Debating Open Access

Twelve months after the publication of the Finch Report, during which the new RCUK policy on open access has been published, dissected, debated (including by committees in both Houses of Parliament), revised and implemented, it seems an apposite moment to step back and take stock.

Debating Open Access

A collection of essays published today under the title Debating Open Access presents one attempt to do just that. Given that the essays have been produced under the imprimatur of the British Academy there is an emphasis on the perspective from the humanities and social sciences — I am the only natural scientist among the eight contributors. This is healthy in my view, since the open access debate often appears to be dominated by scientific interests. That domination may simply be due to the fact that money talks — the natural sciences take the lion’s share of funding from the UK Research Councils — but, as Rita Gardner points out in her essay, around half of all UK academics are from the humanities and social sciences.

I have read most of the essays in the collection and so far they seem to me to provide measured and meditative contributions from different stakeholders in the open access debate, even though it is clear that major tensions remain. The essays usefully dissect various aspects of the issue, including the challenges faced by learned societies (Rita Garder), opportunities to take a fresh look at peer review (Martin Paul Eve) and the pertinent differences between disciplines (Ziyad Marar). I particularly appreciated Stuart Shieber’s forensic analysis of scholarly publishing and his identification of support for hybrid journals as a key weakness in current UK policy.

I don’t by any means agree with all that I have read — I confess I struggled to see the world from historian Robin Osborne’s point of view — but am pleased nevertheless to have the arguments and counter arguments laid out in such thoughtful terms. I hope the slender volume will find a wide readership. That should be achieved easily since there are no barriers to access — the essays are available as free PDF downloads, either singly or as a complete collection.

 

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46 Responses to Debating Open Access

  1. Mike Taylor says:

    Thanks for this link, I’ll give it a read.

    (Shame it’s not available in any of the eBook formats: PDFs are a bugger to read on my Kindle.)

    • Stephen says:

      Have enquired if alternative formats might be made available…

      • Grant says:

        Too lazy to check (hey, it’s midnight here!), but you’d hope there is software to convert the formats yourself – ?

        • Mike Taylor says:

          It’s generally possible to convert between the various eBook formats, which all preserve structure quite well. But PDF is basically a page image, and has little or no structure. To quote Peter Murray-Rust (I think), it’s “the hamburger that we’re trying to turn back into a cow”.

          • Grant says:

            Not meaning to nitpick, but wouldn’t that not always be true? I certainly can be true (esp. for encapsulated images in PDF), but can’t PDF also have what amount to meta-data and layout? It’d then come down to how the PDF is coded. (I know some rather ancient PostScript from which PDF is apparently derived.)

  2. Richard T says:

    I’ve had a few discussions recently with people not entirely pro open-access; they’re always interesting, because my initial assumption was that open access must, by its nature, be a Good Thing. I don’t agree with Robin Osborne’s arguments either, but makes for a good read. Always nice to test one’s own assumptions etc.

    Thanks!

    • Stephen says:

      Sorry for slow reply. Yes – good to be exposed to the reasoned counterview. There are still many shades of opinion in this troubled area.

  3. In your essay in the British Academy collection, you say “Everyone has a grasp of the basic concept [of open access] but…no one has yet figured out [implementation].” Similarly, I’ve often heard the view that OA is something fairly set, toward which we are making an inevitable transition.

    Having followed these issues for many years, and thinking especially but not exclusively from a humanities, non-science-specific viewpoint, I’ve come to the view that actually basic concepts aren’t grasped or settled, and it’s not just details of implementation or transition.

    I see a science (particularly biomedical science)-rooted advocacy community which has interpreted and focused the Open Access movement — and to degrees, broader open-culture / Creative Commons movements — around its own interests and concepts, and often claims to own or at least define it. Other interpretations, voices, and communities have been marginalized by asserting they are just misunderstanding or ignorance or reaction, or too late to the discussion, or resisting the inevitable. Which they may be in part, but by no means solely; nor is misunderstanding absent from the dominant science-based OA advocacy.

    Without attempting a new OA Theory of Everything, I’ll just give some examples which suggest how unsettled basic ideas of OA are:

    1) We hear “public funding” frequently cited as the basis for Open Access. However, this is in no way part of original formulations of OA, e.g. the Budapest Open Access Initiative declaration, which gives as rationale scholars’ typical willingness to and self-interest in sharing all or parts of their work..

    2) All the principles of open access to knowledge, particularly public-funded research, logically apply to all “intellectual property”. Yet the Open Access movement so far, as well as Creative Commons and the Open Knowledge Foundation’s “Open Definition,” have specifically excluded patent IP, i.e. inventions. Patent IP is a key driver of investment and motivation in STEM fields, and partly explains the much different economic/funding situation in STEM compared to HSS. Ignoring patent IP is logically inconsistent and obscures a key piece of economic context. Also (see point 4. it creates a contradiction in which STEM’s high-value IP is owned (patented/licensed), while HSS’s is not).

    3) It’s not clear that economic conditions, even in public-sector academia, support scholars being expected or able to give away all work w/out direct compensation. BOAI does not assume this, and if we look at the makeup of academic labor we see that large portions of it are adjunct, economically marginal workers for whom this makes little sense. Further, assuming that scholars have institutional support leaves out all scholars not formally part of the academy.

    4) It’s not clear that scientific knowledge (factual, non ©) can be equated to humanistic (expressive, interpretive) knowledge. For STEM-based OA, expression (“literature”) is just a carrier for factual information, the possible basis of invention. It’s natural to see the carrier as non-ownable, like information, and want it to be as free and fluid as possible, to maximize opportunities for discovery and invention, which are high-value (and patentable). However, often in HSS, the expression (“literature”) IS the high-value output, from which the research may earn any future gain e.g. by licensing, compilation, book sales.

