February, the U.S. White House issued a directive requiring that most publicly funded research be available to the public. It was a step in the right direction, but the fight is far from over.
For example, not all of the papers Jack needed were free. He spent nearly a thousand dollars paying to read the research he needed that wasn’t open. He’s the first to admit that he was lucky: for most young scientists around the world, those expenses aren’t an option. “We need the best and most recent research to be available to everyone.”
If you think that everyone should have access to the most current scientific knowledge, then stand with Jack and thousands of other scientists who believe in open by making a gift to Creative Commons.
The Brin Wojcicki Foundation has agreed to match every donation that Creative Commons receives in January 2014.3 Comments »
You might remember our announcement a few months ago that Cathy Casserly will be stepping down as CEO of Creative Commons this year. Today, we’re excited to officially open the search for the new CEO. Our friends at m/Oppenheim Associates are helping to coordinate the search.
Creative Commons is at an inflection point in its history. In the coming years, CC will pursue strategies that expand use of its licenses and promote a robust knowledge-sharing ecosystem. The organization recognizes that many paths lay open for pursuing these objectives, and the search for a new chief executive offers an opportunity to explore new ideas for services, products, advocacy, policies and programs. The new leader will oversee continued stewardship of CC’s licenses and also seek new opportunities to expand knowledge-sharing through the internet.
Download the job description (78 KB PDF)1 Comment »
As we take stock of our achievements in 2013 and plan our legal work for the year ahead, we would be remiss not to pause and express our deepest gratitude to the many individuals and organizations whose contributions made one of CC’s most significant projects in 2013 – the development of license version 4.0 – an overwhelming success. This milestone was made possible because of the dedication of our diverse, talented, and extensive CC community. Our community brought legal expertise and practical experience to bear in our policy deliberations, and continued to hold us accountable for running an inclusive, transparent process. CC is thankful for your ongoing efforts and your trust in our stewardship. The version 4.0 licenses are all the better for your participation.
Although many more could be thanked, we in particular wish to recognize the contributions of a few:
- the CC global affiliate network for their legal analysis and drafting assistance, which included participation by representatives from more than 55 jurisdictions over the course of four license drafts;
- the larger CC community of creators and license users who contributed constructively, thoughtfully, and often passionately to our policy debates through 1000+ posts to our license development email list;
- other public license stewards, including the Free Software Foundation and Artlibre.org, for carefully navigating the intricacies of license compatibility and sharing ideas for (hopefully) achieving that goal in the new year;
- our friends and colleagues at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Library of Science, Software Freedom Law Center, Wikimedia Foundation, and other sister organizations, who contributed expertise and insights on difficult policy decisions and considered with us the potential implications of our policy choices;
- CC fellow Mike Linksvayer and consultant Eric Steuer, for their perspectives on past policy decisions and insight into opportunities and challenges for future license adoptions;
- former staff members including Chris Webber, Greg Grossmeier, and Aurelia Schultz, as well as the CC board of directors, particularly Michael Carroll and Molly Van Houweling who provided instrumental guidance and legal expertise throughout the process; and
- as always, our trusted pro bono counsel at Latham & Watkins and Wilson Sonsini.
Looking ahead to 2014, our community will have many additional opportunities to participate in our legal work. In close collaboration with our worldwide affiliate network, we will shortly begin the process of creating and publishing official translations of the 4.0 licenses and related educational materials, including FAQs and implementation tool kits. We will also be returning our attention to ShareAlike compatibility. We will be finalizing the (currently Draft) ShareAlike Statement of Intent, which will be followed by development of ShareAlike compatibility criteria and processes and evaluation of leading candidates for compatibility with BY-SA 4.0. Starting this month, we will also begin publishing a series of blog posts that focus on new features of the 4.0 license suite. The series will explore in more depth implications of the underlying policy decisions reflected in our new licenses, such as the operation of our licenses in the context of text and data mining.
We will also be turning our attention to legal projects set aside while finishing 4.0, such as our work on CC0 translations and other public domain-focused efforts. You can also expect us to solicit your input on important new projects under evaluation and in development. There will be no shortage of opportunities for our community to lend their expertise (and opinions!) as we move forward in 2014.
Thanks once again for contributing to a successful version 4.0 launch. We look forward to continuing our collaborations with all of you in the new year!Comments Off
Here’s another end of year list: all the awesome things the School of Open community accomplished in 2013. Last year, we highlighted the work we put into materializing School of Open as a concrete entity with goals and people involved. This year, we actually launched the School with a full set of online courses and kick-off events around the world!
