Welcome to the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #64
     [Formerly called the Free Online Scholarship (FOS) Newsletter]

     August 4, 2003

How should we define "open access"?

(1) The most important element by far is that open-access literature is available online free of charge.  This is the element that catalyzed the open-access movement, and the element that defined "free online scholarship".  To this day, it's the only element mentioned when journalists don't have space for a full story.

(2) But price isn't the only barrier to access.  Price barriers obstruct the free flow of information, and make it less useful, but so do a dizzying array of licensing restrictions that I have called "permission barriers".  Most scientific research is still published behind both price and permission barriers.  Open-access archives and journals bypass them both.

There are two classic ways to eliminate permission barriers:  to put the work in the public domain and to obtain the copyright holder's consent for all the relevant scholarly uses --such as unrestricted reading, downloading, copying, sharing, storing, printing, searching, linking, and crawling.

Permission barriers are more difficult to discuss than price barriers.  First, there are many kinds of them, some arising from statute (copyright law), some from contracts (licenses), and some from hardware and software (DRM).  They are not like prices, which differ only in magnitude.  Second, their details are harder to discover and understand.  Third, different users in different times, places, institutions, and situations can face very different permission barriers for the same work.  Fourth, authors who deposit their articles in open-access archives bypass permission barriers even if they also publish the same articles in conventional journals protected by copyright, licenses, and DRM.  Finally, some rights may be retained by authors without interfering with open access, such as the right to block distribution of a mangled or misattributed copy of the work.  So permission barriers do not arise from retaining rights as such but only from retaining some rights rather than others.  For all these reasons, the literature on open access is rarely as clear and careful on permission barriers as it is on price barriers.  All definitions of open access say something about bypassing or removing permission barriers, although they use very different language.  Journalists who cover open-access issues would do us all a favor if they could describe permission barriers, and the damage they cause, with roughly the same clarity, detail, and fervor they use when describing price barriers.

My February 2003 article introducing the term "permission barriers" and giving many specific examples

(3) The major open-access initiatives differ on whether open access includes measures to assure long-term preservation.  For example, the definitions used by BMC and the Bethesda statement include this element, but the BOAI and PLoS definitions do not.

Taking steps to preserve open-access literature directly answers an objection often raised against open access.  This makes it both desirable and important for open-access initiatives to take steps to preserve their literature and to say so prominently.  The need for prominent mention often brings the mention right into the definition of "open access".  But none of this means that preservation is part of open access, merely that it is desirable.  Is preservation an essential part of openness or a separate essential?

On the one hand, the importance of preservation doesn't make it part of openness any more than the importance of clarity and truth make them part of openness. The major initiatives agree on the importance of providing peer review and high standards of quality, but they also agree that this doesn't make quality part of openness.

On the other hand, preservation might be part of the definition even for those who want to keep the emphasis on what it takes to achieve openness or to remove access barriers.  Preserving literature for the long term is part of enhancing its accessibility.  Technological obsolescence and file corruption are access barriers that preservation programs are designed to remove.

My preference is to make preservation a separate desideratum.   Openness is the name of one good thing and there are many good things.  We don't lose our motivation to pursue them all by admitting that they are distinct.  But by bundling them all under the concept of openness, we risk blurring or over-burdening our simple concept and we risk delaying progress by multiplying the conditions that our initiatives must meet.  Let's pursue openness and preservation in parallel but not as if they were inseparable.

(4) Similarly, the major definitions differ on whether depositing a work in an open-access archive or repository is part of the definition.  Again, the BMC and Bethesda definitions require deposit and the BOAI definition does not.  The earliest PLoS definition required deposit but its current definition does not.

I think the same initiatives that require preservation also require deposit because, in essence, they conceive deposit as one way to enhance preservation.  Archivists are more likely to take pains to assure the preservation of archives than authors or institutions are likely to preserve personal home pages.  Moreover, archives are independent of journals and likely to survive as journals change hands, change policies, and change fortunes.  Indeed, BMC insists on deposit in PubMed Central in part to reassure its authors and readers that its articles will outlive BMC if need be.

But open access through an archive is unnecessary for works that have open access through a journal.  In that sense, the deposit requirement is not essential for open access as such, even if it enhances the value of deposited works.

Let's make sure that all research articles and their preprints are deposited in open-access archives or repositories, regardless of their fate in journals.  But let's understand that we should do this because it's an effective means to the end, not because it defines the end.

