Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, April 24, 2008

SPARC/DOAJ seal for OA journals

SPARC Europe and the Directory of Open Access Journals have launched their Seal for Open Access journals program.  From yesterday's announcement:

...[T]he maximum benefit from [the growing number of OA journals] is not being realised as confusion surrounds the use and reuse of material published in such journals.  Increasingly, researchers wish to mine large segments of the literature to discover new, unimagined connections and relationships.  Librarians wish to host material locally for preservation purposes.  Greater clarity will bring benefits to authors, users, and journals.

In order for open access journals to be even more useful and thus receive more exposure and provide more value to the research community it is very important that open access journals offer standardized, easily retrievable information about what kinds of reuse are allowed.  Therefore, we are advising that all journals provide clear and unambiguous statements regarding the copyright statement of the papers they publish.  To qualify for the SPARC Europe Seal a journal must use the Creative Commons By (CC-BY) license which is the most user-friendly license and corresponds to the ethos of the Budapest Open Access Initiative.

The second strand of the Seal is that journals should provide metadata for all their articles to the DOAJ, who will then make the metadata OAI-compliant.  This will increase the visibility of the papers and allow OAI-harvesters to include details of the journal articles in their services.

‘We want to build on the great work already done by the publishers of many open access journals and improve the standards of open access titles,’ said David Prosser, Director of SPARC Europe.  ‘Working with the DOAJ means that we can provide help and guidance to journals who wish to move beyond the first step of free access to full open access and our long-term aim is to ensure that all journals listed in the DOAJ can attain the standards expressed within the Seal.’

‘Improving the standards of the rapidly increasing numbers of open access and contributing to the widest possible visibility, dissemination  and readership of the journals is very much in line with our mission,’ said Lars Björnshauge, Director of Libraries at Lund University....

‘Legal certainty is essential to the emergence of an internet that supports research. The proliferation of license terms forces researchers to act like lawyers, and slows innovative educational and scientific uses of the scholarly canon,’ said Johan Wilbanks, Executive Director of Science Commons. ‘Using a seal to reward the journals who choose to adopt policies that ensure users' rights to innovate is a great idea. It builds on a culture of trust rather than a culture of control, and it will make it easy to find the open access journals with the best policies.’

‘This is an excellent program with two important recommendations.  CC-BY licenses make OA journals more useful, and interoperable metadata make them more discoverable.  The recommendations are easy to adopt and will accelerate research, facilitate preservation, and make OA journal policies more open and more predictable for users....,’ said Peter Suber....

Comment.  I love this idea.  As I said in the announcement, I support both conditions for the seal:  the CC-BY license and the interoperable metadata.  But I also support the way SPARC Europe and the DOAJ are trying to bring about this change:  setting a good standard, helping journals reach it, and recognizing those who do.  Here's how I put it last November when SPARC Europe and the DOAJ offered a pre-launch glimpse of the program:

...I like the way it's bottom-up rather than top-down, and decentralized rather than centralized.  I like the way it focuses on the endorsement and support of respected organizations rather than on the control of word usage.  I like the way it will provide new clarity and precision without requiring the agreement of everyone using a certain word or phrase [like "open access journal"].  I expect that it will succeed in making OA journal policies, on average, more consistent and more open.  And I like the way it will have that kind of unifying effect while at the same time respecting pluralism through its compatibility with similar programs from other organizations supporting a different standard....