Re: On the Need to Take Both Roads to Open Access

From: Michael Eisen <mbeisen_at_LBL.GOV>
Date: Wed, 8 Oct 2003 21:49:18 -0700

> Whether the digital text (including data) of an article is made openly
> accessible by being published in an open-access journal or by being
> published in a toll-access journal but being self-archived in an
> open-access archive is irrelevant: Either way, the data reported in it
> are available to be used computationally. Don't confuse the use and
> re-use of data with the use of the *text* to generate other text (other
> than by quoting it): Any other re-use of text is plagiarism (i.e., if it
> is not quotation). Text, unlike data and software code, cannot be
> reprocessed and made one's own: It can only be cited and quoted.


What do you mean "don't confuse the re-use of data with the use of text"?
These are exactly the same thing. There are two goals for open access
publishing. The first is free access for all to the scientific publications.
The second is the ability to treat text as data - something that you deride.

If you think that the only possible use of text is to cite and quote than
you have completely missed the potential of open access publishing. If all
we accomplish is to let people read any paper they want, we will have
accomplished a lot, but we will still have failed. The true potential of
open access publishing is the ways in which we can go beyond simply being
able to read papers for free online.

Searching the full-text of articles is an obvious example of a use of text
that goes beyond citing and quoting. And searching is only a trivial example
of a use of the content of scientific publications. Scientific publications
are not just words - thet contain knowledge, and the type of use Richard is
referring to deals not with the data described in a paper, but with the
knowledge contained in the paper itself- ideas, methods, results and

The open archives movement is focussed on making it possible for people to
read individual works for free. Open access publishing is focussed on this
task, as well as the more important goal of ensuring that the contents -
data as well as text - of all scientific publication are available not only
for people to access, but for them to use. So long as self-archiving
focusses only on access, it will not realize the full potential of
electronic publishing to transform how we use the scientific literature.


Michael Eisen, Ph.D. (

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and
Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
University of California at Berkeley

Lead the Next Scientific Revolution
Publish Your Best Work in PLoS Biology
Received on Thu Oct 09 2003 - 05:49:18 BST

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