    To summarize, I think present Open Access debates are not just about details of implementation or transition, but reveal fundamental open issues about the nature and purpose of scholarship, and the economic structure of academia/scholarly work. I’m glad to see the British Academy, in the compilation to which you contributed, surfacing these complex issues, in the face of a STEM-driven OA advocacy movement inclined to consider OA a closed case.


    Tim McCormick
    @tmccormick tjm.org Palo Alto, CA, USA

    • Mike Taylor says:

      This is an interestingly alternative view. But it doesn’t do much to shake my sense that the only really fundamental difference between HSS and STEM as regards open access is that HSS is ten years behind. Look at what scientists were writing in 2003, and it bears a startling resemblance to Tim’s piece. The big exception is patents — a genuine area of difference, and one that I agree has not been sufficiently explored. (For my money, if the state pays a university to invent something, then that thing should either not be patented at all or patented by the state that funded it; but that’s a whole nother ball of wax.)

      The bottom line for open access is something so fundamental that it hardly ever gets said explicitly, and it’s this: not to make research open access is just plain stupid. The value of knowledge increases directly as it spreads; in fact, network effects may mean that its value goes with the square of how widely it spreads. Restrict the spread of your knowledge, you destroy its value, it’s that simple.

      Meanwhile, if HSS scholars truly want royalties from selling limited copies of their works, that’s fine; but they shouldn’t expect public funding to do it. That’s certainly not what I pay my taxes for.

    • Jan Velterop says:

      Tim,

      1) I know that public funding is cited as a basis for OA. It is not. What it does, though, is making it possible for OA to be required, by the funders, for research that’s publicly funded.

      2) OA has nothing to do with intellectual property (which is a monstrous concept; copyright and patents are not property, but ‘exclusive rights to exploit for a given period’). Patents are open access, by the way. With OA, your true ‘intellectual’ property is secured by the requirement for attribution.

      3) The notion of ‘giving away’ is a red herring. The whole point of research — if it’s not industrial R&D — is collaborative, i.e. to share it with others and build, and build on, collective knowledge and insight. In the current academic ‘ego-system’, publication is also a kind of advertising, the researchers advertising their academic prowess, in order to gain credibility and advance their careers. Much misery, real or perceived, is a result of the latter.

      4) If indeed in HSS “the expression (‘literature’) IS the high-value output”, isn’t that then the ‘property’ of the funders, who can do with it what they like, as a kind of ‘work for hire’? Even make it available with open access?

      If money is lacking in HSS to pay for ‘gold’ OA, then new ways of publishing need to be developed. Such as arXiv-like systems, where pre-publication peer-review is substituted by a peer-endorsement system. Why is the current preoccupation with pre-publication peer review — essentially a leftover from the print on paper world — still standing in the way of evolution of knowledge exchange processes in the face of radically changed environments (i.e. the internet)?

  4. > it doesn’t do much to shake my sense that the only really fundamental
    > difference between HSS and STEM as regards open access is that HSS
    > is ten years behind.

    that’s true, I don’t think this or really anything would shake your sense of that. Like many science-based OA advocates, you consistently dismiss alternate arguments without really engaging them, and villify & trivialize HSS-based views on OA. All of which goes a long ways in demonstrating to humanists that Open Access is too important a matter to be left to scientists and their often narrow, domain-specific understanding of the issues.

  5. Stephen says:

    Tim – many thanks for your thoughtful comment which echoes and amplifies some of the points raised in the essay collection. I think we’re agreed that there remain serious obstacles to realising the goal of open access and that this is due in part to rather divergent views from different disciplines.

    To offer some responses to the particular points you raise (using your numbering):

    1) While funding may not appear in the BOAI, it’s hardly an irrelevant consideration. The recent emphasis on this aspect in the UK is no doubt due to the fact that it is funders who have driving the agenda by reformulating policies in the last twelve months — and making financial provision. Perhaps that has skewed the debate? As a publicly-funded scientist, it certainly colours my view of the issue (as I’ve written on many occasions). But I acknowledge that others have a different perspective, something that is aired in the collection.

    2) To my mind there isn’t really a contradiction between preserving IP and making the scientific literature OA. I agree with you that there is apparent separation of value here that doesn’t happen in HSS but the vast majority of scientists never produce patents and I suspect only a minority of those who do ever make any money out of it. How many HSS scholars currently make serious income from selling their published work? I’m not sure the differences are as strong as you suggest.

    3) I’m not sure who you mean by ‘adjunct, economically marginal workers’? To tackle the following point, scholars outside RCUK funding mechanisms are not bound by their open access policy so are free to publish as they do now. However, some might attain a greater readership if the development of OA introduces low-cost OA journals into the marking.

    4) As I wrote in my essay, I take the point that natural scientists and HSS scholars are likely to have different levels of personal investment in their published work. That said, there seems to be some misapprehension in the HSS community that OA publishing under creative commons licences means they lose ‘ownership’ of their work but I don’t believe this is the case. It’s more difficult these days, given the shift of a much greater proportion of tuition fees onto students, to determine how far scholars can be considered to be publicly funded but it’s still true that they are to some extent. Do you think this places any obligations?

    To answer your summary, I didn’t mean to imply in my essay that the principles are all agreed and that it is now simply a matter of sorting out a few details. Indeed the title of my piece reflects my view that there are political and cultural matters to work out. Like you, I’m glad that the BA has given the diverse perspectives a chance to debate some of them. Feel free to pick me up on any of the above!

