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Chapter 3: Open access as solution to the enclosure of knowledge

What is open access?

Open access is an elegantly simple concept. As expressed by Suber (2010, n.p.), in his Open Access Overview: “Open access literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions”.

Like many an elegantly simple concept, there is much more to open access than this. There are sub-concepts within the overall concept. It can be difficult to separate open access from related and often overlapping movements and trends. Examples of such overlapping trends are open source, free software, open data, open education, open research, creative commons, and open government. Then there is the influence of a powerful and wealthy anti-open access publishers’ lobby. To fully understand open access discussions it is essential to know something about this group and their tactics, which sometimes includes deliberate deception. One example as reported by Giles (2007) in Nature, is the Association of American Publishers’ hiring of Eric Dezenhall, known as the ‘Pit Bull of Public Relations’. Giles reported that, according to e-mails leaked to him, several executives from Elsevier, Wiley, and the American Chemical Society, met with Dezenhall, who subsequently sent some strategy suggestions, to focus on simple messages such as “public access equals censorship”, and “attempt to equate traditional publishing models with peer review”. Late in 2011, Bill HR 3699, the Research Works Act, was introduced in the United States by Representatives Issa and Maloney (2011). This bill would roll back many of the important gains made by the open access movement, and prohibit the U.S. government from requiring open or public access to the published results of research that it funds. Links to extensive commentary and counter-advocacy can be found through the Open Access Tracking Project (2012). Bias can and does occur in any area of scholarly inquiry. When assessing open access arguments, it is useful to keep in mind the above average profits that some arguments are designed to protect.

The initial focus of the open access movement, and its associated definitions, was the scholarly, peer-reviewed journal article. The reason for this focus is that the peer reviewed journal article has traditionally been given away by scholars, avoiding the complexities of royalties associated with scholarly monographs. A movement for open access to scholarly monographs has more recently emerged.

Budapest, Berlin & Bethesda: the BBB definition of open access

From 2002-2003, a series of international meetings were held in three cities with names that happened to begin with “B”. The purpose of these meetings was to bring together like-minded individuals and organizations with a common desire to make scholarship freely available online, and hammer out a common term and definitions. The Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002), the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities (2003), and the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing (2003), all include very similar definitions of open access, so that collectively this is referred to as the BBB definition of open access. There is more to the Budapest, Berlin, and Bethesda (BBB) statements than defining open access; each statement includes strategies for, and commitment to, implementing open access. Following is the first and most succinct of the definitions of open access, from the Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002):

By “open access” to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public Internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the Internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.

The only element considered missing from Budapest is immediate open access, addressed in the subsequent Bethesda statement. When publishers make back issues freely available, they are expanding access, but this is not full open access. To avoid confusion, it is best to refer to this approach as free access to back issues.

There are two basic ways of providing open access. Publishers can make a work open access as part of the process of publishing. This is sometimes called open access journals, open access monographs, or gold open access. Or, a work can be placed in an archive or repository in order to provide open access; this is sometimes called self-archiving or green open access. These two approaches are compatible. An article can be published in an open access journal, and also deposited in an open access archive.

Two kinds of open access: gratis (free to read) and libre (free to re-use)

There are two key aspects of free in the major definitions of open access, and there are two corresponding sub-definitions of open access, reflecting this distinction. Suber (2008b) coordinated the discussion that led to the distinction between gratis and libre open access.

  • gratis open access: free to read / free of charge
  •  libre open access: free to read / free of charge, and free of at least some copyright and licensing restrictions / free for re-use

In practice, there are many variations on these themes. There are items that are free to read online, but not to download or print. There are documents that are free to read, print, or distribute, as long as the usage is not commercial in nature. Derivatives are allowed with some open access works, but not others. This distinction is important. Scholarly communication is in transition. The majority of scholarly journals, whether subscriptions-based or open access, are neither fully closed nor fully open. Most subscription-based journals allow authors to self-archive, and many provide free access to back issues. Open access journals range from just gratis, to fully libre, with many shades in between. Open access can be seen as a continuum. Willinsky (2006) covers the many flavors of open access in The Access Principle. Libre open access may be optimal, but it is much better to have a work that is free to read than one with a toll to access that you cannot afford to pay.

The global reach and benefits of open access
Figure 1: number of journals in DOAJ by region 2012

Figure 1 illustrates the global reach of open access journal publishing. Of the 117 journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals as of January 2012, 40% are from Europe, 23% from North America, 16% from South America, 14% from Asia, 3% from Africa, and 4% from other areas such as the Caribbean and Central America. A detailed breakdown of DOAJ journals by region and country can be found in the Appendix A, Open access journals by country and region.