(5) The newer definitions recognize one further element:  an explicit and conspicuous label that an open-access work is open access.  Readers should be told when a work is free of price and permission barriers.  They might be reading a copy forwarded from a friend and not know whether the publisher would like to charge for access.  They might want to forward a copy to a friend and not know whether this kind of redistribution is permitted.  When an article has no label, then conscientious users will seek permission for any copying that exceeds fair use.  But this kind of delay and detour, with non-use as the consequence of a non-answer, are just the kinds of obstacles that open access seeks to eliminate.  A good label will save users time and grief, prevent conscientious users from erring on the side of non-use, and eliminate a frustration that might nudge conscientious users into becoming less conscientious.

The Creative Commons is an excellent leader on this point.  Not only does it provide text and graphic labels for online literature, but it supports links from those labels to clear explanations of the rights waived and the rights retained by the author.  Moreover, it provides both a lay explanation and a bullet-proof lawyer's explanation.  Finally, it provides a machine-readable version of the license.  In principle, this will allow a search engine to give you a list of works that not only match your query, but that you know you can use in certain ways without further permission from the rightsholder.  I don't believe that any search engines yet take advantage of this feature, but I'd like to be corrected.

I confess that it took me a long time to realize the importance of good labels.  All my scholarly writings (except one book) are openly accessible on my web site.  But none of them says so.  Each has a copyright statement at the bottom, which links to a page explaining that I waive most of my rights and consent to what is now called open access.  But this liberating authorization is one click away from the text itself, one ergonomic hurdle too far.  I haven't had time to go back and add explicit labels or CC licenses to each work, although this is a task on my priority list for when I do have time.  If I were doing it all over again, I'd use CC licenses from the start, or supplement my copyright statement in the text with language like this:  "This is an open-access publication.  Some rights reserved."  Then I'd link to a second page with more detail.

The BMC definition requires an explicit label, at least for copies or excerpts distributed outside BMC channels.  The Bethesda definition requires an explicit label, at least on versions deposited in an archive.  The original PLoS definition did not require labels, but its current practice is simply to require a CC Attribution license, which includes the very useful human- and machine-readable label.

The presence of a work in an archive or journal known to provide open access is an implicit solution nearly equivalent to a label.  The BOAI FAQ relies on this solution.  Metatags or metadata offer another kind of implicit solution.  These are very desirable, but not sufficient, since conscientious users will still err on the side of non-use in the absence of explicit permission.

Creative Commons

My copyright page

BOAI FAQ on the implicit label arising from inclusion in an OA archive or journal

* There are other, lesser elements on which the definitions diverge.  For example, the BMC definition is the only one that specifies a standardized format, preferably XML, for open-access works.  The Bethesda definition is the only one to include an explicit right to make and distribute derivative works.  At the same time it's the only one to limit authors to "the right to make small numbers of printed copies for their personal use".

All the definitions are meant to apply to peer-reviewed research articles and their preprints.  The BOAI public statement argues that these works form the core of the special body of literature that authors give to the world without expectation of payment.  The ARL's definition of "open access" picks up on this and becomes the only definition to specify the body of literature to which the definition applies.

ARL definition (last revised July 24, 2003; original date unclear)

* How important is uniformity about the definition?  There is already uniformity on the core concept:  removing price and permission barriers.  I don't sense any schismatic tendencies in the open-access movement like those that divided the open-source software movement.  We don't disagree, for example, that preservation and deposit are important, merely on whether they define open access or enhance the value of works that might already be openly accessible.  If the definitions ever differ in schismatic or confusing ways, then we may have to borrow the methods of our open-source colleagues to minimize the friction and confusion arising from those differences.  But so far, I just see an evolving concept, healthy flux, some boundary-testing on the possible elements, and some differences of accent in discussing the agreed-upon elements.

However, there are several reasons not to multiply the elements required by a definition.  First, it's easier to make the case for a simple concept than a complicated one.  And our concept really is simple, or it wouldn't have its present momentum or history of independent discovery.  Second, with every addition to the concept, we risk schism, especially if one faction wants to deny that another faction is providing "real open access" or is entitled to use the term.  Finally, the phrase is still fairly new (it was not common until the BOAI launched in February 2002) and it's vulnerable to dilution, stretching, misunderstanding, and redefinition.

* The four major definitions in alphabetical order:

Bethesda definition, June 20, 2003

BioMed Central (BMC) definition (from its Open Acces Charter), originally July 1, 2002

Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) definition, February 14, 2002

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) definition itself comes in different flavors.  I can date the PLoS itself but not these different definitions:
--The definition on its page on open access is identical to the BOAI definition.  Yet on the same page PLoS links to the Bethesda statement.
--The definition in  its FAQ refers readers to the PLoS license...
--and the PLoS license is now identical to the Creative Commons Attribution License.

