Re: Free Access vs. Open Access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 31 Dec 2003 13:17:30 +0000

On Wed, 31 Dec 2003, Sally Morris wrote:

> Pace Stevan, I think this is an interesting discussion and would ask him to
> let it run its course unmolested...

Salve Sally! No sign (seen or expressed) of any need to invoke cloture on this
theme! [Stay tuned for my reply to Mike Eisen, in prep.!]

> I'd see the distinction slightly differently:
> The core, essential feature [of open access] is free, unrestricted access
> (to primary research articles) for everyone. This can take 2 forms:
> 1) In Stevan's term, 'self-archiving' - posting, generally by authors or
> institutions, of preprints, postprints or both, on personal/departmental
> websites, discipline-based archives, or - more recently - institutional
> archives. These may or may not replicate what appears in published
> journals; many, but not all, publishers readily permit this. The articles
> may or not be OAI-discoverable.

Agreed that this is the core essential feature (of open access!), but with
a few corrective details:

The only two relevant distinctions in "self-archiving" space

    (a) whether or not the archive (i.e., the website!) is OAI-compliant,
    hence interoperable (OAI-compliant archives are preferable)


    (b) whether the archiving is central/subject-based (i.e., all in one
    archive) or distributed/institutional (which includes the author's
    institutional homepage, departmental website, or institution-wide

(Institutional self-archiving is preferable because researchers'
institutions -- not their disciplines or any other central entity -- share
with their researchers the benefits of maximised research impact and the
costs of lost research impact; institutions [and research funders] are
also the ones in the position to extend their existing "publish or perish"
principle to "publish and provide open access to your publication";
institutions are also in the position to monitor and reward compliance.)

The self-archived content that is specifically targeted here is the
2,500,000 articles that are published in the world's 24,000 peer-reviewed
journals. Many authors (not necessarily all) will wish to self-archive
their pre-submission, pre-peer-review preprints too, and perhaps also
successive updated drafts along the way to being revised to meet the
peer-reviewers' recommendations for acceptance for publication. But it
is providing open access to the final, published versions, the refereed,
accepted final drafts or "postprints" that is the primary ("core,
essential") goal of self-archiving.

That final, refereed, accepted draft need not necessarily be the
publisher's PDF or XML file, nor need it include citation-linking or other
enhancements by the publisher (OAI-based services like citebase can match
or top most of that!). All of that is optional and negotiable. What *must*
be deposited, however, is the final, accepted, peer-reviewed draft --
the postprint.

Fifty-five percent of journals already officially support author
self-archiving. Many of the remaining 45% will agree if asked.
For the few journals that don't agree, the legal solution for
providing open access to the functional equivalent of the final,
accepted, peer-reviewed postprint is to link a corrections file
to the unrefereed preprint, listing all substantive changes.

    (This last non-optimal option is mentioned only to demonstrate to
    authors -- in a kind of logical reductio ad absurdum -- that it is
    indeed legally possible to provide open access to 100% of their
    articles through self-archiving, and not just to those for which
    they have prior publisher approval. But the most sensible strategy
    for authors, rather than asking their publishers anything, is to just
    go ahead and self-archive all their drafts -- as the physicists,
    for example, have been doing continuously since 1991, for over a
    quarter of a million articles now, with virtually zero subsequent
    removal-requests from their publishers: In 12 years, exactly 4
    out of those 250,000 drafts have been subsequently removed citing
    copyright reasons!)
    "Re: Copyright: Form, Content, and Prepublication Incarnations"

> 2) What are becoming known as 'Open Access journals' - that is to say,
> journals which (in all probability) maintain the traditional standards of
> peer review, and as much as possible of the other value that the publication
> process adds (editing, linking etc), but which recover costs (not forgetting
> overheads, and whatever degree of surplus/profit is necessary to the
> operation of the organisation doing the publishing) in some other way than
> by charging for access.

Agreed, with only two reservations:

(i) Sally's implied scepticism about whether or not the open-access
journals maintain the same peer-review standards as the toll-access
journals does not seem justified. There are 24,000 "peer-reviewed"
journals, 23,000 of them toll-access and about 1000 of them open
access. Peer-review standards vary considerably across the lot. It
seems reasonable to be sceptical about the peer-review standards of
journals on the grounds that they are new and have not yet established
track-records for their level of quality and standards of peer review,
but it does not seem reasonable to be sceptical about their peer-review
standards based on their cost-recovery models!