Figure 2. Open access repositories by continent (OpenDOAR)

Source: OpenDOAR (2012). Repositories by continent.

Figure 2 illustrates that the global division of open access repositories by continent is very similar to that of open access journals. The largest portion of repositories are found in Europe, followed by North America. Asia is the third largest source of repositories, followed by South America, reversing the third and fourth positions for journals.

Some of the global benefits of open access are covered by the section of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002) quoted at the very beginning of this thesis, repeated here with emphasis added:

An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good. The old tradition is the willingness of scientists and scholars to publish the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment, for the sake of inquiry and knowledge. The new technology is the Internet. The public good they make possible is the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds. Removing access barriers to this literature will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge.

A study by Kirsop et al. (2007) illustrates the difference open access makes for the developing world. Bioline International is an organization dedicated to helping scholarly publishers in the developing world publish high-quality journals in the electronic environment. Downloads from about 60 Bioline International open access journals reached 2.5 million in 2006. On a per-usage basis, this is much greater usage than that reported for the publisher-mediated program HINARI, which provides limited access to developing countries for the subscription journals of the developed world on a charitable basis. The 2006 article downloads for HINARI was about 3 million for about 3,000 journals. Without open access or charitable programs, both of which aim to increase access without the exchange of fees, access to the scholarly literature in most developing countries would be virtually nil. Charity programs like HINARI are a significant improvement over no access to the scholarly literature. However, open access facilitates a model of equity in which everyone has access to all of the scholarly literature, and the ability to contribute.

Open access and Creative Commons

The vision of Creative Commons (CC) is “nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity”. (Creative Commons, 2011). It is somewhat ironic that the vision of an organization generally assumed to advance free culture as defined by Lessig (2004) reads rather like a capitalist’s dream. Why not drive a new era of sharing and collaboration, arguably a primary function of CC licensing, rather than development, growth, and productivity?

Founded in 2001, the goal of Creative Commons is to overcome the barriers created by traditional copyright to the kinds of sharing of Information made possible by the Internet. CC provides an easy means for authors and other creators to license works for sharing in a way that is easy to read and comes in forms designed for human reading (both text and icons), machine reading (e.g. one can do a flickr search and limit results to CC licensed materials), and legal code.

Figure 3. Creative Commons licenses (see CC site for original)

This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.

This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

We also provide tools that work in the “all rights granted” space of the public domain. Our CC0 tool allows licensors to waive all rights and place a work in the public domain, and our Public Domain Mark allows any web user to “mark” a work as being in the public domain.

From: Creative Commons (2011) http://creativecommons.org/licenses/CC-BY

There is much overlap between Creative Commons and open access. Some open access advocates consider the CC attribution only or CC-BY license to be equal to the Budapest definition of open access. That is, the work must be appropriately cited attributed, but otherwise all other uses, including commercial uses, are allowed. For example, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Research Coalition (SPARC) Europe and the Directory of Open Access Journals (2011) require the CC-BY license for a journal to be given the SPARC Europe Seal for Open Access Journals.

My perspective is that while on the surface the CC-BY license reflects the Budapest open access definition, there are substantial weaknesses of the license that make it less than optimal for sustaining the vision of what open access is meant to achieve, such as the “sharing of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich”. I argue that the strongest open access license is CC attribution-noncommercial-sharealike (CC-BY-NC-SA). The noncommercial element, while problematic within the context of the present version of CC licenses, can protect works from commercial exploitation, and the sharealike provision introduces an element of copyright, ensuring more open access downstream.

Here are two hypothetical examples of why I consider a CC license including the sharealike element to be a stronger open access license than one lacking this element. The CC-BY license would permit the development of new tools using data mining built on top of the original open access works. These tools could be developed on a commercial basis, and locked behind a paywall. An author who gave away their work as CC-BY might not be able to afford the commercial tool developed from this giveaway. If journals and/or scholars in the developing world were to adopt this license en masse, it is quite possible that scholars in the developing world would trade off one small advance by making their work more openly accessible, but very quickly find that, relatively speaking, they are even further behind as scholars in the developed world have access to tools built on their work not available to them. Similarly, scholars in the developing world giving away medical images could find that these images become part of a for-pay commercial point-of-care tool which is not affordable in their home country. Sharealike would address the problem identified in both these situations, as the tools created from the authors’ works would have to be made freely available.

