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Open access and Creative Commons for scientific works

Open_Access_logo_PLoS_white.svgOpen access is the online availability of digital content, established by the author to be either free (Creative Commons, etc.) or in any of the intellectual property regimes. Open access is mainly used for articles in academic research journals, selected by peers. We should in fact distinguish between libre open access and gratis open access, to distinguish more clearly what is “simply” free access for the Internet user (open access) and what is gratis and libre open access subjected to a so-called free-to-use license (Creative Commons, for example).

There are two types of open access with many variations.

  • In the libre open access publishing, also known as the “gold” way of open access, journals make their articles directly and immediately accessible to the public. These publications are called “open access journals”. An example of open access publications is the journal Public Library of Science, which uses the said funding model “author pays”.
  • Regarding gratis open access by self-archiving, also called the “green” way of open access, authors deposit copies of their articles on a personal page or open archive. One of the main supporters of the “greenway” is Steven Harnad, since 1994.

Libre access is currently causing much debate among academics, librarians, university administrators, scientists and political editors. There is substantial disagreement on the concept of open access, with a great debate about its economic compensation.

Authors and researchers

For the authors, the main motivation to create an open access article is the impact of it. Indeed, any scientific article (free access or not) is written to be read, quoted and discussed. Researchers traditionally give much for their work. They are paid by research funders and/or universities, or associations or private companies, to do research. The final article is proof that they have done their job. Over the article is used, quoted, applied, the better for the research and the researcher’s career. Increasingly, authors are invited to make their work freely available, both by research funding agencies and universities.

Authors who wish to make their work freely available have a number of possibilities. One of the options (in gold) is to publish in an libre open access journal. To find these journals, it is possible to use the Directory of Open Access Journals DOAJ. DOAJ is far from complete because of the time needed for the process of checking the quality of the magazine; it nevertheless contained over 6000 journals in 2011.

Depending on the case, there may be some publishing costs; part of the open access publications implies that the author has to pay for article processing (author-pays model). Traditionally, many academic journals billed for layout costs, long before free access became a possibility. Recent research has shown that open access journals do not require publication costs, and are less taxed authors of fees than traditional subscription titles. When practicing processing charge, it is the employer (or donor) of the author who pays the fees, not the author. In addition, provisions are made to cover the fact that authors could encounter financial difficulties.

The second option (green) is self-archiving by the author. To check if a publisher has agreed to an author self-archiving, the author can check the editorial policy for self-archiving on the SHERPA/RoMEO website implemented by JISC.

There are also significant differences between academic work, scientific or other:

Free access includes the general agreement of the authors of the free distribution of work and publication on a (technical) infrastructure that allows such distribution. However, it is often assumed that the idea of free content (open content) includes general permission to change a particular work. Or free access relates primarily to the free availability without any further involvement. Indeed, many open access projects are concerned with the scientific publication – an area where it is quite reasonable to maintain a static work content and associate it with a particular author.

The attribution is very important in the research because it is a concept of certification. It is essential in the career of a researcher to be seen as the first to be discovered or designed something. Unlike artistic work, where the modifications and variations can easily increase the value of work, or at worst, cause a worse version of the level of quality of work; changes in scientific work can have serious consequences. For example, it should not change the procedures of surgical technique, unless a qualified and experienced surgeon. For these two reasons, the principles of allocation and non-modification may become essential to academic articles.

While open access is currently focused on the research articles, any author who wants to work this way can share his work and decide what rules must be established to make it accessible to all. Creative Commons provides a means to easily indicate authors for authorizations and permissions easily readable and understandable by humans and/or machines. In an article titled “To free science” (December 2010) Christophe Masutti (University of Strasbourg) has a critical inventory (including against the free access) in favor of Creative Commons licenses.

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