(ii) It is not yet clear how much "of the other value that the publication
process adds (editing, linking etc)" -- over and above peer review -- is
really a "core, essential feature" of peer-reviewed research publication
in the open-access era. It may require the test of competition between
the vanilla open-access version and the publisher's enhanced toll-access
version to ascertain just what the open-access-era essentials really are!

   "Online Self-Archiving: Distinguishing the Optimal from the Optional"

    "Separating Quality-Control Service-Providing from Document-Providing"

    "Distinguishing the Essentials from the Optional Add-Ons"

    "The True Cost of the Essentials (Implementing Peer Review)"

    "The True Cost of the Essentials

    "Re: The True Cost of the Essentials (Implementing Peer Review - NOT!)"

    "Journal expenses and publication costs"

    "Re: Scientific publishing is not just about administering peer-review"

    "Author Publication Charge Debate"

> In neither case is any of the following a sine qua non, though they appear
> to be 'articles of faith' for some:
> * Copyright retention by the author, or the author's institution (or, for
> that matter, absence of copyright - i.e. 'public domain')

I agree with Sally completely here. Open-access provision -- whether by
publishing in an open-access journal that itself provides the open access
or by publishing in a toll-access journal and providing the open access
for oneself by self-archiving -- has absolutely no implications about any
need for copyright retention by the author or by the author's institution,
or about any need to put the text into the public domain! The "core
essential" is Open access provision, either way, with or without copyright

    "Public Access to Science Act (Sabo Bill, H.R. 2613)"

    "Cloture on public-domain solution"

There are of course things to be said for copyright retention or limited
licensing on other grounds, in other contexts, for other kinds of texts.
But those measures are definitely unnecessary in the case of open-access
provision for the 2,500,000 annual articles in the 24,000 peer-reviewed
journals; and all they do, when introduced, is increase confusion (of
which there is still alas far too much in any case!).

> * OAI compliance

Not necessary either, but *highly* desirable, and easily provided
(so why not?). (Institutional archives for self-archiving refereed
research articles should definitely all be OAI-compliant to maximise their
usability, usefulness and impact -- and if an article appears in an
open-access journal whose open-access archive is not OAI-compliant, the
author should also self-archive it in his own institutional OAI-compliant
archive, to maximise its usability, usefulness and impact. (Hence the
simplest self-archiving rule is to self-archive *all* journal articles,
whether the journal they are published in is OA or TA!)

> * Absence of restrictions on re-use (including commercial re-use)

Agreed. Although the reality of ubiquitous toll-free, full-text
online access moots many potential re-uses -- how many of them are
still worth paying for, when the full-text is online, toll-free? --
there is absolutely no incompatibility between providing open access
to one's own articles yet continuing to allow one's publisher any
of the commercial re-uses that journal article authors had allowed
their publishers in the past. (Here again, lines have crossed between
the special case of refereed journal articles, and other more general
access and rights problems, for example, with book and textbook material,
courseware, multimedia, etc., as well as online self-publication. Those
other worthy causes, and their proposed solutions, including the
Creative Commons Licenses, are simply irrelevant to the special case of
refereed journal particles, where the only problem is access-denial and
impact-loss, and the only solution is open-access provision.)

> * Deposit in a specific type of archive

The only *essential* feature of open access is immediate, permanent,
toll-free online access to the full-text (meaning that anyone,
anywhere, any time, can download it, read it, store it, print it out,
and computer-process it). *That* much the archive must make possible. For
the advantages of institutional over central archives, and OAI-compliant
over arbitrary archives, see above.

> Am I alone in seeing it this way?

Not if the way you see it takes into account the specific details
noted here!

