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[ox-en] Re: Stevan Harnad * Affinities and disaffinities among free software, peer-to-peer access, and open access to peer-reviewed research

On Mon, 15 Jun 2009, Stefan Merten wrote:

SH: What is Open Access (OA)?
.. rubric:: Free online access to refereed research articles

May be it this definition where many of my disagreements come from.
For me Open Access is much more than a technical facility to obtain a
certain type of material.

Open Access has many connotations, and of course it opens up many
possibilities, but it has a straightforward denotation: Refereed journal
articles which were accessible to subscribers as print on paper can now
be made freely accessible to all online. This is the definition of OA.

Notice that it says "can be," for unfortunately most (85%) of OA's primary
target content is not yet being made OA by its authors.

It is for this reason that it is imperative at this time not to
over-reach, and ask for even more than OA, in the name of OA, when even
OA is not yet being provided. OA is now being mandated by researchers'
institutions and funders, but it will be even more difficult to reach
consensus on the adoption of OA mandates if more is asked than free
online access.

In particular these points come to mind:
1. Open Access as a logical extension of the basic scientific mode of

  I remember early comments about Free Software which suggested that
  Free Software can be seen as a logical extension of the basic
  scientific mode of work. AFAICS external openness (i.e.
  availability of material to at least the scientific community) has
  always been crucial for science since Plato's idea of academia.

  So Open Access as a technical mean is just an expectable reaction
  to contemporary technical options to accomplish this external

I'm afraid I have not grasped what, concretely, the above massages mean.
I can only repeat, OA means free online access to peer-reviewed journal
content in the first instance; it can also be extended to some books
(those whose authors want it) and can also extend the re-use rights
(beyond reading, storing, printing-off anf data-crunching), again, for
those wuthors who want to do so. In general, though,
scientific/scholarly text is not like software code or audio/video: it
is not for re-use and re-mixing to generate new text: the content is,
but the words are not.

OA can also be extended to data, especially with re-use rights, if the
author wants to do so.

  But also I think that Open Access is accepted by scientists and
  other actors in the field because it implements fundamental
  scientific values. In this sense Open Access is very much an
  obvious mean to express the standard mode of production of science.

Again, for me the above passage does not convey specific content. What,
concretely, do you mean? If OA is not what I have described, what is it?

And don't forget that the OA that you take for granted as "accepted by
scientists... etc." is 85% not even being provided yet by scientists,

2. A front line in the fight between making knowledge scarce or

  One of the things which strike me most is that while Open Access
  and other peer production examples come into existence at the same
  time governments and other actors are setting up more and more
  walls like patents, copyright extensions and the like. They try to
  make scientific results scarce / commodities while the scientific
  community struggles for more openness. Well, perhaps this is the
  deep conflict of our times...

OA as I defined is meant specifically to eliminate the access-walls of publishing subscriptions and copyright. But it has nothing to do with
unpublished material or patents.

  In this sense Open Access is an invaluable part of the bigger
  movement for more peer production.

I still have no idea what you mean by OA. And the peers in question for
OA are the qualified scholars and scientists who write peer-reviewed
journal articles.

3. A way to fight the magazine crisis in science

  This is probably a perspective of those paying for science but in
  practice an important one nonetheless. In particular it shows that
  the beneficiaries of peer production are manifold.

I'm interested in comments on particularly this perspective from
people who are more into Open Access / Free Science than me.

The serials crisis is specifically what I was refereeing to: the fact
that those whose institutions cannot afford the subscription tolls
cannot access the journal articles. The articles are written by peers,
for peers, to be used, applied and built upon by peers, in further
research. Making the published articles OA (by depositing them in the
author's institutional OA repository -- or by publishing them in an OA
journal that makes the online version OA) is what OA is all about.