One critique of the hypothetical approach that I am using with these two examples is its hypothetical nature, and lack of real world evidence. One of my key points is that there are potential dangers with adoption of CC-BY en masse. This is largely a future rather than a present vulnerability of open access with mass adoption of CC-BY. If all of the journals listed in DOAJ used CC-BY licenses, this would increase the feasibility of using these journals as tools to create commercial options. However, most journals in DOAJ currently do not use CC licenses at all. Suber and Sutton (2011) found that only 15% of the scholarly society journals listed in DOAJ used CC licenses, compared with 24% of DOAJ overall in an earlier study by Shieber that they cite; of these, many use licenses other than CC-BY. It is a much more difficult task to determine rights in this situation than would be the case if all the journals used CC-BY licenses.

The sharealike provision would tend to prevent this situation from occurring, by clearly stating to potential users that enclosure of downstream copies is not acceptable, and by providing a legal remedy should this situation occur. Tools built on open access CC-BY-SA would also have to be freely shared.
There are also reasons for supporting the CC noncommercial element. CC-BY allows a commercial company to copy works and sell them. They cannot legally remove the open access originals, but they have no obligation to ensure that they remain available. Journals start and stop all the time, as the need for a particular journal changes, the editor moves on to other interests. If the open access copy of a journal disappears, and there is a commercial version, it is possible that the only way to access some open access journals in future will be by purchasing commercial versions. With widespread adoption of CC-BY, commercial capture for resale purposes would be much more tempting, and it is possible that the commercial interests would take steps to eliminate the free competition.

One conundrum with any CC license that involves restrictions is determining who is retaining rights: in the case of a scholarly journal article, is it the author or the journal that is retaining rights? The copyright notice of the Co-Action Publishing’s open access Journal of Aesthetics & Culture (2011) provides one of the clearer examples, saying:

Authors contributing to Journal of Aesthetics & Culture agree to publish their articles under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported license, allowing third parties to share their work (copy, distribute, transmit) and to adapt it, under the condition that the authors are given credit, that the work is not used for commercial purposes, and that in the event of reuse or distribution, the terms of this license are made clear.

Authors retain copyright of their work, with first publication rights granted to Co-Action Publishing. However, authors are required to transfer copyrights associated with commercial use to the Publisher. Revenues from commercial sales are used to keep down the publication fees. Moreover, a major portion of the profits generated from commercial sales is placed in a fund to cover publication fees for researchers from developing nations and, in some cases, for young researchers.

In the case of the Journal of Aesthetics and Culture, while CC licensing is used, it is clear that both author and journal retain certain rights. In the journal’s Editorial Policies there is mention of commercial reprints and advertising. This indicates what the journal is retaining commercial rights. However, this must be inferred, and is not part of the license. A future editor (or journal owner) could change practices with respect to commercial rights.

Cellular Therapy and Transplantation (CTT) practices what I consider to be the optimal policy for an open access journal for CC licensing, requiring authors to use a CC license, but leaving copyright with the authors and allowing the author to select the CC license of their choice from among the full set of CC license options. (Thanks to CTT’s Claudia Klotenzberg for pointing to this example)(1) .

The policy of encouraging authors to choose their own CC license is one that fits best with a vision that I have of a project of involving as many of us around the planet, for years to come, in a conversation on articulating the commons (Morrison, 2011a). The reason that I believe that this project is necessary and desirable is because the western / developed world approach to intellectual property is part of a very limited world-view. We would all be better off broadening the conversation to include non-western perspectives, such as the world views of indigeneous peoples whose wisdom included the knowledge of how to live harmoniously with the ecosystem, rather than destroying it as western society tends to do. One example of a traditional world-view, from Charles Royal on Maori creation myth, as quoted in Greg Young-Ing [2006]:

“The natural world is not so much the repository of wisdom but rather is
wisdom itself, flowing with purpose and design. We can say that the natural
world is a mind to which all minds find their origin, their teacher and proper
model. Indigenous knowledge is the fruit of this cosmic stream, arising
organically when the world itself breathes through and inspires human cultural
manifestation… Leading from this view of the world being alive, conscious
and wisdom filled is the obvious conclusion that all that we need to know, all
that there is to know and all that we should know already exists in the world,
daily birthed in the great cycle of life. That is, human cultural production is a
natural organic expression arising from the contours, shapes and colours of the
environments in which we dwell”.

A global broadening of the conversation around the commons and “intellectual property” is a major undertaking which is likely to take decades; inviting authors to think about their rights, even through such simple matters as making a decision about a Creative Commons license, is a small step towards encouraging this broader conversation.

