Over the past several weeks, we’ve witnessed a number of announcements, launches, and news stories related to open access (OA). This roundup of top stories includes the launch of a student-developed OA tool, the boycott of “luxury” journals by a Nobel Prize winner and his lab, a new national OA policy, and the debut of a long-awaited, long-planned-for initiative to support gold OA. Here’s a recap of five top stories—all of which reflect the truly global nature of OA.
Argentina Passes National Open Access Mandate
On Nov. 13, 2013, the Argentine Senate unanimously passed legislation requiring publicly funded research outputs to be made available via OA—a huge step forward for OA in Latin America. Within days, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation (MINCyT) officially launched The Sistema Nacional de Repositorios Digitales (SNRD), an interoperable OA national repository network. SNRD uses the D-NET platform, originally developed by the European DRIVER project.
The Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) published an interview in English with Alejandro Ceccatto, Secretariat of Scientific and Technological Articulation from MINCyT, on Dec. 10, 2013. In the interview, Ceccatto discussed the motivations of MINCyT to draft the legislation:
The rationale behind the Ministry of Science of Argentina’s support for this law is to promote equitable access to information and primary data resultant of publicly funded scientific research. The legislation was part of the Ministry’s broader strategy to strengthen R&D institutions and coordinate efforts and resources, share information and promote training of its staff.
The full interview is available on the COAR website.
Launch of the Open Access Button
On Nov. 18, 2013, two university students from the U.K. launched the Open Access Button, a fun new tool designed to help combat paywalls and support OA. In short, the Open Access Button responds to the question, “If someone hits a paywall in the forest, does it make a sound?” Co-creators David Carroll and Joseph McArthur launched the button at the Berlin 11 Satellite Conference for Students and Early Stage Researchers with an accompanying Thunderclap sharing this announcement around the world via social networks: “Paywalls hide knowledge and stifle innovation, help map their impact and get the research you need.”
The button itself is a browser-based bookmarklet that users are encouraged to click each time they hit a paywall when trying to access scholarly research. The button performs three functions. First, it collects basic information from users in order to aggregate and chart the experience of researchers and readers as they hit paywalls. Second, the button offers users an opportunity to broadcast their experiences hitting a paywall in order to raise awareness about the issues. Third, the button tries to suggest alternate versions of the same article if they are easily located in an OA repository. If they aren’t easily located, the button suggests alternate articles on similar topics that are openly accessible.
Carroll and McArthur explained their ideas for the button in a guest blog post on the Public Library of Science (PLoS) website:
Each time an individual hits a paywall is an isolated incident, this is unlikely to shake the ivory tower of academic publishing. But putting these moments together using the Open Access Button, we hope it will capture those individual moments of injustice and frustration and show them, on full view to the world. Only then, by making this problem impossible to ignore, will the button begin to make a difference. Everyone is affected by this problem, and we need your help to make this problem too obvious to ignore.
Further details and download instructions are available from the Open Access Button website.
CC 4.0: Release of New International Licenses
At the end of November, Creative Commons launched version 4.0 of its suite of licenses. The big change is the international focus. As noted in the press release:
Since 2007, CC has been working with legal experts around the world to adapt the 3.0 licenses to local laws in over 35 jurisdictions. In the process, CC and its affiliates learned a lot about how the licenses function internationally. As a result, the 4.0 licenses are designed to function in every jurisdiction around the world, with no need for localized adaptations.
A few days later, Creative Commons announced a new suite of licenses “specifically designed for intergovernmental organizations (IGOs).” While any organization, including IGOs, are able to adopt any CC license, IGOs face some different challenges regarding dispute resolution. The new IGO licenses specifically deal with this challenge. As explained in the Creative Commons Wiki,
Creative Commons published a 3.0 ported license suite specifically intended for use by IGOs. These ported licenses—known as the 3.0 IGO ported licenses—grant all of the same permissions as our international (unported) 3.0 licenses; however, they have two unique provisions. First, unlike all other 3.0 licenses, where the licensor is an IGO then unless otherwise mutually agreed, disputes are resolved by mediation or, if that is unsuccessful, through arbitration. This provision was included in response to the challenges IGOs face with enforcing their copyright. IGOs have privileges and immunities from national legal processes, including judicial processes. Waiving that immunity so they can bring suit in a national legal forum can be exceedingly difficult. Instead, IGOs typically use mediation and arbitration as the preferred means to resolve legal disputes.
Shortly after the release of the new CC licenses, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) launched its Open Access Repository, which uses the CC IGO license. As noted in the press release, the UNESCO Open Access Repository “will operate under a new open licensing system developed by the Creative Commons organization specifically for intergovernmental agencies.”
Nobel Prize Winner Boycotts Non-OA Journals
While several leading scientists have become advocates for OA, Randy Schekman, Ph.D., an American cell biologist at the University of California–Berkeley and recent recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, ratcheted up the discourse to a new level when he published an opinion piece in The Guardian on Dec. 9, 2013, titled, “How Journals Like Nature, Cell and Science Are Damaging Science.” In the article, Schekman attacked “luxury journals” and “a gimmick called ‘impact factor,’” urging scientists to publish in OA journals instead.
There is a better way, through the new breed of open-access journals that are free for anybody to read, and have no expensive subscriptions to promote. Born on the web, they can accept all papers that meet quality standards, with no artificial caps. Many are edited by working scientists, who can assess the worth of papers without regard for citations. As I know from my editorship of eLife, an open access journal funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Max Planck Society, they are publishing world-class science every week.
Finally, Schekman issued a call to arms to fellow researchers:
Most importantly of all, we scientists need to take action. Like many successful researchers, I have published in the big brands, including the papers that won me the Nobel prize for medicine, which I will be honoured to collect tomorrow. But no longer. I have now committed my lab to avoiding luxury journals, and I encourage others to do likewise.
SCOAP3 Launches in January
Also in December, CERN announced that the SCOAP3 publishing initiative would commence on Jan. 1, 2014. SCOAP3—Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics—is a unique experiment designed to try a new funding model to pay for OA publishing. The consortium is an international partnership involving thousands of libraries, funding agencies, and research centers in 24 countries. The initiative is designed to work with publishers to convert “key journals in the field of High-Energy Physics to Open Access at no cost for authors.” Instead, each partner country will contribute funds “commensurate to its scientific output in this field.” For the United States, this translates into $3.5 million per year; Lyrasis will be acting as the national contact point for the U.S.
Eleven publishers are participating in SCOAP3, including Elsevier, IOP Publishing, and Springer. The full list of journals is available on the SCOAP3 website.
Planning efforts for SCOAP3 have been underway for several years. The Jan. 1 launch marks a tremendous step forward in this initiative. “This is the culmination of a fascinating journey,” Salvatore Mele, head of open access at CERN and leader of the SCOAP3 project, was quoted as saying in the CERN press release. “In the last few years we have built consensus and trust between all parties: libraries, funding agencies and publishers, at the service of scientists in the field of High-Energy Physics and beyond. Most importantly, we have nurtured a community of partners, making a real difference, enhancing the Open Access movement and the publishing industry.”