Stevan Harnad

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Michael Eisen" <mbeisen_at_LBL.GOV>
> Sent: Tuesday, December 30, 2003 11:07 PM
> Subject: Re: Free Access vs. Open Access
> > Stevan,
> >
> > First, for the sake of clarity, can we just agree that, whatever relative
> > value you place on the two, free access and open access are not equivalent
> > and that it does noone any good to confuse the two.
> >
> > Free access gives all potential users immediate and permanent toll-free
> > access to the text at a single fixed point on the internet (e.g. a
> > self-archive or a journal website). Copyright would (in general) reside
> with
> > authors or their assignee, and users would have fair use rights, such as
> the
> > right to read, print, crawl and mine this copy of the article, but in
> > general would not have any further rights, such as the right to
> redistribute
> > or make derivative works.
> >
> > Open access grants all of the rights inherent to free access, but the
> > copyright holders grant (by signing some form of license) all users
> > additional rights, especially the right to redistribute and make
> derivative
> > works, in general asking only that the original work be properly cited.
> (The
> > different definitions of open access are not identical, but all
> essentially
> > say this).
> >
> > I hope we can agree that these are not equivalent, so that we can get onto
> > the more important question, which is is this a meaningful difference -
> that
> > is, are the additional rights given to users under open access meaningful,
> > and does granting them benefit authors, readers and the research community
> > in general. Obviously, you think the answer is no, while I think it is
> yes.
> >
> > I address your 6 points below, although I think that you are conflating
> two
> > different points.
> >
> > 1) Open access is unnecessary - everything that a user would want to do
> with
> > a paper they can do with free access.
> > 2) Open access is an obstacle to free access - demanding that publishers
> > provide open access delays or obstructs their providing free access.
> >
> > I hope my answers below address why I think these are both incorrect.
> >
> > > So here is my list, again:
> > >
> > > Once the full-text is immediately, permanently, and ubiquitously
> > > (i.e., webwide) accessible toll-free, so any user anywhere, any time,
> > > can read the full-text on-screen, download it, store it, print it off,
> > > search/grep it, computationally process it, etc. -- which any user can
> > > do if the author self-archives it -- the further rights and uses that
> > > distinguish "free" from "open" become either moot or supererogatory:
> > >
> >
> > If all you are concerned about is getting toll free access to papers - in
> > the form that they exist in self-archives or on journal websites - then
> the
> > distinction between free and open is superfluous. However many readers
> > (myself included) like to read articles in a familiar and user-friendly
> > format that is often very different from the deposited version (in my
> > opinion, this is one of the reasons that self-archiving isn't as popular
> as
> > it should be). It is possible to take all of the free access articles and
> > convert them into a more flexible format (e.g. the publishing XML being
> used
> > now by PubMed Central) where users could control the way in which the text
> > is rendered. I believe many readers would value this option. However,
> under
> > free-access this is not possible without getting permission from every
> > author or copyright holder, while under open access this is not only
> > allowed, it is encouraged. Ditto for someone who wants to translate into
> > another language (by machine or by hand) a body of free access works.
> >
> > It seems to me that there are two issues here. 1) Rights description. Many
> > authors who make their works freely available through self-archiving would
> > be happy to allow these uses, but don't currently have a way to say this.
> > This is why it is important to PLoS that we use the creative commons
> license
> > that describes user rights in advance. I see that the open archives group
> > has launched an effort to embed rights descriptions with text, so I think
> > this case will be covered. 2) Rights restrictions by publishers. I think
> you
> > feel that many publishers are/would be willing to allow self-archiving,
> but
> > only on the condition that they retain all other rights to the text, and
> > that if they are allowed to do this, then they would be willing to provide
> > free access. The problem, in my mind, is that this would prevent the kinds
> > of uses that I describe above (which are, in my opinion, only the tip of
> the
> > iceberg). You apparently think that getting free-access is the most
> > important thing, even if the manner of achieving free access precludes
> > optimal use of the material, while I think this is a needless compromise
> of
> > the interests of the scientific community and the public to the narrow
> > commercial interest of publishers. Again, this is an open argument, but
> it's
> > important not to glaze over this argument by pretending that free and open
> > access are equivalent.
> >
> >
> > > don't need a further specified right to download, store, process or
> > > print off any of the other material that they can download, store and
> > > print off from the web -- as long as the material is itself not pirated
> > > by another consumer, but provided by its own author, as is the case with
> > > one's own self-archived journal articles.
> >
> > What you are saying, in essence, is that fair use gives all users all the
> > rights they need, and that there is no need to specify any additional
> > rights. This is simply incorrect, a good example of a use that is not
> > allowed under fair use is the inclusion of text in course readers, which
> (at
> > least in the US) is not covered by fair use. Nor are other forms of
> > aggregation. For example, I might want to print a series of virtual
> > journals that contain the best works in given fields, and send them (by