  6. Richard Sever says:

    It is interesting that this book in particular uses a CC-BY-NC-ND license. The case is often made, primarily by OA advocates from within biomedical sciences, that CC-BY is the only acceptable license for ‘true’ open access. This, however, conflates the issues of access and use*.

    There are cases (e.g. review articles and monographs) and even whole disciplines (perhaps literary criticism) where academics may be better served by drawing a distinction between the two and considering CC-BY-ND licences (which preserve the integrity of the work as intended by the author) and/or CC-BY-NC (which restrict commercial reuse without permission). I’d be interested to know if such considerations would address the concerns Tim raises above.

    *Note that the use case often cited as requiring CC-BY is text mining. However, at least in the US, it seems that this is a red herring: it does not require CC-BY, merely that publishers do not have tailored license addenda that specifically exclude this.

    • Stephen says:

      The use of a more restrictive licence is common enough, even among biomedical sciences — at least according to this piece from Nature in Feb this year. But the demand for CC-By isn’t just from biomedical-based advocates of OA; it also comes, at least in the UK, from the minister for science and universities.

      Anyone wanting to know more about the different flavours of CC licences and what they mean can consult this pamphlet prepared by OAPEN-UK (PDF).

      I suspect licensing is an area that the Finch working group and RCUK might return to in their upcoming reviews.

      • Mike Taylor says:

        Heather Piwowar ended the licence debate for me with her pithy and spot-on observation “We do basic research not only to know more but to do“. Anyone who funds research, whether a public body or a private charity, wants that research to achieve something. That means CC By or public domain.

        • Richard Sever says:

          That is indeed the argument for its application to ‘basic research’. But my point was, in part, that we should consider different licenses for other types of content we might want to make OA.

          • Mike Taylor says:

            It’s true that the phrasing of Heather’s observation mentions “basic research”. But I don’t see why it wouldn’t apply to all research. Honestly, if someone told me that he didn’t want others to be able to use his research, I would question why we were funding him to do it.

            • Richard Sever says:

              You’re missing my point. What if it were not ‘research’ at all (e.g. a didactic piece) and not ‘funded’ in the way you describe? There are many reasons people might want to make such material OA, but only do so if reuse were limited (and required permission).

              This was essentially my original question above: why does this book have a CC-BY-NC-ND license? Is it because one size does not fit all? Clearly the British Academy thinks so.

            • Mike Taylor says:

              OK, gotcha. Yes, I accept that there is a role for licences other than CC By in the case of works other than research. One that comes up a lot in my own discussion (I am a paleontologist) is that I know palaeoartists who like to make their work freely available for non-commercial purposes, while retaining commercial rights, and who for that reason use CC By-NC. Since this is work done in their own time at their own expense, they of course have a perfect right to do this.

      • Richard Sever says:

        Perhaps the minister ‘wants’ our advice on the issue ;-)

      • > Anyone wanting to know more about the different
        > flavours of CC licences and what they mean can
        > consult this pamphlet prepared by OAPEN-UK (PDF).

        well, not to overhit a familiar chord here, but myself I wouldn’t particularly recommend that work. While it purports to be an objective guide to CC licenses, it mainly restates the usual CC-BY advocacy arguments, it was edited by people who are all public, committed CC-BY advocates, and it conspicuously lacks a neutral discussion of why some parties might wish to use NC or ND or SA — or, for that matter, other licensing schemes such as CC+, or Library License, or the types of channel/feature versioning being explored by e.g. OECD, DeepDyve, MIT Press and many others. Many of these perspectives were represented at the recent #OAbooks event, but missing from the “guide.”

        Also, the work, and how it’s presented at OApenuk and mentioned by its promoters, obscures the important point that it was meant to describe CC for HSS monograph authors, not generally. This is a key point, because discussions by OA advocates and funders (including recently, Wellcome Trust) have long recognized that such long-form work may likely want to be handled differently than article literature. Likewise, the guide and its publicity don’t seem to make clear that its scope is really UK based, publicly-funded academic work.

        I’m not terribly impressed by the work of the editors here, Martin Paul Eve and Ernesto Priego, as they appear to be either deliberately doing CC-BY advocacy within an ostensibly neutral guide, or just uncognizant of / unengaged with wider perspectives around and options on licensing. I don’t begrudge anyone having these CC-BY advocacy positions, I just think they should be argued honestly.

        I also have to wonder why or how Jisc, OApenuk & @OAPENbooks ended up supporting this rather unbalanced and incomplete guide. To me, it does them little credit as public or research bodies.

        • to clarify, I’m not sure exactly how this guide was authored, but the full author notice on the cover reads:

          “Developed by the OAPEN-UK team:
          Ellen Collins, Caren Milloy and Graham Stone

          Edited by: James Baker, Martin Paul Eve and Ernesto Priego”

        • Stephen says:

          I confess I had only skimmed the contents but made sure to read the concluding remarks which seemed to me to address some common misconceptions (esp. relating to copyright and plagiarism). I’ll leave the authors/creators of this guide to defend their own work but to answer your particular charge that

          “how it’s presented at OApenuk and mentioned by its promoters, obscures the important point that it was meant to describe CC for HSS monograph authors, not generally”

          it is worth pointing out that the title on the front of the guide says in big, bold letters “Guide to Creative Commons for Humanities and Social Science Monograph Authors”.