There are two ways to provide OA:

Green OA Self-Archiving: Authors self-archive the articles they
publish in the 25,000 peer-reviewed journals

Gold OA Publishing: authors publish in one of the c. 3500 OA

NB: This presentation is exclusively about providing Green OA, through
university policy reform (by mandating Green OA Self-Archiving).

Ok. Though I'd find it interesting to check the Gold OA perspective as

Gold OA is premature at this time. Only about 20% of journals are Gold
OA (and even fewer of the very top quality journals are Gold OA),
whereas Green OA can be provided to all journal articles.

Gold OA's time will come when universal Green OA is mandated and
prevails; if this causes subscriptions to become unsustainable, journals
will be forced to cut costs, downsize, and convert to Gold OA, which
will be paid for, per utgoing articles, by institutions, out of their
windfall savings from the cancellation of subscriptions.

Until then, Gold OA is just a proof-of-principle: that there is another
way to cover the essential costs of publishing (peer review), if
subscriptions ever become unsustainable.

It is *not* about Gold OA Publishing, which is in the hands of the
publishing community, not the university community.

Really? I understood that there are a number of journals who are
organized by scientists. Well, this perception is a few years old. May
be things have changed meanwhile?

The publishing community means those who publish journals, whether they
are commercial journal-freel publishers, learned societies, or
individual journals published by a few scholars or scientists.

The *Commonalities* and *Distinctions*

This is of course the topic I'm interested in most.

* Open Access,

* Free/Open Software

* P2P file sharing

Well, P2P file sharing IMHO can be understood as two concepts:

* Illegally copying copyrighted material (mostly music and films)

* A technology to use distributed resources (mostly disk space and net

Illegally copying copyrighted material is clearly no peer production.

The P2P technology is sometimes used as a tool for Free Software and
other peer production but it is only a tool.

So in neither case P2P file sharing is about peer production. Because
of this I would not include it in this comparison.

That's fine with me. I am against the illegal sharing of 3rd party
proprietary content. But I meant P2P sharing of one's own proprietary

* Open Data

Interesting example. I'll leave it out for brevity.

* Creative Commons Licensing

* Wikipedia

Otherwise an interesting list :-) .

1) :distinct:`Exception-Free Creator Give-Away?`

   (Created for uptake, usage and impact alone?)

Well, "exception-free" is hard to do. For instance in continental law
you can not give up certain author's rights.

I meant a content domain in which all items, without exception, are
author give-aways. As far as I know, this is only true of peer-reviewed
journal articles -- not other magazine articles, or books, or magazines,
or data or software. There the give-away content is the exception rather
than the rule.

Access is one thing ("gratis OA"); re-use rights are another ("libre
OA"). It is gratis OA that is exception-free for refereed journal
articles; libre OA is another matter, and not exception free. And it
too, like Gold OA, is premature, when we do not yet have 100% Gratis
green OA.

Also it remains a bit cloudy to me what this actually should mean. The
creation process of some material is not part of Stevan's definition
of OA - though I'd find it important to look at the creation process.

I have no idea, again, what this means. We are not talking about the
creation process, but the product: the refereed, published journal
articles (or book, etc.)

Also uptake and usage relate to users whereas impact relates more to
the author - right?


2) :distinct:`Peer-Revewed?`

May be we have a different understanding of peer-reviewed. May be by
peer-review you understand the fixed setting of peer-review in
science. I maintain a wider concept of peer-review. I'll get back to
this problem below.

It will not help in reaching an understanding if we have a different
notion of peer review: I am talking about the peer review praticed by
the 25,000 peer reviewed journals in all scholarly and scientific
disciplines (as indexed by Ulrichs). That peer review varies in its
quality standards, but most important of all if the higher-quality level
journals' peer review standards: the c. 8000 journal indexed by Thomspon
ISI, and even there, particularly the top 30-40% or so.

There are always a few journals experimenting with no forms of peer
review (or no peer review at all). They are not what OA is about; peer
review is about the mainstay of the vast majority of existing
peer-reviewed journals.

