Re: Bethesda statement on open access publishing

From: guedon <>
Date: Sat, 12 Mar 2005 13:02:45 -0500

It would be really useful to try distinguishing between open access,
open access publishing and open access publication.

In my book, open access, by definition, is open to the public and,
therefore, is a form of publishing. As a result, all open access belongs
to the set of open access publishing. Starting from the other end, all
open access publishing is necessarily in open access and therefore is
open access. Conclusion, open access and open access publishing are

"Open access publication" refers to a publishing structure that is at
least inspired by the model of a traditional journal. Peer-reviewed
articles are placed in open access under a single title such as PLoS
Medicine. "Open access publication" is a particular strategy within open
access publishing and it aims at taking full advantage of the branding
capacity of journals.

Open access publishing can exist without any form of branding; open
access publications cannot.

One of the theses I presented in a recent paper
( is that one
reason why pure OA publishing (i.e. using open access repositories
without any further requirements or qualifications) is not terribly
attractive to a great many authors (at least in the rich countries) is
that they cannot clearly see the advantages in doing so. Preliminary
research tends to demonstrate that there are advantages, but
confirmations are greatly needed and better publicity of the fact is
required. Meanwhile, most scientists remain indifferent to the
repositories. Even with huge advocacy efforts, as is the case at the
University of Glasgow, only about 20% of the papers get deposited.
Clearly, there is a problem.

In response to this problem, all Stevan Harnad has found is to push for
some form of mandating. While this is realistic enough, it also
demonstrates the limits of pure OA à la Harnad. Arguing in favour of
mandating is also an admission of these limits.

In the paper mentioned above, I argued that, in parallel with mandating
(not against it, mind you), finding ways to make the repositories
profitable from an author's viewpoint was important. I suggested that
what made publications (as distinguished from publishing) attractive to
authors is their branding ability and I therefore suggested a way to
build similar capacity with institutional repositories.

Note that in all of this, I have not said a negative word against the
repositories, archiving, open access, etc. Quite the contrary! All I
have said is that the green road left to its pure devices does not seem
to possess what is needed to bring about full open access publishing (=
open access as per above). I support the green roads, but simply ask we
go a step further. And I do not believe advocating this blurs the
vision, deters efforts or slows down the movement toward OA, quite the
contrary. Unlike Stevan harnad, I do not see these two approaches as
competing with each other; neither do I see them as part of some kind of
zero-sum game where doing work in one way can only deter, weaken or
defer progress toward OA.