          • right, but the HSS and Monograph parts are left out of: the URL, page title, navigation tab, headline on page text, intro text, and most mentions of the guide I’ve seen e.g. in social media. On the page, visible only within graphic, below fold, if you have Flash autoloading. I mean, not the worst crime against humanity, but just a bit.. you know, loose, from the standpoint of precise information-science and legal types.. ;)

  7. thanks Stephen, Jan, Mike, Richard for great points and discussion.
    I made a number of notes but will comment first here just on the “public funding” issues Stephen and Jan brought up:

    > While funding may not appear in the BOAI, it’s hardly an
    > irrelevant consideration. The recent emphasis on this aspect
    > in the UK is no doubt due to the fact that it is funders who
    > have driving the agenda by reformulating policies in the last
    > twelve months

    First, I would emphasize that generally I support open access in all fields, and see that funder mandates (whether public or e.g. foundation) are a powerful lever, perhaps the most powerful. I’ve observed elsewhere that the open-access problem in some ways is like a Prisoners’ Dilemma or collective action problem, where component parties’ near-term interests prevent the longer-term realization of a collective good, and sometimes a top-down policy or environment change is needed to untie this knot.

    However, I think there are a number of dangers lurking in this “public funding” rationale and mandate approach, as I discussed in my post “Dreaming of open knowledge, settling for access to publicly funded science” after the White House OSTP policy directive came out in February, and I expand on below.

    For multiple reasons I believe we should be advocating ideals of scholarship and open knowledge, not so much taxpayer/funder entitlement or ownership of results. This is a both a philosophical and a pragmatic political point, I think, because:

    a) deeper ideals have more sustaining power and universal appeal, to inspire and form alliances. It helps people rise above specific policy/advocacy goals and look at the long-term unfolding mission. It helps to creates a pathway beyond the current specific and most-articulated needs of scholars/scientists, to thinking about also for example public scholarship, democratizing access to invention and patent knowledge, equitable access to funding and technology, and developing-world issues.

    b) a taxpayer/funder rights rationale also supports political control (see e.g. US Congress’ move to supervise/suspend NSF grant funding), and limiting access to constituencies. If it’s about taxpayers’ rights, one might ask, why should US taxpayers subsidize foreign researchers,’ say Chinese, access to US research?

    c) Outside of STEM fields, many scholars’ work is minimally or not at all directly funded by public or foundation grants. Therefore in e.g. the humanities, on which I focused for example with the Open Library of Humanities project, the argument for Open Access from public funding leads many scholars to feel and argue that it doesn’t apply to them.

    d) Determining what work is “publicly funded”? is, I believe, a much more complex question than usually admitted. In cases, particularly in STEM, grants are explicitly associated with research work, positions, & facilities; but the university overall is a huge bundle of cross-subsidies between all its many funding sources and spending areas. In many places, the public funding percentage is small and falling, and in some places notably the U.S., “private” universities play a major role. On the other hand, even “defunded” universities, like University of California, enjoy large benefits from public policies on tax and student aid and philanthopy etc, and their present resources are based on decades, sometimes centuries of major public investment.

    In STEM research, the connection between grant funding and work may be relatively clear, as the grant may be explicity paying the expenses of a lab, the compensation of its workers (contract, as well as faculty though research soft-funded positions typical in U.S. science), and a percentage for general university overhead; and the effective work is largely done in those facilities. In HSS, it’s a quite different picture, as the resources going into the scholars work may be little or not funded by grant, draw from library and event etc resources funded in completely separate ways, and the scholar might do some or all the work on their own time, in their own home or while strolling in the Berkeley hills summoning the Muses. These are some reasons that “work for hire,” or schoarship being the “‘property of the funders” is problematic in general and particularly in HSS. Also, neoliberalism.

    —-
    Tim McCormick
    @tmccormick tjm.org Palo Alto, CA, USA

    • Mike Taylor says:

      I do agree there’s a risk that, by overplaying the “publicly funded means it should be accessible to the public” card, we’re in danger of obscuring the more fundamental reasons for open access. Namely, that knowledge is a non-rivalrous good, which can be freely shared to the benefit of all and detriment of none, and that to lock is is simply nonsensical.

      The public funding argument is important; but it’s a strategy, not a foundation.

      That said …

      “c) Outside of STEM fields, many scholars’ work is minimally or not at all directly funded by public or foundation grants. Therefore in e.g. the humanities, on which I focused for example with the Open Library of Humanities project, the argument for Open Access from public funding leads many scholars to feel and argue that it doesn’t apply to them.”

      I hear this a lot, and I’m not sure I understand it. Who pays HSS scholars’ salaries? Are they not largely funded from taxes?

  8. Mr. Gunn says:

    I get why a humanities scholar wouldn’t want CC-BY. The form of the work is important in the humanities, whereas science publications aren’t intended to be beautiful, inspiring prose. That said, sciences are ahead in demanding OA, and have invested a shit-ton of effort over many years to get consensus within the sciences about what open access means. This investment must not be wasted, because scientists face very strong pressure to roll back and weaken this definition. It’s hard won, hence the insistence on the specific meaning. However, nothing prevents HSS from pushing forward with a public access movement, defined as and how meets their needs.

    • Mike Taylor says:

      “The form of the work is important in the humanities, whereas science publications aren’t intended to be beautiful, inspiring prose.”

      Mine are.

      (Whether they succeed or not is, of course, open to question. But that’s the goal.)

    • William Gunn wrote:
      > sciences are ahead in demanding OA, and have invested a
      > shit-ton of effort over many years to get consensus within
      > the sciences about what open access means

      Perhaps there’s a unified “sciences” in full agreement about a definition, but in any case, as a practical matter, I think this horse has pretty much fled the barn.