But we didn’t stop there. All year long, our volunteers have been contributing in so many fantastic and unexpected ways that it’s been hard to wrap our brains around all the activity. So here’s my attempt at collecting and distilling everything here, as a teaser for the new School of Open landing page that will happen in 2014.
The biggest thing you should note about the School of Open is that it is no longer just a set of online courses sitting on the P2PU platform. It is a global community and movement of volunteers developing and running online or hybrid courses, face-to-face workshops, and real world training programs — all with the purpose of helping people do what they already do better with the aid of open resources and tools.
In 2013, we
- Launched 12 stand-alone courses for anyone to take at any time, with or without others.
- Ran a total of 11 facilitated courses on topics such as: Copyright 4 Educators, Designing Collaborative Workshops, Open Science, CC licensing, Writing Wikipedia Articles, and Why Open?
- Conducted initial research on the impact of some of these courses and completed a research residency with the OER Research Hub in Milton Keynes, England
- Hosted multiple workshops, course sprints, and other events across 5 continents (in countries like England, Germany, Kenya, China, Sudan, Argentina, South Africa, the U.S.)
- Started School of Open Kenya, an after school program for high school students teaching about open educational resources, CC licenses, and the open culture that they engender
- Put on an engineering and design challenge incorporating open source and CC licensing education for university students in China
- Ran a two-week OER summer camp for kids on Luxi island, an island in rural China (more info to follow in a guest blog post [updated])
- Launched WikiProject Open, 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
- Got the School of Open’s Writing Wikipedia Articles course adopted as part of a formal university course (the University of Mississippi’s “Open Educational Resources and Practices”)
- Piloted P2PU badges for 7 of our facilitated courses! For examples, check out this Remix OER badge and this Intro to Open Science Open Access badge
- Built a human timeline of the open education space! Which we want anyone and everyone to contribute to
- Helped turn a “collaborations across the open space” session at Mozfest into a funded part-time position that will help coordinate our open communities! (more info at this pad)
- Developed support resources for course facilitators, including this comprehensive tip sheet by a facilitator with a 95% retention rate
- Created a couple videos for online conferences, like this one for K-12 educators and this one for Open Ed Week
- Showcased School of Open projects by CC affiliates at the Creative Commons Global Summit in Buenos Aires…
OER summer camp on Luxi island ( ZHU Renkai / CC BY)
…and more, all of which you can check out in detail on the CC blog at http://creativecommons.org/tag/school-of-open.
In 2014, we will
- Launch our third round of facilitated courses in March. Sign up to be notified when registration opens
- Revamp the School of Open landing page to better reflect our multi-layered activity
- Build out courses in different languages. So far volunteers have expressed interest in translating courses into Spanish, Romanian, Hindi, Swedish, Chinese, Korean, Dutch, French, Arabic, German, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Hebrew… yes, we’ve got our work cut out for us!
- Expand current training programs to other regions; for example, we hope to have similar programs to School of Open Kenya in place in Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania
- Start new courses and training programs in South Africa, Colombia, Uruguay, El Salvador, Argentina, and more!
- Collaborate with our fellow open organizations such as OKFN, Mozilla, Wikimedia, P2PU, and more!
- Do more research! And completing a report of our findings with the OER Research Hub
- Get more SOO courses adopted as part of formal university courses
- Secure professional development credit for teachers/librarians taking Copyright 4 Educators in Australia (and elsewhere)
- Collaborate with the California School Librarians Association (CSLA) to increase CC and OER education in K-12 schools!
- Run more workshops, especially one for SOO volunteers to get together and grow their respective projects
- Take more pictures. We didn’t have enough this year!
Fireworks / Jack-Benny / CC BY-SA
And I could go on, but I’ll stop there. On behalf of the School of Open community, we wish you a Happy Holidays and a wonderful New Year!
If you would like to join us in our endeavors to provide free education opportunities on all things open, introduce yourself at the School of Open Google Group, sign up for announcements, and check out a course (or two or three).