3) :distinct:`Published?`

Well, what "published" actually means seems to be a good question. I
would think that publishing is done by putting stuff to some website
[1]_. So to provide external openness of digital goods publishing is a

Not for refereed research publication: It means meeting the quality
standards for acceptance by a peer-reviewed journal (preferably one that
has an established track-record for quality).

A paper that is merely posted, but not published, is listed in academic
CVs as "unpublished manuscript."

However, you, Stevan, seem to understand something different by
publishing and I'm not completely clear what it is. I'll get back to
this problem below.

I have specified it: acceptance for publication by one of the c. 25,000
exsting peer-reviewed journals.

.. [1] Publishers see this similar seemingly. The recent text I wrote
      with StefanMz about germ form theory was ultimately not
      accepted because it has been published in the Wiki before
      (though I of course asked whether this is allowed...)...

Publisher policy on prior posting is relevant to the author, but not
relevant for what counts as publication on his CV.

4) :distinct:`Publicly Funded?`

I can't see why this is an interesting aspect. I'll leave this out

Public funding is a rationale for the funder to require OA.

5) :distinct:`Copyright Barrier?`

It would be useful to further explain what this means. In particular:
What does a barrier prevent?

If exclusive copyright has been transferred to the publisher, some
construe this as implying that the author cannot self-archive the
refereed final draft...

6) :common:`Access to code?`

Ok - though it is probably a good question what "code" actually means
in each case.

Code in the case of articles is the text itself (plus images).

7) :distinct:`Modifying/Remixing/"re-using" code?`

Well, a somewhat difficult category because modification and re-mixing
are quite different from re-using. I'll get back to this problem

What is unproblematic with gratis OA is online reading, downloading,
storage, print-off, and data-crunching. Re-use may mean modification
re-mixing, or just verbatim re-sale. None of these are part of gratis

8) :distinct:`Republishing Code?`


In the following I'll only comment those points where I disagree.

Open Access

1) Exception-Free Creator Give-Away

   (Created for uptake, usage and impact alone)

Well, below you say that republishing is not allowed. So this is
hardly exception-free. But ok.

The exception refers to the content domain -- all those articles -- not
to what may be done with them (apart from gratis OA).

6) :common:`Access to code`

What is the "code" here? I remember that a number of scientists argued
that Open Data is needed so wouldn't this be the code?

The code is the text and figures for articles. Unlike software code, it
is not written to be implemented or modified or re-sold. Just to be
read. Its semantic content, in contrast, can be used fully, and also
re-described in paraphrase, plus some limited quoting, with attribution.

7) :distinct:`Modifying/Remixing/"re-using" code?`

   *No (refereed research article texts not to be modified or

But re-using through citations is a key concept in science. As you
pointed out a big number of citations is even one of the top goals for
Open Access. And even if not cited the knowledge from the article is
certainly re-used.

I was talking about re-using and remixing the verbatim text: of course
it can be cited, and within limits, with attribution, quoted or

No I think you are wrong. Though I see that modification and remixing
is not part of Open Access re-using certainly is.

Wrong about what?

Free/Open Software

1) :distinct:`Exception-Free Creator Give-Away?`

   (Created for uptake, usage and impact alone?)

   Not all (nor most, yet)

Well, Free Software is usually governed by licenses which explicitly
state what you may do or not do with the material. In fact
republishing is allowed by probably all licenses - contrary to Open

So I really wonder what you are referring to when you say "not all". I
see nothing which allows this judgement.

Not all or most software today is free: That's what I meant by

2) :distinct:`Peer-Revewed?`

   Most not

Hmm... May be I'll try to make my point this way: What is the goal of
peer-review? It is to maintain a certain level of quality of some

Now, for scientific articles peer-review by reading it and may be by
repeating the experiments is the only way to peer-review the material.

For software (continuous) using it is also peer-review: You would not
use it if it would not meet a certain level of quality.