One reason for journals to consider the noncommercial CC license element is that all journals need resources to survive. Reserving commercial rights gives open access journals an opportunity to negotiate for revenue. For example, a commercial company might wish to include an open access journal in an aggregated package of journals. It is customary for such companies to pay subscription based journals to include their content in the package, and this could be a needed source of revenue for open access journals as well. An open access journals ecosystem that includes opportunities to financially sustain journals is, in my opinion, a stronger ecosystem that one that gives up all such rights through CC-BY licensing.

One negative to the CC noncommercial element is that there is a wide variety of possible interpretations of what constitutes commercial use. For example, if someone finds an open access article through a commercial search engine like google, does this constitute commercial use? One important instance is educational use. Whether educational use is commercial or not is debatable, and contested. Creative Commons (2009) published a study toward clarification of what creators and users consider noncommercial use. As of early 2012, Creative Commons is holding discussions to develop Version 4.0 of the licenses. Hopefully, this next version will result in a more workable definition of the noncommercial element.
Some open access journals use the CC noderivatives element. This is consistent with gratis but not libre open access.

Open access and Creative Commons have much in common, but open access does not map precisely to any one Creative Commons definition. Nevertheless, while CC is an imperfect tool, it is the best one available or likely to be available in the near future to facilitate communication between creators and end-users about what permissions are available with an open access work.

Open access archives (green OA)

There are more than two thousands open access archives listed in the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR), a service which “provides a quality-assured listing of open access repositories around the world” (OpenDOAR, 2011). OpenDOAR is adding repositories at a rate of about one per day. This figure comes from my Dramatic Growth of Open Access series (Morrison, 2004 – ), as do other figures in this chapter unless otherwise specified. The methodology for this series, links to ongoing data series and commentary, can be found in Appendix B.

The Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE) is a search engine designed to cross-search open access repositories using the Open Access Initiative-Protocol for Metadata Harvesting. A BASE search currently encompasses over 30 million items, a number that is growing by about 2 million per quarter. It would be very difficult to determine exactly how many open access journal articles are covered in a BASE search, and as in some instances it is only metadata, not the actual object, that is freely available. There are many types of objects in repositories, including data and historical records as well as scholarly articles, and there is some duplication. However, it would be safe to say that there is a lot of material available through open access archives, and the amount is growing at a substantial pace.
Figure 4. BASE growth rate compared with average for scholarly publishing

This figure contrasts the actual BASE growth rate from 2009 to 2011 with what BASE growth would have looked like at the 3.5% average growth rate reported by Ware and Mabe discussed in chapter two. The 2010 growth rate for BASE was 15%, while in 2011 the growth rate was 30%. In other words, the BASE growth rate for 2011 was an order of magnitude greater than the average growth rate for scholarly publishing.
Repositories can be based at an institution, or organized by discipline. Following are a few examples which illustrate a diversity of approaches which may be conceived to reflect several different models for building a knowledge commons.

PubMedCentral (PMC), hosted by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, is the world’s largest open access repository. A search of PMC from Entrez PubMed, NLM’s free version of Medline, for free fulltext yields over 3 million items.

PMC expands access by including works that are publicly or openly accessible, but PMC does more. One of the purposes of PMC is archiving of the medical literature in electronic form. Preservation of the medical literature has long been a mandate of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. PMC carries this function into the online environment. PMC archives materials in XML format, for preservation purposes.
Another advantage of XML is that it allows PMC to facilitate linking, from Entrez PubMed to PMC and back, from one article within PMC to another, and to other U.S. National Library of Medicine resources such as the Genome database.

PMC is designed to become an international collaboration of digital archives specializing in medicine and allied health sciences. The vision is one of every country contributing the results of their own research, and hosting a local archive of the whole of PMC. So far, international PMC’s are operational in the U.K. (UKPMC) and Canada (PMC-Canada). Discussions and/or testing are in progress on the creation of more PMC archives in other countries, including China, Japan, South Africa, and Italy (PubMedCentral, 2007).

arXiv.org is an e-prints server for physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology and statistics. Launched in 1991 by Paul Ginsparg, arXiv is the world’s oldest and second-largest open access archive. The main arXiv server is hosted by Cornell University Library, with 18 mirror sites in 15 countries. Self-archiving in some areas of physics, such as high energy physics, is nearly 100%. arXiv is heavily used; connections statistics of over a million per day on the main server alone are not unusual. arXiv builds on a preprints culture in physics. arXiv e-prints are what physicists tend to read, while relying on the final published version for certification purposes.