> > subscription) to scientists in that field. I think a lot of people would
> > greatly value such a service, but it is not possible under narrow
> > free-access.
> >
> > >
> > > (3) NO NEED OR RIGHT TO RE-PUBLISH: There is no need or justification
> > > for demanding the further right to re-publish a full-text in further
> > > *print-on-paper* publications ("derivative works") when it is already
> > > ubiquitously accessible toll-free. That was never part of the rationale
> > > or justification for demanding free/open access in the first place. What
> > > ushered in the open-access era was the newfound possibility of providing
> > > all would-be users with free, ubiquitous *online* access to texts,
> > > thereby maximizing their research impact. This newfound possibility,
> > > created by the Web, had nothing whatsoever to do with the right to
> > > re-publish those texts on paper!
> > >
> >
> > This may never have been your rational for demanding FREE access, but it
> was
> > a key part of my and many other users demands for OPEN access. My reason
> for
> > getting into this in the first place was my desire to better link
> > experimental data (in my case genome sequence and experimental genomics
> > data) with the primary literature. I wanted to build a database that would
> > hold our experimental data along with a large collection of relevant
> papers
> > that would be marked up in a unique way that allowed for integrated
> browsing
> > of the data and literature. The only practical way to do this is to have
> > local copies of the papers in our database, something that is needlessly
> > precluded by strict free-access.
> >
> > > It may be that (some) open-access journals do not need or want to
> > > have exclusive publication or republication rights. But open-access
> > > journal-publication is not the only form of open-access provision.
> > > Author/institution self-archiving of one's own toll-access journal
> > > articles is another way to provide open access, and a much more
> > > immediate and powerful way than to wait for toll-access journals
> > > to become open-access journals.
> >
> > Yes, it is true that open access publishing is not the only path to open
> > access. However, it is also true that self-archiving does not provide open
> > access - it provides free access. While self-archiving may be more
> > immediate, unless it ultimately leads to open access it is not more
> > powerful.
> >
> > >
> > > the open-access journal's republication policy on the definition of
> > > what counts as open access itself would be to impose an arbitrary and
> > > unnecessary constraint on the second (and larger) of the two means of
> > > providing open access. It is one thing to ask toll-access publishers to
> > > support author/institution self-archiving, so as to maximize the impact
> > > (usage, application, citation) of a text by maximizing access to it
> > > online; it is quite another thing to demand that toll-access publishers
> > > agree to put anyone and everyone on a par with themselves, in having the
> > > right to publish that text in print. That would only serve to provoke
> > > (justifiable) toll-access publisher opposition to self-archiving --
> > > and hence to open-access provision by that means.
> >
> > Now this is a completely different point. First, there seems to be
> > conflation of open access and free access here again. While it is possible
> > to provide open access by self-archiving, without the redistribution
> rights
> > it is only free access. This is not an imposition of the "redistribution
> > policy" (sic - this is an oversimplication - it is really about
> > redistribution and, more importantly, reuse).
> >
> > It seems like what you are really saying is that open access is the enemy
> of
> > free access, because toll-access publishers would allow free-access
> through
> > self-archiving, but are unwilling to go to real open access, and that
> > demanding open access delays the implementation of free access. I
> understand
> > your argument, but I think you are wrong. I believe that the it is an
> > illusion to imagine that it is possible to have universal free access
> > through self-archiving AND to support journals through subscriptions.
> > Self-archiving is, almost by definition, parasitic (and I say that in a
> good
> > way!). And, like most parasites, the host has to be healthy for it to
> > survive. If we imagine that all works are suddenly self-archived, who is
> > going to subscribe to journals? I just don't see how self-archiving can
> > provide universal free access without killing off toll-access journals in
> > the process (do you really think selling print subscriptions will sustain
> > them?). I feel that living under and promulgating the illusion that
> > self-archiving and toll-access journals are mutually compatible does not
> > hasten universal access, it delays it because it delays us facing up to
> the
> > reality that we need a new economic model for scientific publishing.
> >
> > >
> > > articles are not themselves research data (though they may contain
> > > some research data), but they can be treated as computational data if
> > > they are accessible toll-free online. Again, there is no need for any
> > > further rights or computational capabilities to do be able to do this:
> > > The full-text need merely be immediately, permanently, and ubiquitously
> > > (i.e., webwide) accessible toll-free, so any user anywhere, any time,
> > > can read the full-text on-screen, download it, store it, print it off,
> > > search/grep it, computationally process it, etc.
> >
> > While there is a lot that can/could be done with self-archived free-access
> > works, the inability to serve up cached, or more importantly, digested and
> > reprocessed versions of works greatly and needlessly limits the types of
> > computational analysis and data-mining that can be done on the literature.
> > If all you want to do is search, then self-archiving is ok (although still
> > suboptimal), but for any more sophisticated analyses it is not.
Received on Wed Dec 31 2003 - 13:17:30 GMT

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