* Postscript.  The value of open access lies primarily in widening access.  But despite that, it doesn't create universal access.  Even after we've removed price and permission barriers, there will be several barriers left to overcome before we reach truly universal access.  Here are four:

(1) Handicap access barriers:  most web sites are not yet as accessible to handicapped users as they could be.

(2) Language barriers:  most online literature is in English, or just one language, and machine translation is very weak.

(3) Filtering and censorship barriers:  more and more schools, employers, and governments want to limit what you can see.

(4) Connectivity barriers:  the digital divide keeps billions of people, including millions of serious scholars, offline.

We should definitely work to remove these four additional barriers.  But we shouldn't hold off using the term "open access" until we've succeeded.  Removing price and permission barriers is a significant plateau worth recognizing with a special name.


News highlights and bibliography since the last issue

Most of these news items and literature citations are from the Open Access News blog, which I write with other contributors and update daily.  I give both the item URL and blog entry URL so that you can read the original story as well as what I or another blog contributor had to say about it.  I select only the most relevant and important items to include here, and omit items covered elsewhere in the newsletter.



* The European Commission has conditionally approved the Candover and Cinden purchase of BertelsmannSpringer and its merger with Kluwer Academic Publishers.

* GMS (German Medical Science) will help scientists and editors launch new open-access medical journals.

* BioMed Central is building a list of foundations willing the pay the processing fees charged by open-access journals. There are currently 12 foundations on the list.

* Kluwer will participate in the second phase of HINARI.

* BMJ has announced that it will start charging for access to some of its content in 2005.

But original research articles will continue to be available without charge and BMJ will experiment with different versions of the "author pays" model.

* The University of Erlangen-Nürnberg has launched a book series that sells print editions and make full-text electronic editions freely available online.

* The Pirelli Award is seeking nominations for the 2004 version of its Nobel Prize for Scientific Communication.

* There's a new web site monitoring news on the reauthorization of ERIC.

* The Information Access Alliance officially launched its web site on July 28.  It contains links to the IAA's white papers on monopoly in the scholarly journal industry.

* Germany's DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, German Research Foundation) has launched the e-Publications Project. The project seeks progress on open access and greater consortial bargaining power with journal publishers over prices and terms.

* The _Journal of the Medical Library Association_ no longer asks authors to transfer copyright, but merely "the right of first publication and the right to republish the work in whatever fashion the _JMLA_ may be republished in the future (for example, as part of an aggregated database)....[A]uthors are now free to make whatever further use of their work they wish...."

* The journal _Physiological Genomics_ has adopted the Walker-Prosser method of offering open access.  That is, it offers authors a choice between open-access and traditional toll-access dissemination.  Those who can pay (or find sponsors to pay) the costs of dissemination can have open access.

* JISC and OSI are looking for someone to "undertake a survey...of authors of academic journal articles, comparing the experience of authors who publish on 'open access' with those who do not." Proposals are due September 23, 2003.

* A German court has ruled that deep linking is lawful.

* In the fall Amazon.com will launch a free search engine ranging over full-text, non-fiction books from cooperating publishers.

* A group of faculty at Syracuse University is offering to support AskERIC, the ERIC search engine that has lost funding under the  ERIC reorganization.

* On July 17, Dr. Ian Gibson, Member of Parliament for Norwich North, asked UK Secretary of State Dr. John Reid "what plans he has to ensure that all public funded research is recorded and made freely available to (a) patients, (b) health professionals, (c) the public and (d) members of the scientific community."  Dr. Reid is expected to answer on September 8.

* Jill O'Neill's blog for the NFAIS, Noteworthy, has been relaunched under the new name "Information Community News".

* The University of Saarland Library launched PsyDok, a new open-access, German-language archive of literature in psychology.

* The Supreme Court ruled in Intel v. Hamidi that uninvited electronic contact may not be prohibited as trespass, preserving the free flow of information from at least this kind of legal barrier.  The case was about non-commercial email, but has implications for hyperlinks.

* BioMed Central launched _Open Access Now_, another newsletter on open-access issues.  OAN is edited by Jonathan Weitzman and will feature interviews with important players in the open-access movement and news from my Open Access News blog.

* The ICSU released its Agenda for Action: Science in the Information Society.

* The U.S. House of Representatives adopted an appropriations bill (H.R. 2660) giving funds to the National Library of Medicine to investigate how journal prices have restricted the availability of biomedical research and to recommend "remedies to ensure that taxpayer-funded research remains in the public domain and steps that can be taken to alleviate this restrictive trend in information technology".

