Congratulations to PLOS, SPARC, and OASPA for taking a productive, positive approach to explaining various aspects of Open Access with the HowOpenIsIt? guide. This tool is a handy, human-readable reference guide for academic authors, publishers looking into supporting Open Access, and policy makers and funders adopting open policies that require Open Access to research that is funded through the public purse.
When it comes to reuse rights, at the top of the “Open” end of the Open Access spectrum is the suggestion that scholarship be licensed under the liberal CC–BY license. Under CC-BY, authors get the credit they deserve and users can reuse the content for any purpose, even commercially. PLOS celebrated a pivotal milestone this past summer when it published its 50,000th CC–BY article. CC-BY is the gold standard for Open Access articles, and is aligned with the updated Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) recommendations. CC-BY communicates these rights in advance, reducing the transaction costs that would normally be incurred by researchers having to ask permission to use the resource. In addition, CC-BY includes machine–readablerightsandpermissionsmetadata as a feature of the license, so it is easier for users to search for and understand those requirements and permissions granted to them during their research activities. And to be sure, when you’re talking about scholarship that is produced on the taxpayers’ dime, it is imperative that scientists–and the public in general–have broad, unencumbered access to it.
The HowOpenIsIt? guide focuses primarily on describing the spectrum of Open Access policies for journals. An increasingly important and related area is the sharing of data associated with the research process. Open data have the potential to facilitate enhanced scientific collaboration and reproducibility, but it is not yet settled, from both a legal and technical perspective, how this wealth of data that leads to the creation of scholarly work will be shared. And current research suggests an approach whereby articles are licensed under an open license (preferably CC-BY), while data associated with the article are dedicated to the public domain using a tool such as the CC0 Public Domain Dedication. In this way, researchers clearly communicate–in a comprehensive manner–the rights and permissions available to users for both the text and the data.
Again, kudos to PLOS, SPARC, and OASPA for “doing the right thing” in proactively soliciting advice and suggestions from the public to make sure the HowOpenIsIt? guide is widely useful and easily understandable.
Timothy Vollmer is Manager of Policy and Data for Creative Commons, helping policymakers, educators, and data publishers understand copyright issues and leverage open licensing to share educational resources, scientific data, and public sector information. Prior to joining CC, Timothy was Assistant Director to the Program on Public Access to Information for the American Library Association Office for Information Technology Policy in Washington, D.C.