      “Open access” is pervasively used in broader and multiple ways, by everyone from the UK government‘s RCUK, to the Wikipedia article, to publishers, to the original 1994 “Subversive Proposal” author Stevan Harnad to #OA Godfather Peter Suber‘s “Open Access” book.

      There are certainly determined factions holding to the strict CC-BY position, for example around Public Library of Science, the latter-day Creative Commons, and the Open Knowledge Foundation’s somehow-unironic “Open Definition” project. But they’re simply not everybody.

      From a philosophical point of view, it’s difficult to argue that one movement or organization or coalition should be able to tell everyone else how/whether to use terms that are in long, common, and multiple use. (Unless trademark protection were obtained, as for example the Open Source Initiative attempted to do with “open source,” and which is not feasible now for “open access”). It’s also not, you know, particularly ‘open’.

      From a tactical and political viewpoint, I do appreciate that there are long, hard-fought, possibly dirty wars going on, that there is no circle in hell deep enough for the cynical or deluded, totally unscrupulous and shameless defenders of the old order, and that the troops on the front line don’t need any conceptual slippage tripping up the path to victory. However, in reality the battle can be and probably has to be drawn on the actual matter, e.g. on the RCUK’s license requirements, not by fighting on the plane of language politics and taking everyone else out as collateral damage.

      Finally, in the long view, in what I might modestly call, the interest of making the long arc of the universe bend toward justice I would suggest it’s actually good for science, and others, to have “open access” remain somewhat open; an ideal that gathers together around shared deep principle, not merely one faction’s specific definition and policy goal.

      To make an analogy I’ve discussed with Mr Gunn before, one warm Palo Alto night as we watched the flames flicker down around the charred vehicle wreckage of our latest death-match out on Highway 101, consider the concept of “civil rights“:

      In the U.S. “civil rights” has evolved from in the late 1950s meaning racial (primarily African-American) non-discrimination, to including gender and religion, later to sexual orientation, veteran status, disabilities, and other conditions. At each point, these expansions were controversial, and sometimes done as tactics to derail reform, as with the addition of gender protection late in the negotiation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by a major CRA opponent. At every step, a core and perhaps earlier advocacy group could and often did say, “civil rights are X! not your Y issue! that’s separate! Get your own term/bill/organization/bureau! This is going to mess things up, this negotiation/policy matter is delicate, we’ve been fighting for it!”

      But the original, racial-justice advocates didn’t get to own and control the use of “civil rights.” Because the term was in existing, wide, and various use, inspiring many related publics around essential principles. The core, transcendent principles of justice and equal rights are what found the silent majority, and eventually persuaded the nation to support this progression of human rights, and arguably continues to today.

      Likewise, I’d argue it’s better for science, and Open Government, and the CC-BY wing, etc., to articulate and align around principles which are greater than themselves: than their own specific policy goals. Which therefore can’t be entirely owned or defined by them, and which join them to allies with related but not identical value and interests; join them to larger concerns such as, I would nominate: public scholarship, equal access to patent & invention knowledge, equality of educational and and conceptual and technological access — universal and effective knowledge. This is the larger picture, the larger coalition on the longer arc; and why, I think, we’re ultimately here.


      Tim McCormick
      @tmccormick tjm.org Palo Alto, CA, USA

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  10. Further replies to Stephen Curry and Jan Velterop

    Stephen Curry wrote:
    > To my mind there isn’t really a contradiction between preserving IP
    > and making the scientific literature OA. I agree with you that there
    > is apparent separation of value here that doesn’t happen in HSS but
    > the vast majority of scientists never produce patents and I suspect
    > only a minority of those who do ever make any money out of it.

    I see patent & licensing as quite a large force, especially at U.S. universities since the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act allowing universities and business to retain IP rights derived from publicly funded research. This is a major aspect of universities around me, for example at Stanford, UC, and UCSF. It may often be aspirational, with many universities hoping for the type of payoff that doesn’t actually happen very often; but this hope can still be powerful in shaping policies and administration. As with the venture capital system, the chance of occasional huge payoff incents investment across a large number of high-risk ventures / research projects. So even if few researchers produce a hit, their funding may reflect a sort of broad investment bet.

    As to the scale, in 2011, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, university patent licensing produced $1.8 Billion in the U.S. Compare that to total RCUK funding of around $4.5B/yr. This is revenue directly to the universities; in many cases, researchers or spinoff enterprises or investors close to the university may have received large gains also, possibly in total much larger than the universities’ licensing revenue, and this can feed back into university policies and fundraising, particularly through tax-preferred charitable stock donations.

    Furthermore, research-derived patents may often drive the valuation of startup ventures from which universities make large gains through direct equity holdings. Stanford and many of its faculty have realized huge gains from equity in university-incubated companies; such as “Professor Billionaire” David Cheriton, 1st backer of Google, and Stanford President John Hennessey.

    As one measure of the larger economic context, consider that university-based basic research is a key early-stage driver for pharmaceutical industry, and the global revenues of this industry are over $900B/yr.

    > How many HSS scholars currently make serious income from selling
    > their published work? I’m not sure the differences are as strong as
    > you suggest.

    Perhaps not that many, but I hear university presses report that an aspiration to so is pervasive among their book authors — at the outset of projects at least. As in many areas, people may strongly support possibilities which have only a small actual chance of benefitting them, as with Americans supporting large exclusions from or complete repeal of estate-tax for millionaires.

    Further, we might ask, given present and emerging conditions — such as academic labor casualization, long-term grad-student poverty (10+ yrs media completion time for US humanities PhDs), MOOCs, new publishing models, and declining government funding for higher education in the U.S. & U.K. — perhaps it would make sense for scholar to have more means of direct compensation for work.

