Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Not anti-publisher but anti-FUD

Peter Murray-Rust, Open data: are licenses needed?  A Scientist and the Web, August 11, 2007.

…I was asked yesterday to summarise for a reporter why I had issues with certain publishers (I’ll post when the report appears). What I am trying to do on this blog at the moment is (a) to find out what the current situations for data access and re-use ARE and (b) then to highlight the cases which I and others think are unsatisfactory for modern data-driven research. I am not “anti-publisher” or “anti-capitalist”, but I am “anti-fuzz” and “anti-FUD”. I try to be relatively fair and I have lauded two publishers whose policies are now clear to me. Sometimes the discourse here seems tedious and repetitive - but that’s the way it is at present.

Since I am a physical scientist and a programmer I often see things in a literal and algorithmic way. If “open access” is defined in a declaration, and everyone in the publishing industry knows about that declaration then I assume by default that the words have a logical constraint or enablement on the content . But that is clearly not true. Various publishers (and I am not rehashing their words today) assume that “open access” can be used in whatever way they choose to define. Perhaps. But it isn’t generally helpful. Similarly others assume that copyright and licences are linked in some manner that is obvious to them but not to me. So, it seems that clear copyright and clear licences are going to have to be part of the future. “Data are not copyrightable” is a simple algorithm but (a) not everyone agrees what data are and (b) some people (especially Europeans) think it doesn’t apply in some cases.

I should also stress that when we use robots to read the literature (as we are now doing) we have to have clear licences. A robot is generally less smart than an adult human and needs telling clearly what it can and cannot do. If that clarity is missing, then default assumptions will be detrimental to some or all of the parties….