RePEc, Research Papers in Economics, is a large collection of papers in economics, distributed in many institutional repositories. Economics is a field which shares with physics a long history of sharing of working papers prior to publication. RePEc relies on a model of international volunteer collaborators. E-LIS, the open archive for library and Information studies, follows a similar model.

There are hundreds of institutional repositories around the world, mostly in universities. The Association of Research Libraries (2006) conducted a survey which found that more than 30% of ARL libraries had an institutional repository in 2006, and it was anticipated that more than 55% would have an operational IR by the end of 2007.

Searching for the largest repositories through OpenDOAR reveals the global reach and wide variety of the institutional repository movement. The numbers can be misleading, as some archives are fully open access, while others feature a mix of freely available metadata and open access items. Dspace@Cambridge contains a variety of materials, including a substantial dataset of small molecules. The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Repository includes tens of thousands of theses, articles, papers and photos from students and faculty at the university. DSpace at Vidyanidhi, an institutional repository for the university at Mysore, contains more than 50,000 doctoral theses. The National Taiwan University Repository provides access to the research output of the university, more than 45,000 items.
SHERPA RoMEO Publisher copyright policies & self-archiving provides a summary of permissions normally provided for self-archiving in publishers’ copyright agreements. This is a useful tool for authors looking for suitable venues to publish in when they would like to make their work open access, and for authors and archives staff alike to look up publishers’ policies. A list of publishers offering paid open access as an option is available as well.

As institutional repositories are relatively new, key issues are education, promotion, content recruitment, copyright / author’s rights, and open access policy (see policy section below). There are also emerging issues with development of the technology so that it will be easy to use and attractive for users.

Occasionally, deposit of one item in multiple repositories is seen as an issue. For example, an author may wish to deposit in both an institutional and subject repository; in some cases, authors may have more than one institutional repository with which they are affiliated. Also, a document with multiple authors may be placed in many repositories. While multiple deposits are not necessary due to the availability of searching across repositories using the OAI-PMH protocol, multiple deposits are desirable from the point of view of preservation, following the principle that multiple copies decreases the likelihood that documents will become inaccessible in the future. There are workload issues with multiple deposits, but these may be mitigated with the full deployment of tools such as SWORD and support.

Open access journal publishing (gold OA)

As of 2011, there are over 7,000 fully open access peer-reviewed scholarly journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), and the number of titles is growing by about 4 per day. DOAJ is a vetted list managed by librarians at Lund University in Sweden. Potential titles are vetted for open access status. To be included, a journal must be fully open access; no embargo period is accepted. The journal must also practice peer review or an equivalent form of quality control, such as control by an academic editor. Journals must be active to be included, publishing at least 5 peer-reviewed articles per year, and generally journals must publish at least an issue or two before they are included. DOAJ weeds titles that no longer meet the criteria.

Figure 5: DOAJ titles growth 2004 – 2011 contrasted with average 3.5% growth rate

Figure 5 contrasts the actual growth of DOAJ from 2004 to 2011 with what DOAJ growth would have been at the average scholarly publishing rate of 3.5% annually. Cumulatively, DOAJ increased more than fivefold over this period, while at the average growth rate for scholarly publishing of 3.5%, the cumulative growth would have been only 22%.

Frantsvåg (2010) reports that most open access publishers are very small, with 90% producing only one journal. More than 9,000 journals around the world use the free, open source software Open Journal Systems, developed by the Public Knowledge Project, for journal publishing. About half of these journals are fully open access, and almost all are at least partially open access (for example, by making back issues available for free). Edgar and Willinsky (2010), as noted in the previous chapter, describe this situation as a renaissance of scholar-led publishing.

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a small but well-known open access publishing outfit, developed initially for the purposes of open access advocacy and well as publishing. PLoS aims to compete at the top end of prestigious academic publishing, and has been very successful. Four of the PLoS journals are already at the top in their fields by impact factor, a very impressive accomplishment for such new journals.

The commercial sector has played a major role in open access publishing since its inception. The world’s largest open access publisher is BioMedCentral (BMC), a commercial company, with about 200 titles. In 2008, BMC was acquired by Springer, the world’s second-largest scholarly journal publisher. Hindawi is another relatively large commercial open access journal publisher. Hindawi entered the scholarly journals market at a time when academic libraries had no funds available to purchase subscriptions; to some extent, open access was simply a business decision for Hindawi.

