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Free Access vs. Open Access

Stevan Harnad harnad at ecs.soton.ac.uk
Thu Aug 28 07:25:24 EST 2003


On Wed, 27 Aug 2003, Christopher Warnock wrote:

> The [http://www.ebrary.com/] controls over the documents range from  
> very restrictive access models to completely open access models  
> incorporating any variation of viewing, copying, printing or  
> downloading.

That seems fine, and a welcome entrant to the range of softwares
(Eprints, Dspace, etc.) being offered to universities for
providing open access to their research output:
    "EPrints, DSpace or ESpace?"
    http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/2670.html

> Any document submitted to ebrary may be  
> downloaded if it is what the publisher desires, we support both  
> protected downloads that provide copyright protection and open  
> downloads that meet your previously stated requirements. 

Universities providing open-access archives for their own refereed
research publications are not themselves publishers: They are merely
providing toll-free access to their own refereed research output,
published in toll-access journals. The only copyright protection
they seek is protection against plagiarism or text-corruption.
http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Tp/resolution.htm#1.3
http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/ls/disresearch/romeo/Romeo%20Publisher%20Policies.htm

> Ebrary does not restrict access to harvesters either, the issue has  
> been that the information that we currently have in our system is  
> copyrighted

So is refereed research. But its authors wish to provide toll-free
access to their research to all potential users, to maximize its
research impact.
http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/%7Eharnad/Temp/che.htm

> and having indexers create caches that may then be  
> accessible in HTML contradicts the publisher's desires to protect their  
> author's text and eliminates the copyright protection that has made  
> them willing to make their content accessible online through us at all.  

The authors of refereed research articles wish to make their texts
maximally accessible and maximally usable. They do not seek protection
from downloads, harvesters, indexers, etc. They encourage it. The
copyright protection they do seek (from plagiarism or text-corruption)
is unrelated to protection from downloads, harvesters, indexers, etc.
http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/ls/disresearch/romeo/

> With regard to reducing the value of the research and the benefits of  
> unfettered access, what we are trying to do is to enable the  
> information that is copyrighted and made accessible by the publisher to  
> seamlessly interact with the information that is made available by  
> institutions, or individuals-- essentially enabling and facilitating a  
> virtual collaboration between the publisher, the institution and the  
> individual.

In the special case of peer-reviewed research articles (the only one under
discussion here), there is nothing as complicated as this. The full-text
merely needs to be made fully accessible, toll-free, to all would-be
users, worldwide. No need for any particular 3-way interaction between
publisher, institution and individual. The only thing needed is an
institutional OAI-compliant open-access archive in which to self-archive
the research.
http://www.openarchives.org
http://www.eprints.org

> through documents submitted to our system, each  
> institution may have access to their own collection of their content as  
> well as aggregate their content with other institution's collections.  

OAI-compliance takes care of interoperability of each institution's
refereed research output with other universities' (OAI-compliant)
refereed research output. That is the only content at issue here, and
it has nothing to do with older concepts of "collection" or "aggregation."
http://www.openarchives.org/service/listproviders.html
http://oaister.umdl.umich.edu/o/oaister/
http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/%7Eharnad/Temp/unto-others.html

> This enables any ebrary enabled database to be integrated with any  
> non-ebrary database and any other ebrary enabled commercial databases  
> of copyrighted information with access levels that are appropriate to  
> the publisher's interests.

Integrating open-access research with toll-access research will
certainly be useful, though the most useful function will be making
research open-access! OAI-compliance only calls for interoperable
metadata, not necessary open-access to full-text. Does that not provide
the sort of interoperability you are referring to?

> We are in the process of establishing a focus group to help us define  
> the requirements of our software for this community. If you are willing  
> I would appreciate it if you would consider being a part of our focus  
> group.

I'm always ready to provide focused feedback from the standpoint of
the research community's specific need for open access to refereed
research. I'll be happy to do so for ebrary too when asked; perhaps no
need to make me part of a formal focus group!

Best wishes,

Stevan Harnad

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing open
access to the peer-reviewed research literature online is available at
the American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01 & 02 & 03):

    http://amsci-forum.amsci.org/archives/september98-forum.html
                            or
    http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Hypermail/Amsci/index.html

Discussion can be posted to: september98-forum at amsci-forum.amsci.org 





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