Jean-Claude Guédon

Le samedi 12 mars 2005 à 17:00 +0000, Stevan Harnad a écrit :
> Amsci Topic Thread began:
> "Bethesda statement on open access publishing" (Jun 2003)
> I think it is time to revisit the definition of Open Access:
> A meeting on April 11 2003 in Bethesda MD generated the "Bethesda
> Statement on Open Access *Publishing* [sic]".
> That meeting -- note that it both called itself and was a meeting on
> "Open Access Publishing", not on Open Access -- generated a "definition"
> of "An Open Access Publication". This inadequate definition began (or was
> a prominent milestone) in a systematic equivocation that has persisted
> ever since.
> What was defined there was not "Open Access Publishing," but "An Open
> Access Publication" -- and it was explicitly stated of the specific
> property that was there being defined that "Open access is a property of
> individual *works*, not necessarily journals or publishers".
> The Bethesda definition went as follows:
> "An Open Access Publication [N1] is one that meets the following two
> conditions:
> 1. The author(s) and copyright holder(s) grant(s) to all users a free,
> irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual right of access to, and a license to
> copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to
> make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any
> responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship,
> as well as the right to make small numbers of printed copies for
> their personal use.
> [N1. Open access is a property of individual works, not necessarily
> journals or publishers.]"
> Note that this sounds very much like a specific Creative Commons License,
> by way of *defining* an OA work. (CC Licenses are extremely important,
> useful, and desirable, but they neither define nor are they necessary
> for OA!)
> Archiving, in this exceedingly Gold-biassed Bethesda definition of OA,
> is relegated to providing access to and preserving the works that meet the
> Bethesda definition, which means either articles published in OA journals,
> or articles for which the author has adopted something equivalent to a
> CC license as stipulated in 1, above. It certainly does *not* pertain to
> articles published in non-OA journals, with whatever copyright agreements
> they may already have, which are simply self-archived by their authors
> in their institutional OA repositories (and which are hence not OA under
> the Bethesda definition):
> "2. A complete version of the work and all supplemental materials,
> including a copy of the permission as stated above, in a suitable
> standard electronic format is deposited immediately upon initial
> publication in at least one online repository that is supported by
> an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or
> other well-established organization that seeks to enable open access,
> unrestricted distribution, interoperability, and long-term archiving
> (for the biomedical sciences, PubMed Central is such a repository)."
> Contrast this with the BOAI definition of OA (2001)
> This definition first specifies the target "literature" in question
> as "[p]rimarily... peer-reviewed journal articles, but... also... any
> unreviewed preprints that [authors] might wish to put online":
> "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."
> This awkward but adequate BOAI definition is not ideal either, being
> far too wordy and formalistic, but essentially it says, correctly,
> that an article is OA if it is
> *freely accessible on the web to any user, anywhere, who has access
> to the web*
> (It is also implicit, though unstated, that an article is *not* OA if/when
> the free online full-text access to it is *not* immediate or permanent.)
> Anyone-and-everyone's being able to read, download, print, search, link
> and pass the full-text to software analyses comes with the territory
> if an article is made freely accessible on the Web. So does crawling
> and indexing by google and others.
> "Copy and distribute" is equivocal, but irrelevant, as one can distribute
> the URL to anyone one might have wanted to copy and distribute the paper
> to -- to download and print it for themselves. (And OA, let us remind
> ourselves, is about providing free access to the *online* text, not to
> the *on-paper* text: The rest just comes naturally with the territory!) It
> could still be "unlawful" to distribute paper copies, or to republish or
> re-sell the article, but that is not what OA is about either (although
> it might be part of what OA *publishing* [Gold] is concerned about).
> Among the many untoward effects of the Gold-biassed Bethesda definition,
> was to have it re-enshrined *verbatim* in October 2003 in the Berlin
> Declaration as the "Definition of an Open Access Contribution [!]"
> This has effectively delayed translating the Berlin Declaration into a
> concrete, implementable institutional OA policy (since institutions cannot
> create or convert Gold journals, nor can they require their researchers
> to publish in them: at most they can encourage and help fund them) until
> the recent Berlin 3 meeting in Southampton where the delegates at last
> agreed -- on the basis of the pattern, reported repeatedly at the meeting,
> of what has proved successful in practise at many institutions worldwide
> -- to recommend that the implementation of the Berlin Declaration take
> the following form:
> "In order to implement the Berlin Declaration institutions should
> 1. Implement a policy to require their researchers to deposit
> a copy of all their published articles in an open access
> repository.
> and
> 2. Encourage their researchers to publish their research
> articles in open access journals where a suitable journal
> exists and provide the support to enable that to happen."
> This effectively corrects the Bethesda Bias toward Gold and at last gives
> the two roads to OA -- Green and Gold -- the weight and priority that is
> proportional to their immediate capacity and probability of providing
> OA. it is also based on a realistic conception of what it is that
> an institution can and cannot adopt by way of an institutional OA policy.
> [to be published in a few days]
> I will not repeat here the many ways (amply documented in the American
> Scientist Open Access Forum) in which the one-sided "gold rush" of
> the past 3 years has slowed OA progress (in the press, in government
> inquiries, and in the understandably confused minds of onlookers from the
> research community and general public). Let us hope that it is over
> now, and that we are now seeking greener vistas for OA rather than only
> "all that glitters"!
> "The Green and Gold Roads to Open Access"
> "AAU misinterprets House Appropriations Committee Recommendation"
> "The UK report, press coverage, and the Green and Gold Roads to Open Access"
> "Drubbing Peter to Pay Paul"
> "Guide for the Perplexed: Re: UK Select Committee Inquiry"
> Stevan Harnad
> A complete Hypermail archive of the ongoing discussion of providing
> open access to the peer-reviewed research literature online (1998-2004)
> is available at:
> To join or leave the Forum or change your subscription address:
> Post discussion to:
> UNIVERSITIES: If you have adopted or plan to adopt an institutional
> policy of providing Open Access to your own research article output,
> please describe your policy at:
> BOAI-1 ("green"): Publish your article in a suitable toll-access journal
> OR
> BOAI-2 ("gold"): Publish your article in a open-access journal if/when
> a suitable one exists.
> in BOTH cases self-archive a supplementary version of your article
> in your institutional repository.
Received on Sat Mar 12 2005 - 18:02:45 GMT

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