    This leads into the next question:

    > I’m not sure who you mean by ‘adjunct, economically marginal
    > workers’? To tackle the following point, scholars outside RCUK
    > funding mechanisms are not bound by their open access policy so
    > are free to publish as they do now. However, some might attain a
    > greater readership if the development of OA introduces low-cost
    > OA journals into the marking.

    76% of US higher-ed faculty are contingent, meaning paid by the course and typically with no long-term contract or benefits. Surveyed median pay is $2,700 per course, which translates to near-poverty-level pay for full-time work in much of the U.S. (New York Times article).

    I believe that the assumption of scholars being institutionally supported, thus having no need to get direct compensation for work, needs to be seriously reexamined in light of the present realities of scholarly labor.

    STEM research is comparatively well funded, and its practitioners often have well-paying non-academic work options, so researchers in these fields have been comparatively insulated. But even many science graduate students and researchers share in the harsh reality of many fields: pervasive economic precarity, even poverty, and huge impacts on lifelong earning from lengthy, often ultimately fruitless years of graduate study and fellowships or adjunct positions in pursuit of a permanent faculty job.

    From that standpoint, we might think more about, say, how to create mass, frictionless microcompensation for scholarly work, rather than seeking mass frictionless and free sharing — as many Web visionaries such as Ted Nelson and Jaron Lanier have advocated. I don’t believe it’s sufficiently context-aware or long-term thinking to just advocate “open” exchange of work, without considering the reality for large portions of scholars and creators, the economic opportunity to even produce that work is increasingly closed.


    Tim McCormick
    @tmccormick tjm.org Palo Alto, CA, USA

    • Universities often do have aspirations to generate lots of IP, but that’s really orthogonal to the issue of open access, or of licensing publications in general. If publishing a paper under a CC-BY license prevented you from patenting related work, universities would be a lot less supportive of open access than they are. In fact, you’re only losing the ability to patent an invention if you make disclosure of the invention, which is a wholly different thing in many cases than a scientific discovery. Treating disease Y with an inhibitor of enzyme X is way different than learning that enzyme X is involved in a defective pathway in disease Y.

      This all might be obvious to everyone, but just to make it clear, publishing open access, and choosing a CC-BY license, is a quite separate thing from having a stake in intellectual property.

    • Stephen says:

      Tim – struggling to keep up with the flow of debate here but there seem to me to be some questionable statements in you comment.

      On scale, it doesn’t help to compare US patent income ($1.8bn) with just one component of the budgets allocated to universities in the UK (£4.6bn – not dollars). What does that mean? Surely better to compare US with US and UK with UK for both measures. Also would not the $1.8bn in value from patents include the added value of enhanced share prices of startups associated with those patents?

      University based research is important to the pharmaceutical industry but we really need to put a number on it rather than floating the total market value of $900bn.

      So for now I will stick with the view that patent income isn’t a powerful driver for most STEM academics.

      The contention that STEP “practitioners often have well-paying non-academic work options” is highly dubious (to my mind at least).

      Given the small scale of HSS monograph sales (averaging about 200 now, I gather), they aren’t likely to generate a viable income stream for academics.

      There are of course significant cultural differences between universities in the UK and the US which no doubt colour the debate on how academics are supported (faculty in UK universities do not have to generate any part of their salary from grants – though their long-term career security is linked to grant income). I think we need to tease these apart more carefully to see exactly the various pressures that scholars in different countries are under and how that affects their approach to OA.

  11. > Universities often do have aspirations to generate lots of IP,
    > but that’s really orthogonal to the issue of open access, or
    > of licensing publications in general.

    Yes, in a typical conception of open access, patent IP is entirely separated from licensing of publications. My question is, why? and how might it create a different and unequal economic context for different types of scholars?

    If a university, and public funding, is supposed to be generating public goods and open knowledge, why would it not be expected to do so in the case of knowledge of invention, i.e. patentable IP? In fact this is the case elsewhere in the world, and was in the U.S. before 1980.

    The effect of this is that one class of scholars is expected to give away all of its IP, and another class (mainly STEM researchers) are allowed to retain a valuable portion of it, which helps to create very different economic context around those fields, and compensation opportunity for its scholars. If, as you point out, universities/researchers couldn’t retain patent IP if work published by open access, then they’d support it less — or in other words, their economic relationship with and treatment of all classes of scholars would be more equalized, and decisions might be made more fully on scholarly and public-interest grounds rather than commercial.

    > publishing open access, and choosing a CC-BY license, is a
    > quite separate thing from having a stake in intellectual property.

    if by “having a stake” you mean, retaining ownership of patentable IP right, this is true. The questions is, why does that makes sense? in terms of a philosophy/ethics of “open knowledge” or of articulating a scholarly communication system and policies that makes sense for all scholarly fields?

    There are many generators of value/revenue for universities, other than patent IP, for which partial compensation could be given to scholars most responsible for them. For example, as Michael Bérubé observes in “The Utility of the Arts and Humanities,” 2003, student experience and teaching quality is often higher in the Arts & Humanities than in the sciences; so AHSS scholars and teachers are presumably helping to drive tuition revenues, applications and graduation rate and alumni giving/satisfaction (all of which drive rankings). Why not allow these scholars to share in this value generation, as STEM researchers do in the commercialization of patentable IP right?

    The point is, defining ‘open’ and ‘open access’ in one way, and maintaining the construction that all copyright IP should be given away, but patent IP retained, doesn’t make sense across all fields of scholarship, or necessarily even make sense for a university’s public mission. What is really is, primarily and as you’ve noted yourself, is how science disciplines usually work, and wish to define the concepts. But that in itself is no basis for policy.