Traditional commercial publishers have been making moves towards open access for some time. Initial moves often seem timid or designed to prove that open access is not attractive to authors by deliberately making the open access option unattractive. For example, some of the hybrid subscription / open access models involve charging high article processing fees and offering little in return, such as Elsevier’s sponsored article option, which makes articles free to read if the author pays a fee – but only at the Elsevier website.

In recent months, many traditional scholarly commercial publishers, including most of the largest companies, appear to have made serious commitments to compete in what they must see as an emerging open access market. PLoS began by aiming to compete with Nature. Today, it appears that Nature is aiming to compete with PLoS. Nature’s new journal Scientific Reports, released in 2010, appears to be a clone of PLoS’ innovative PLoS ONE, a general open access journal aiming for rapid publication of all research articles submitted that meet the criteria of sound research. PLoS ONE became the world’s largest scholarly journal in 2010, when the journal published 6,749 articles (Morrison, 2011c). Scientific Reports not only follows the same publishing model as PLoS ONE, it even has exactly the same article processing fee. Nature has also expanded its open access choice options (where authors have the choice of paying to make their articles open access), as well as offering more fully open access journals. The Nature (2011) Publishing Group (NPG) Library Gateway states: “NPG is actively expanding the open access options it offers to authors, with new open access journal launches and open access options on many subscription journals. The first of these models were introduced in 2005, with the addition of open access options on 11 journals in 2009. Further open access options on a number of journals have been introduced in 2010 and 2011”.

Springer Open (2011) is an ambitious effort to provide open access journal offerings across all disciplines; Springer Open claims that it will give scholars “the opportunity to publish open access in all areas of science”. Wiley has launched a similar initiative called Wiley Open Access. Taylor and Francis announced a major expansion of their open access offerings in October 2011, including Taylor and Francis Open, which they say will include a “new series of fully Open Access titles from 2012 in major subject areas” (4-traders, 2011).

Laakso, Welling, Bukvova, Nyman, Björk et al. (2011) conducted a study of the growth of open access journals from 1993 to 2009, and described three phases of growth: The Pioneering years (1993–1999), the Innovation years (2000–2004), and the Consolidation years (2005–2009). Taking into account moves by commercial scholarly publishers into what looks like an effort to seriously compete for an open access marketplace such as those described above, I argue that the present time can be described as the beginning of the Competition Years for open access publishing.

There are positives and negatives to this increase in commercial involvement in open access publishing. On the plus side, while commercial involvement keeps scholarly publishing within the scope of capitalism, the commodity form changes from the article per se to the service of publishing. This service is temporary, leaving the article itself to become a part of the body of knowledge freely accessible to all. That’s a very strong plus. Another positive is that entry by traditional publishers into competition for an open access marketplace weakens their efforts to lobby against open access. It is hard to make a strong argument for open access being less valuable when you are competing for open access authors.

One negative is that the possibility of new revenue through article processing fees, one of the business models for open access publishing, is attractive to new publishers with a primary goal of profit. Some of these publishers provide high quality services and are valuable additions to the field of scholarly publishing. An organization called the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) has been developed, and ensuring quality is one of its goals. The OASPA (2011) Member Code of Conduct is instructive in that it suggests some of the issues that must have come up; it states, for example, that “Members should not indulge in any practices or activities that could bring the Association or open access publishing into disrepute” and that “Any direct marketing activities publishers engage in shall be appropriate and unobtrusive”, a code that is obviously directed to spamming.

Open access monographs

Electronic books are a relatively recent development compared with electronic journals, and so it is not surprising that open access monographs are only beginning to appear. Another reason for the delay is the initial focus of the open access movement on the scholarly journal articles that authors traditionally give away, in comparison with monographs where royalties to authors are the norm. One major project is OAPEN (2011), Open Access Publishing in European Networks, which describes itself as a “collaborative initiative to develop and implement a sustainable Open Access publication model for academic books in the Humanities and Social Sciences.” Another example is Open Humanities Press.