About the School of Open
The School of Open is a global community of volunteers focused on providing free education opportunities on the meaning, application, and impact of “openness” in the digital age and its benefit to creative endeavors, education, research, and more. Volunteers develop and run online courses, offline workshops, and real world training programs on topics such as Creative Commons licenses, open educational resources, and sharing creative works. The School of Open is coordinated by Creative Commons and P2PU, a peer learning community and platform for developing and running free online courses.2 Comments »
Sudanese political cartoonist Khalid Albaih pushes boundaries with his art to reach new viewers and ignite change. “People should support Creative Commons if they care about what they’re doing, and they want to get their work to as many people as possible; if they care about collaborating with people all over the world together and coming up with something beautiful… this is what we’re supposed to be doing — what the internet was made for.”
YouTube celebrity Jonathan Mann gets excited when his work encourages others to create. “So many people, when they hear what I do, they tell me that they wish that they could be making more of whatever it is they make. They wish that they were more tapped into their creativity.” He has certainly tapped into his. He began writing and recording a song a day and posting them online under a CC license for anyone to reuse or remix, garnering worldwide attention.
Illustrator and activist Miyoung Yi wants to show other Korean artists the value of sharing. She uses her own CC-licensed drawings to carry her message of open across South Korea. “[Creative Commons] can pave an alternate path to success outside of big capital, big companies, and big industries.”
Stand with Miyoung, Jonathan, Khalid, and thousands of other creators who believe that art is best when it’s shared. Support Creative Commons and make collaboration and creativity flourish. Please donate now.Comments Off
In November we released version 4.0 of the Creative Commons license suite, and today the Open Definition Advisory Council approved the CC 4.0 Attribution (BY) and Attribution-ShareAlike (BY-SA) International licenses as conformant with the Open Definition.
The Open Definition sets out principles that define “openness” in relation to data and content…It can be summed up in the statement that: “A piece of data or content is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike.”
Prior versions of Creative Commons BY and BY-SA licenses (1.0 – 3.0, including jurisdiction ports) are also aligned with the Open Definition, as is the CC0 Public Domain Dedication. Here’s the complete list of conformant licenses. None of the Creative Commons NonCommercial or NoDerivatives licenses comply with the Definition.
The Open Definition is an important marker that communicates the fundamental legal conditions that make content and data open, and CC is working on ways to better display which of our licenses conform to the Definition. We appreciate the open and participatory process conducted by the Open Definition Advisory Council in evaluating licenses and providing expert assistance and advice to license stewards. Individuals interested in participating in the Open Definition license review process may join the OD-discuss email list.1 Comment »
Last month, Creative Commons and several other groups responded to the European Commission’s consultation on licensing, datasets and charging for the re-use of public sector information (PSI). See our response here. There were 355 submissions to the questionnaire (spreadsheet download), apparently from all EU Member States except Cyprus. The Commission hosted a hearing (PDF of meeting minutes) on the issue on 25 November.
This week the Commission released a final summary report (PDF) to the consultation. There were several interesting data points from the report concerning licensing. First, the questionnaire respondents preferred a “light-weight approach, limited to a mere disclaimer or consisting of allowing the reuse of data without any particular restrictions…” (pg5). In our submission, we said that there should be no conditions attached to the re-use of public sector information, with the best case scenario being for public sector information to be in the public domain, exempt from copyright protection altogether by amending national copyright laws.
Second, when asked about licensing conditions that would comply with the PSI Directive’s requirement of ‘not unnecessarily restricting possibilities for re-use’, the most respondents indicated support for the requirement to acknowledge the source of data. In our submission we said we believed every condition would be deemed restrictive, since ideally PSI would be removed from the purview of copyright protection through law. At the same time, we realize that if the Commission were to permit public sector bodies to incorporate a limited set of conditions through licensing, then they should be expected to use standard public licenses aligned with the Open Definition. The preference should be for “attribution only” licenses, like CC BY.
The report noted that a majority (62%) of respondents believed that greater interoperability would be best achieved through the use of standard licences. And 71% of respondents said that the adoption of Creative Commons licenses would be the best option to promote interoperability. The report states, “this may be interpreted as both a high awareness of the availability of standard licences and a genuine understanding of their role in ensuring licencing interoperability across jurisdictions” (pg7).
The report also mentions the fact that several respondents chose to provide feedback on which Creative Commons licenses would be deemed suitable for PSI re-use. It noted that the most prevalent licenses mentioned were CC0 and CC BY, while a few respondents suggested BY-SA. Others provided a more general answer, such as “the most open CC license could be used…But [the] BEST OPTION is no use of any of license: public domain” (pg9).