* The Grey Literature Network Service (aka GreyNet) has relaunched.

* SPARC Europe, Liber, SCONUL, and CURL have sent a letter to the European Commission objecting to the imminent merger of BertelsmannSpringer and Kluwer Academic Publishers. David Prosser sent a copy to all members of SPARC Europe with his own letter urging members to write to the EC themselves.

* BioMed Central announced a new program allowing any user to download its complete corpus of open-access articles in a single zipped file.

BMC's purpose was to encourage data mining of its growing corpus.  But Alf Eaton immediately put the downloadable corpus to another use.  He wrote a Perl script to automate reference linking among the XML files in the collection.  This brings reference linking within reach of cost-conscious OA journals and archives.  And it's very cool.

* Jamie Love of the Consumer Project on Technology organized a public letter requesting that WIPO organize a meeting in 2004 to recognize those economic sectors in which intellectual property rules hindered rather than stimulated innovation.  Open-access scientific journals were specifically listed as one of the areas to cover.  (Full disclosure:  I am one of the signatories of the public letter.)

The letter was released on July 7, and almost immediately WIPO Assistant Director General and Legal Counsel Francis Gurry accepted the suggestion.

* Hugo Alrøe maintains a web page listing the policies of various scientific publishers on allowing authors to self-archive their articles.


New bibliography

* Andrew Albanese, "Newsmaker Interview:  Peter Suber, Publisher of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter", _Library Journal Academic Newswire_, July 24, 2003.

* Heike Andermann and Andreas Degkwitz, "Neue Ansätze in der wissenschaftlichen Informationsversorgung", DFG e-Publications Project, July 25, 2003.

* Anon., "Check out the New Library", _Ubiquity_, 4, 23 (July 30 - August 5, 2003).  An interview with Clifford Lynch.

* Blake Carver, "Creating an Institutional Repository: A Role for Libraries", _Ex Libris_, June 27, 2003.

* John Cox and Laura Cox, "Scholarly Publishing Practice: The ALPSP report on academic journal publishers’ policies and practices in online publishing", ALPSP, 2003.

* Raym Crow and Howard Goldstein have updated their  two business guides for the Open Society Institute and BOAI, and written a third one.

"Guide to Business Planning for Launching a New Open Access Journal" (Edition 2)

"Guide to Business Planning for Converting a Subscription-based Journal to Open Access" (Edition 2)

"Model Business Plan: A Supplemental Guide for Open Access Journal Developers & Publishers" (Edition 1)

* Nico Dauphiné, Mary Anderson Ochs, and Nicole K. Joos, "Bringing scientific literature to the developing world: The Essential Electronic Agricultural Library (TEEAL)", _Online Information Review_, 2003, pp. 51-54.

* Susan R. Owens, "Revolution or evolution? A shift to an open-access model of publishing would clearly benefit science, but who should pay?" _EMBO Reports_, 2003.

* Elizabeth Gadd, Charles Oppenheim and Steve Probets, "The RoMEO Project: Protecting metadata in an open access environment", _Ariadne_, July 2003.

* Jean-Claude Guédon, "Open Access Archives: from scientific plutocracy to the republic of science", _IFLA Journal_, 29, 2 (2003) pp. 129-140.

* Lisa Krieger, "New journals bring science research to the masses", _Mercury News_, July 23, 2003.  (On the Public Library of Science.)

* Michael J. Kurtz and seven co-authors, "The NASA Astrophysics Data System: Sociology, Bibliometrics, and Impact", preprint of an article submitted to _The Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology_.

* David Malakoff and Daniel Bachtold, "Who Owns, Who Pays? U.K., U.S. Offer Answers for Journals", _Science_, July 4, 2003.

* Vivien Marx, "In DSpace, Ideas Are Forever", _New York Times_, August 3, 2003.

* NSF Division of Science Resources Statistics, "The Implications of Information Technology for Scientific Journal Publishing: A Literature Review", NSF 03-323, June 2003.

* George Porter, "More Thoughts on PubSCIENCE", _Internet Health_, 2, 5 (2003).  Reprinted from the _MedLib Open Journal_, 2002.

* Vinod Scaria, "Open Access with 'author pays' model: heading for the next serials crisis?" _Internet Health_, 2, 5 (July 5, 2003).

* More on the Sabo bill:

Kevin Diaz, "Publicly funded research papers could circulate for free, under Sabo bill", _Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune_, July 7, 2003.

Miriam Drake, "Free Public Access to Science --Will It Happen?" _Information Today_, July 7, 2003.