Open access policy

There are more than 200 open access policies as of 2012. Open access policy is almost invariably focused on green, or open access archives, rather than open access publishing, for two reasons. The first is that open access policies apply to the researcher (or scholar), not the publisher. The second is that green policies support wider choice for the researcher, who can comply with the policy by publishing in either an open access or a toll-based journal, and self-archiving a copy of their article for open access. Green open access policies are consistent with the practices of the majority of publishers.
Research funding agencies, particularly in the medical area, have been early adopters of open access policies. From the point of view of a research funding agency, open access just makes sense; more researchers can read and build on the results of the funded research, advancing discoveries in the areas that are of priority to the research funding agency. The results of funded research are more visible, enhancing accountability. Often, funding agencies have very limited access to subscriptions to scholarly journals, so open access makes the research more accessible, even to staff at the funding agency.
Medical Research Funding Agencies’ open access mandate policies

U.S. National Institutes of Health Public Access policy

The U.S.’ National Institutes of Health (NIH), the world’s largest medical research funder with a funding portfolio of about $30 billion per year, was among the first funding agencies to develop a voluntary open access policy, with the Public Access policy of 2004 (U.S. N.I.H. 2008a). It should be noted that Public Access is not equivalent to OA. One of the most important lessons from the NIH early adoption was the importance of making open access required, not voluntary; under the voluntary policy, compliance was dismal – only 4% in the first year. This has been remedied, with a strong public access mandate policy coming into effect in April of 2008. Early indications are that making the policy a requirement has been very successful. According to the U.S. NIH (2008b), the total public access for 2005-2007 before the policy was 19% of all NIH-funded articles (12% author manuscripts, 7% publishers’ final PDF). Estimated compliance from April to August 2008 was 56% (30% author manuscripts, 26% publishers’ PDF).

The NIH requires researchers to deposit a copy of their final peer-reviewed manuscript in PubMedCentral on acceptance for publication. Open access can be delayed for a maximum of 12 months. Many publishers are voluntarily assisting authors in complying with the policy, making deposits on behalf of authors. Several hundred journals are voluntarily contributing all of the journal contents to PubMedCentral, some immediately, and others after a delay period.

The immediate deposit / optional release strategy is key to a successful open access policy. If there is an embargo, authors are much more likely to be able to find their final peer-reviewed manuscript just as it is accepted for publication, than months or up to a year later. For the research funder, it is possible to monitor compliance with an embargoed article without waiting until the end of the embargo period. That is, if the researcher is submitting an application for further funding during the embargo period, proof of compliance with the requirement for public access can be established. The NIH Public Access policy reflects gratis rather than libre open access, although the NIH does encourage libre OA.
Other medical funding agencies’ open access policies

The Wellcome Trust, a private charitable organization, is the largest medical research funder in the U.K. The Wellcome Trust was an early adopter of a very strong policy, Open and Unrestricted Access to the Outputs of Published Research. Wellcome-funded researchers are required to deposit a copy of their work for open access in UK-PubMedCentral as soon as possible, but no longer than 6 months after publication. While the U.S. NIH allows up to a 12-month embargo period, a maximum of 6 months is emerging as an international standard. The Wellcome Trust also makes available a fund for article processing fees for open access. Libre open access is encouraged, and when Wellcome Trust funds are used to pay for OA article processing fees, it is required.

Many other funding agencies in the medical area have adopted open access policies, including the U.K.’s Medical Research Council, Canada’s Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Ireland’s Health Research Board, to name just a few.
Non-medical research funding agencies’ open access policies

The arguments for open access are relatively easy to understand in the area of medical research where the public interest is most obvious. The same arguments apply in every area where public funds are spent on research that is published. Open access serves the interests of the public that funds the research, by speeding up discovery, giving the public rights to access the results of the research that they have funded (taxpayer access). The exception is classified research (which is not published). The public interest arguments are just as compelling in the areas of environmental science, education, or other social sciences, as they are in medical research.

In 2006, a bill called the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) was introduced in the U.S., which would require every federal department with a funding portfolio of $100 million or more (11 departments) to develop a public access policy. Efforts are currently underway to re-introduce FRPAA or similar legislation. In 2011, the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a “Request for Information: Public access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded research”.

France’s Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) (National Research Agency), a general science funding agency, with a 2007 budget of 825 million Euros, implemented an open access policy in 2007 requiring deposit of results of all ANR funded research in a national archive, HAL, at the earliest possible opportunity.

In the UK, all the Research Councils have committed to developing open access policies, and six of the seven councils already have policies in place. The UK Natural Environment Research Council requires that a copy of the published peer-reviewed results of any research they fund be deposited at the earliest opportunity in an e-prints repository; datasets must be deposited in one of their data centres. The SHERPA project maintains a list of Research Funding Agencies’ Open Access Policies, called SHERPA JULIET.