And in a project with several developers there is always a peer-review
at least in the sense that they use the code and notice if it breaks.

I agree that there can be peer review of software products other than
formal journal peer review. But I don't think internal review by peers
is quite the same thing as neutral, answerable, third-party peer-review.

So, I would say that classical scientific peer-review can also be seen
as a result of the inherent limitations of the non-operationality of
text. To limit the concept of peer-review to this limitation to me
makes no sense.

So, no, I'd say that Free Software is peer-reviewed.

I think you mean some free software is sometimes peer-reviewed formally,
and that it is also user-tested, perhaps peer-tested...

3) :distinct:`Published?`

   Most not

Well, see my concerns above with the meaning of "published". Even
though there might be some some Free Software which is not published
the vast majority of Free Software *is* of course publicly available
and published by the authors.

This is again about the meaning of "publish" for scholars and
scientists, in this publish-or-perish world....

5) :distinct:`Copyright Barrier?`


What barriers do you have in mind?

I assumed (am I wrong?) that software code too could be proprietary,
with copyright restrictions.

Creative Commons Licensing (Books, Music, Video)

In fact Creative Commons licenses build a whole family - and even
bigger than Free Software licenses. I think a more thorough analysis
has to distinguish the different licenses.

1) :distinct:`Exception-Free Creator Give-Away?`

   (Created for uptake, usage and impact alone?)

   Not all (nor most, yet)

This for instance depends largely on the particular licences. CC-BY
for instance is probably the most liberal license except public

2) :distinct:`Peer-Revewed?`

   Most not

Similar points can be made as for Free Software. What is a peer-review
of a piece of music after all?

3) :distinct:`Published?`


Same points as for Free Software apply: Of course it is published.

5) :distinct:`Copyright Barrier?`


Depends largely on the particular licence.

6) :common:`Access to code`

The question again is what is the "code" here.


2) :distinct:`Peer-Revewed?`


Well, Wikipedia is probably the most peer-reviewed thing on earth. All
those readers review it all the time - don't you think?

Peer review means review by qualified experts, answerable to an editor,
a meta-expert.

3) :distinct:`Published?`

   Most not

Again the problem of the meaning of "published". In fact Wikipedia is
really unthinkable without public availability.

5) :distinct:`Copyright Barrier`


Well, Wikipedia (still?) is governed by the GFDL. So depending on your
exact notion of copyright barrier there is one.

			     Open Access,
			 Free/Open Software,
			      Open Data
		      Creative Commons Licensing

Well, one of my central criticisms of this part is that comparing a
intersection of phenomenons to a single phenomenon does not make much

Anyway here is my table:

|                  |Open  |Free    |Creative|Wikipedia|
|                  |Access|Software|Commons |         |
|Exception-free    |Yes   |Yes     |Depends |Yes      |
|                  |      |        |on      |         |
|                  |      |        |variant |         |
|Quality           |Yes   |Yes     |Yes     |Yes      |
|controlled        |      |        |        |         |
|Published         |Yes   |Yes     |Yes     |Yes      |
|Important usages  |Yes   |Yes     |Depends |Yes      |
|allowed by        |      |        |on      |         |
|copyright         |      |        |variant |         |
|Modification by   |No    |Yes     |Depends |Yes      |
|others            |      |        |on      |         |
|                  |      |        |variant |         |
|Re-use            |Yes   |Yes     |Yes     |Yes      |
|Republishing      |No    |Yes     |Yes     |Yes      |

So even if I build the intersection the similarities are quite
impressive. If you read "Depends on variant" as "Yes" then it is even
only two aspects concerning the modification and republishing where
Open Access falls behind.

I think my analysis was based on using the terms "peer review,"
"published" and "exceptions" in a way whose reference point is academic
publishing, and it was relative to that that I was comparing the other

I hope some of my answers have clarified a few of these
misunderstandings and disagreements.

Best wishes,




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