    • I think you’re getting around to the heart of the issue, which is that in the sciences, it’s not the publications themselves that are valuable, but the tangible inventions which are derived from them. Hence the main argument for open access in the sciences: it promotes innovation and development of valuable tangible things.

      In the humanities, the valuable thing is publication itself, so I totally get why some might not want to go CC-BY with everything and I see why you think this is unfair. You could still make the argument for public access in the humanities by saying that the work has more impact if it’s accessible to more people (and can thus improve student experience, teaching quality, etc).

      Hence my suggestion that since Open Access has already become inseparably associated with CC-BY licensed journal articles, why not prevent confusing and alarming humanities scholars and call for public access instead, which isn’t already so tightly associated with CC-BY?

    • Stephen says:

      Tim – your link to Bérubé’s paper doesn’t work. Did you mean this one? If so, I’m afraid I can only see the abstract, which doesn’t mention any differential in ‘experience and teaching quality’ between disciplines.

      I would contest that assertion (particularly since I devote a lot of time to teaching science at Imperial – and encouraging others to do so!). The rigour with which the effect has been determined and the magnitude of any difference of course need to be assessed for your argument to carry force.

      • > link to Bérubé’s paper doesn’t work.

        Michael Bérubé, “The Utility of the Arts and Humanities.”
        http://bit.ly/15gKQad

        On patent IP revenue:

        it doesn’t make sense to compare US patent income ($1.8bn) with just one component of the budgets allocated to universities in the UK (£4.6bn — not dollars). What does that mean? Surely better to compare US with US and UK with UK for both measures.

        yes, if I had those figures in hand, I would. My grant funding to do this work is running a bit low, you might say… I didn’t draw a specific quantitative connection between them or to global pharmaceutical industry revenues, just provided to give some ballpark sense of scale for a reader who might have no idea what funding levels or pharma industry size are like.

        Also would not the $1.8bn in value from patents include the added value of enhanced share prices of startups associated with those patents?

        No, thus my point that, all told, the gains to US universities from patent IP derived from publicly-funded research are probably much greater than $1.8bn a year.

        patent income isn’t a powerful driver for most STEM academics.

        I’d argue it can be powerful indirect driver, in that an investment/funding of a large number of labs/projects may happen due to the prospect of rare but large payoffs. Likewise, IPOs are rare, but the possible huge gains from them help to drive investment in 1000s of startups.

        The contention that STEM “practitioners often have well-paying non-academic work options” is highly dubious (to my mind at least).

        Perhaps not so much when established, geographically settled, or especially specialized; but my direct observation and what I read about (e.g. around US immigration reforms to favor STEM advanced-degree holders) is that there is high demand for STEM-trained people. Around me in Silicon Valley, I constantly meet or hear of people who’ve come from STEM academia into high-paying work as researchers, software developers, entrepreneurs, & executives.

        Given the small scale of HSS monograph sales (averaging about 200 now, I gather), they aren’t likely to generate a viable income stream for academics.

        yes, HSS monographs is almost a collapsed market currently. However, I’d suggest that given how difficult are funding/career prospects for many HSS scholars, it might make sense to look at expanding opportunities to be directly compensated for work, rather than sticking to the assumption that scholars are otherwise supported and can/wish to freely disseminate scholarship.

        We’ve seen a fairly rapid erosion of state/public commitment to university funding in both the US and UK, which particularly impacts HSS. Uncompensated dissemination of scholarship might be seen as one half of a social contract whose other half is pretty well now broken.

        So for example, HSS scholars might receive compensation or license revenues for contributing to government publications, via new book publishing models like OpenEdition freemium, through commercial access providers like DeepDyve, or even by sharing license revs/profits from MOOC course content to which they contribute.

  12. > since Open Access has already become inseparably
    > associated with CC-BY licensed journal articles, why
    > not prevent confusing and alarming humanities scholars
    > and call for public access instead

    I responded to that above, 09 July 10:09am comment

    To recap:
    1) “Open Access” isn’t “inseparably associated with CC-BY journal articles,” outside the minds of some, mostly science-based OA advocates.
    2) what you suggest would be essentially one faction of a large, diverse movement controlling the language and long-publicized “brand” for its own, narrow and short-term aims, which is not in anyone else’s interests or, I’d argue, even its own.

    Also, “confusing and alarming humanities scholars”: really?

  13. Tim, the humanities are just late to the game with public access. Essentially ALL the advocacy and work for public access to this point has been done by scientists and mathematicians, and they’ve got a very firm and well-aged definition of the term Open Access. BOAI was a LONG time ago. I think it’s great you’re pushing for greater public access in the humanities, but it’s just a bit futile to try to redefine open access this late in the game.

    It does alarm many humanities scholars when they hear that they may be required to publish their work under CC-BY. Just look at the last few humanities-written articles in the Guardian on the topic. They’re confused and alarmed. So, to prevent such, I recommend picking a label for the public access movement in the humanities that won’t make them think they’re going to be compelled to release their work under CC-BY. Everyone who is pushing for greater public access in the humanities will have an easier time of it if you avoid the science-loaded term.

    • Mike Taylor says:

      It does alarm many humanities scholars when they hear that they may be required to publish their work under CC-BY. Just look at the last few humanities-written articles in the Guardian on the topic. They’re confused and alarmed.

      Let’s not forget that most of these humanities scholars are in the habit of giving away the copyright of their articles to the publishers of the journals that they appear in. (It was notable that many of the journals who editors joined to write the infamous “we won’t comply with RCUK’s OA policy” letter have a mandatory copyright-transfer policy.)