Institutional open access mandates

There are over a hundred institutional and departmental open access mandates in many countries; a current list can be found in the Registry of Open Access Material Archiving Policies (ROARMAP).
Australia’s Queensland University of Technology was among the first to implement a strong university-wide policy, which states: “Material which represents the total publicly available research and scholarly output of the University is to be located in the University’s digital or “E print” repository, subject to the exclusions noted.” “Exclusions” include material to be commercialized, or of a confidential nature. The effectiveness of the policy can be seen by a spike in deposits in 2004 (available from the Queensland website), just after the policy took effect.

There are at least two types of institutional open access mandate policy. One type of policy is top-down policy, in which the institution requires that its faculty make their work open access. The Queensland policy is an example of top-down policy. Another type, pioneered by Harvard, is the faculty permissions mandate policy, in which faculty members grant to the university nonexclusive rights to disseminate their work for open access. From my perspective, the latter is the optimum for scholars and hence for scholarship, because in addition to expanding open access, this approach also asserts the rights of scholars to their own work. The first development along these lines was the unanimous adoption of an open access resolution by the faculty of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, as reported by Mitchell (2008):

In a move to disseminate faculty research and scholarship more broadly, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) voted Tuesday (Feb. 12) to give the University a worldwide license to make each faculty member’s scholarly articles available and to exercise the copyright in the articles, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit.

I argue that the “not sold for a profit” phrase, while well intentioned, is not
optimal, as this leaves the door open to charging on a cost-recovery basis. The policy adopted unanimously by the faculty of the Massachussetts Institute of Technology corrects this deficiency, clarifying that the articles are to be disseminated openly. In my opinion, the MIT open access policy (2009) is the best one to date, and is repeated here in full:

MIT Faculty Open Access Policy
Policy adopted by unanimous vote of the faculty on 3/18/2009:
The Faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, the Faculty adopts the following policy: Each Faculty member grants to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology nonexclusive permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles for the purpose of open dissemination. In legal terms, each Faculty member grants to MIT a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit, and to authorize others to do the same. The policy will apply to all scholarly articles written while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy. The Provost or Provost’s designate will waive application of the policy for a particular article upon written notification by the author, who informs MIT of the reason.

To assist the Institute in distributing the scholarly articles, as of the date of publication, each Faculty member will make available an electronic copy of his or her final version of the article at no charge to a designated representative of the Provost’s Office in appropriate formats (such as PDF) specified by the Provost’s Office.

The Provost’s Office will make the scholarly article available to the public in an open-access repository. The Office of the Provost, in consultation with the Faculty Committee on the Library System, will be responsible for interpreting this policy, resolving disputes concerning its interpretation and application, and recommending changes to the Faculty. The policy is to take effect immediately; it will be reviewed after five years by the Faculty Policy Committee, with a report presented to the Faculty.

The faculty calls upon the Faculty Committee on the Library System to develop and monitor a plan for a service or mechanism that would render compliance with the policy as convenient for the faculty as possible.

Key elements of good open access policy:

• open access is required, not requested. There are publishers who oppose open access, and will take advantage of any loophole to make it difficult for their authors to comply with a policy.
• calls for archiving (green) open access. This is inclusive of open access publishing, as an article published in an open access journal can also be deposited in an open access archive
• immediate deposit / optional delayed release – if an embargo or delayed is permitted, authors should deposit as soon as their article is accepted for publication. It is much easier for authors to find the appropriate copy at this point in time, and much easier to check on compliance.
• keep embargoes to the minimum necessary – 6 months is an emerging standard internationally, and include language to review the policy with a view to decreasing or eliminating the embargo
• include support for implementation whenever possible, such as commitment to build an institutional repository, or support for open access publishing, effective procedures for monitoring and rewarding compliance


Open access is scholarly literature that is digital, online, free to read and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. Open access can be green, when authors self-archive their work for open access, or gold, when the publisher makes the work open access. Open access can be gratis (free to read) or libre (free to read and to reuse). Open access can apply to the works themselves, or to the process of making works open access. When a publisher or journal provides free access to back issues, this is best described as free back issues. Once the articles themselves become free, it is appropriate to refer to the article (but not the journal or the publisher) as open access. There are interrelationships between open access and many other “open” movements and initiatives, such as Creative Commons. Although open access is a simple concept, fully articulating what it means in a way that ensures a sustainable knowledge commons will take further analysis.

The growth of open access is dramatic. There are millions of open access items in institutional and disciplinary repositories, and over seven thousand fully open access, peer-reviewed scholarly journals. Open access is one means of fighting the enclosure of knowledge that has seen considerable success over the past few years. The commercial sector is highly involved in open access publishing, a tendency that is increasing, however even in this situation, with full open access publishing, the commodity becomes the publishing service, freeing the work.

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