Michael Held, "Proposed legislation supports an untested publishing model", _The Journal of Cell Biology_, July 3, 2003.

Also see the responses to Held's criticism:

...from the PLoS senior editors, Philip Bernstein, Barbara Cohen, Hemai Parthasarathy, Mark Patterson, and Vivian Siegel

...from Jan Velterop, publisher of BioMed Central

Nils Hasselmo, Open letter to Martin Sabo, July 18, 2003.  Expressing the AAU's reservations about the bill.

Samuel Trosow, "Copyright Protection for Federally Funded Research: Necessary Incentive or Double Subsidy?"  A preprint of the first scholarly article I've seen defending the Sabo bill.

Catherine Zandonella, "Sabo bill assessed", _The Scientist_, July 16, 2003.  Summarizing some criticisms of the bill.

* Eugenio Pelizzari, "Harvesting for Disseminating: Open Archives and Role of Academic Libraries", a preprint of an article to appear in _The Acquisitions Librarian_.

* David Seaman, "Deep Sharing: A Case for The Federated Digital Library", _EduCause Review_, July/August 2003.

* Peter Suber, "Draft Model Open-Access Policy for Foundation Research Grants".  I put this online after several months of private circulation for comments.

* Paul Uhlir, "Draft Policy Guidelines for the Development and Promotion of Public Domain Information", UNESCO, 2003.

* Paul Wouters and Peter Schröder (eds.), _Promise and Practice in Data Sharing_, Netherlands Institute for Scientific Information Services (NIWI), March 2003.

* Daniel Zimmel, "Wissenschaftliche Informationsversorgung im Umbruch", Stuttgart, October 2002.

* _Open Access Now_ published issues on Juluy 12 and July 28.

* The June issue of the _INASP Newsletter_ has a good number of articles relevant to open access.  It includes articles by David Prosser and John Willinsky.

* The new issue of _Library Hi Tech_ (Vol. 21, no. 2) is devoted to the Open Archives Initiative Metadata Harvesting.  It includes articles by Timothy Cole, Carl Lagoze, Herbert Van de Sompel, Simeon Warner, Kat Hagedorn, Hussein Suleman, Edward Fox, and William Arms.

* The June issue of _Upgrade_ is devoted to Open Knowledge.  It includes articles by Yochai Benkler, David Bollier, and Richard Stallman.

* The presentations from the Symposium on the Role of Scientific and Technical Data and Information in the Public Domain (Washington, D.C., September 5-6, 2002) are now online.

* The presentations from the workshop, Best Practices in Campus Advocacy (SPARC/ARL Forum at the ALA/CLA Annual Conference, Toronto, June 21, 2003) are now online. At this workshop, "campus advocacy" meant advocacy for change in the scholarly communication system.



* In the July issue I inadvertently used a temporary URL for the full-text of Martin Sabo's Public Access to Science Act.  It expired a few hours after I mailed the issue.  Here's another URL that should last longer,
(Make sure the final colon is part of the URL.)

* In the July issue I described RVOT and DLESE as open-source software for building and maintaining OAI-compliant eprint archives.  But they are not quite so general purpose and lack the functions and interface for depositing papers.  RVOT helps non-compliant archives become OAI-compliant, and DLESE detects metadata changes in content files and propagates the changes to harvesters.



* With last month's revival of the newsletter, I sent mail into some boxes that hadn't received anything from me in 10 months.  I expected some complaints about spam, but received none.  On the contrary, I received many gratifying notes of thanks or congratulations for returning to regular publication.

* I'm sure some previous subscribers chose to unsubscribe, but I can only track net subscriptions, which are decisively up.  Compared to one month ago today, when I re-launched, newsletter subscriptions are up 13%, and forum subscriptions are up 12%.  Thanks for spreading the word to colleagues and discussion lists.

* Remember that newsletter and forum subscriptions are separate in order to let you decide how much mail to invite into your mailbox.  Apart from discussion, the forum provides news that doesn't make it to the blog or newsletter, for example, full-text press releases, postings from other lists, calls for papers, announcements, and other documents.


This is the SPARC Open Access Newsletter (SOAN), written by Peter Suber and published by SPARC.  The views I express in this newsletter are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of SPARC.

Please feel free to forward any issue of the newsletter to interested colleagues.  If you are reading a forwarded copy of this issue, see the instructions for subscribing at either of the first two sites below.

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Guide to the Open Access Movement

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Peter Suber

SOAN is an open-access publication under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.  Users may freely copy, distribute, and display its contents, but must give credit to the author.  To read the full license, visit

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