      So much of the alarm in HSS (not all of it, but much of it) is just fear of the new, not based on any actual analysis of what’s happening.

  14. It’s puzzling that we could both have been engaged in this topic for so long, and have such completely different perceptions of it. We all inhabit different universes of reference and experience, natch; recognizing this, I do, at least, constantly try to give concrete examples and citations for what I claim. Because what can one do, really, with “the humanities are just late to the game with public access”? Are NOT!

    > the humanities are just late to the game with public access.
    > Essentially ALL the advocacy and work for public access to
    > this point has been done by scientists and mathematicians,

    ok, to repeat and expand upon the concrete counter-evidence I gave above:

    Stevan Harnad, psychologist, wrote the “Subversive Proposal” of 1994, was primary organizer of the BOAI (Budapest Open Access Initiative), and has long been the 1st or 2nd most active OA advocates. Explicitly and at length and with explanations does *not* follow your definition of OA.

    Peter Suber, philosophy scholar: the other contender for top longtime OA advocate: BOAI signatory, author of by far the most cited definitional and explanatory writings about OA, other than perhaps..

    Wikipedia, where many people have had many years to fight this one out, and which certainly doesn’t give a CC-BY or BOAI-specific definition. Probably nine out of ten people in the world at large who decide to look up what is this term “open access” are going to land there and read that explanation, for what it’s worth.

    Then consider how the UK government (Finch Report, RCUK, HECFE, AHRC, etc) uses the term, the NIH usually, ROAR and any of the 100s of orgs globally whose policies it lists, virtually all scholarly publishers, or almost any other sampling or authorities one might suggest.

    There have also been many humanities open-access projects and publications around since well before BOAI: some better-known examples are Surfaces, Postmodern Culture, and Culture Machine, all launched in the early to mid-90s. Rice University Press relaunched as an open-access humanities press in 2006. Open Humanities Press was founded in 2008. These projects generally don’t follow, and often predated, the BOAI declaration or CC-BY license, but all along have been generally aligned with and using the terminology of the open-access movement.

    I don’t doubt that these may not have loomed large on your radar in all this time; but absence from your radar is not at all the same thing as absent from existence, or even from wide influence in their fields.

    But going further back, we might credit Gandhi‘s “No rights reserved” pledge on his writings, and certainly should credit Richard Stallman, not a scientist or mathematician and certainly not a lawyer, for in the 1980s coming up with the “copyleft” concept which underlies all open-source and open-access licensing. That leads us to Creative Commons, whose key founder and theorist Lawrence Lessig is a legal scholar, in no way a scientist or mathematician; and one of whose other two co-founders is Eric Eldred, a literary publisher.

    Then there’s Aaron Swartz, early Creative Commons contributor/coder, later major open-culture advocate, worked on Open Library and freeing government data; neither trained in nor working as a scientist or mathematician, nor mostly interested in scientific literature. It’s through Aaron and his legal battles / death that tens or hundred of millions of people even know anything about this issue, and let’s recall the case concerned his bulk downloading of *JSTOR*, a largely humanities and social sciences journal/book collection.

    I think it’s great you’re committed to the cause, but at least pay some respect to science and present some evidence to support the claim, that there is a settled definition of open access, any kind of global consensus.

    > humanities scholars…They’re confused and alarmed.

    ok, I guess you weren’t joking with that. This leads to an observation about advocacy and scholarly community, which I’ll quote from a comment above:

    to consistently dismiss alternate arguments without really engaging them.. [or] villify & trivialize HSS-based views on OA… goes a long ways in demonstrating to humanists that Open Access is too important a matter to be left to scientists and their often narrow, domain-specific understanding of the issues.

    Or in contrast to this characterization of humanities scholars as “confused and alarmed,” I might cite Cameron Neylon‘s tweet from today: “the philosophical roots of most key points [in Open Access] came largely from humanists & social scientists? eg original BOAI signers.”

    If I may, let’s consider where my observations are coming from: thousands of interactions and conversations over many years of study and work in humanities-oriented contexts, while also working for a lot of years with STEM-background or -professional people, such as for Eric Hellman for seven years. Consider that you recently remarked you’ve so often seen me at science-related events, or discussed science communication matters with me, that you’d forgotten that it isn’t my early background by training or profession. I imagine that many of the humanities people I talk to might, likewise, say they’d no idea I had any particular involvement with science publishing and communication.

    The point is, I’ve been looking at this as a many-faceted manner for a long time, and trying to engagedly and sympathetically consider the ways many different parties come to this topic, what seem to be their conceptions and concerns. From my point of view, what we have here is something like, as George Bernard Shaw described Britain and America, “two countries separated by a common language. That is, rather close, in the big picture, but constantly at odds and confusion over comparatively small incongruities. Can’t we admit that we more or less speak English, or open access, and get on with the free trade or whatever it is we’re here for?


    Tim McCormick
    @tmccormick tjm.org Palo Alto

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  16. Mr. Gunn says:

    Tim, of course I recognize that Harnad and Suber weren’t scientists. That makes it all the more poignant to note that the first major policy mandate came from the NIH, not the NEH. There’s no Arxiv or Pubmed for the humanities, and only now is the DPLA and Europeana taking shape. Keep fighting the good fight. I’m only making suggestions that could ease your way.

  17. M. Baec says:

    CC licences has not been ported yet in developing countries : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Creative_Commons_Intl_Map.svg

    This debate (must “true OA” be CC-licenced or not?) is very centered on western countries. Not to say english-speaking ones.

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