The report concludes (pg16):
There is also a widespread acceptance of the need to offer interoperable solutions, both on the technical and licencing levels. And even if opinions differ as to the exact shape of re-use conditions, the answers show that a general trend towards a more open and interoperable licencing system in Europe, largely based on available standard licences is gaining ground.
now available under
Paleontology, the description and biological classification of fossils, has spawned countless field expeditions, museum trips, and hundreds of thousands of publications. The construction of databases that aggregate these descriptive data on fossils in a way that allows large-scale, synthetic questions to be addressed, such as the long-term history of biodiversity and rates of biological extinction and origination during global environment change, has greatly expanded the intellectual reach of paleontology and has led to many important new insights into macroevolutionary and macroecological processes.
One of the largest compendia of fossil data assembled to date is the Paleobiology Database (PBDB), founded in 1998 by John Alroy and Charles Marshall. These two pioneers assembled a small team of scientists who were motivated to generate the first geographically-explicit, sampling standardized global biodiversity curve. The PBDB has since grown to include an international group of more than 150 contributing scientists with diverse research agendas. Collectively, this body of volunteer and grant-supported investigators have spent more than 9 continuous person years entering more than 280,000 taxonomic names, nearly 500,000 published opinions on the status and classification of those names, and over 1.1 million taxonomic occurrences. Some PBDB data derive from the original fieldwork and specimen-based studies of the contributors, but the majority of the data were extracted from the text, figures, and tables of over 48,000 published papers, books, and monographs that span the range of topics covered by paleontology. Their efforts have been well rewarded by enabling new science. As of December 2013, the PBDB had produced almost two hundred official peer reviewed publications, all of which address scientific questions that cannot be adequately answered without such a database.
|Ptyagnostus atavus or Leiopyge calva Zone (Cambrian of the United States)|
|PaleoDB collection 262: authorized by Jack Sepkoski, entered by Mike Sommers on 20.11.1998|
Shift to CC BY
From its inception, the paleontologists who have invested the most effort in entering data have made decisions about data management and access policies, which ultimately brings up the important questions of proper licensing and citation. In the first application of the PBDB licensing policy, the individual contributors chose their own CC license for each fossil collection record. As a result there were three kinds of contributors: those who didn’t know what to do, didn’t care, or didn’t know about the new policy that required them to specify how existing collections should be licensed (55% of the data), those who selected the most restricted option available to them (34% of the data), and those who selected the most unrestricted option available to them (10% of the data).
This received mostly negative response via social media and other outlets, partly because of the increased attention the database was receiving during a leadership and governance transition. Naturally, the governance group responded to the community feedback. The first actual action was by individual contributors. Many of the contributors who either didn’t know about CC licenses or who didn’t think fully about their meaning and implications changed their own individual licenses. This always went from a more restrictive license to the least restrictive option available to them: CC BY. That wave of individual choices towards the least restrictive license immediately shifted the balance for records in the database. At that point, only one contributor had a restrictive license, and the governance group quickly moved to adopt one single unifying license for the database: CC BY. Now, all new records are explicitly CC BY as part of database policy, although individual contributors still have the option of placing a moratorium on the public release of their own new data so as to protect their individual scientific interests.
Future of PBDB
In addition to being a scientific asset to the field of paleontology, the PBDB and other databases like it provide an addition means by which to participate in rapidly emerging initiatives and developments in cyberinfrastructure. To increase its reach in this area, the PBDB now has an Application Programming Interface (API), which makes data more easily and transparently accessible, both to individual researchers and to applications, such as the open source web application PBDB Navigator and the Mancos iOS mobile application. Both of these applications are built on the public API and are designed to allow the history of life and environment documented by the PBDB to be more discoverable. These new modes of interactivity and visualization highlight unintended, but potentially useful, aspects of the PBDB. The PBDB API has facilitated a loosely coupled integration with other related but independently managed biological and paleontological database initiatives and online resources, such as the Neotoma Paleoecology Database, Morphobank, and the Encyclopedia of Life. The PBDB API can also be harnessed by geoscientists outside of paleontology, thereby facilitating the integration of paleontological data with diverse types of data and model output, such as paleogeographic plate rotation and geophysical models in GPlates. The liberal CC BY license ensures interoperability and data access necessary to facilitate fundamentally new science and because it expands the reach of paleontology to a broader community of researchers and educators than is possible via any single website or application.1 Comment »