Biology Open journal uses not-quite-open CC-BY-NC-SA licence
February 7, 2012
Dear Biology Open,
First of all, congratulations on launching your new journal. It is a very welcome addition to the field.
Unfortunately, the utility of articles published in Biology Open under the current circumstances will be less than it should be. As stated on your Open Access Policies and Fees page, “All articles are published under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) license”.
Although in many respects this is an open licence, it does not conform to the the most widely accepted definition of Open Access, that of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), which reads as follows:
“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.”
You will recognise this as the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence, unencumbered by the non-commercial and share-alike clauses. Although these additional clauses are intuitively appealing, they typically have unintended consequences that hamper the reusability of information published in this way — for example, it is not in general possible to text-mine NC documents without complex negotiations. It is for this reason that other open-access publishers such as PLoS and BioMed Central have elected to use a CC-BY licence. A fuller discussion of the pros and cons of the NC clause can be found in this recent paper in ZooKeys.
For these reasons and to facilitate the greatest possible value of the articles published in Biology Open, I urge you to consider changing the journal’s licence to CC-BY. Now would be the time to do it, very early in the journal’s life, when it should not be too difficult to contact the authors of existing articles and request their permission to relicence under the more permissive regime.
In closing, I congratulate you once more on the publication of the first issue of your new journal, and wish you the very best as it grows and develops.
Dr. Michael P. Taylor
Department of Earth Sciences
University of Bristol
Bristol BS8 1RJ
I feel like a bit of a jerk sending a criticism when they’re just up and running, but I think it’s the best thing in the long run. I will let you know what they say if/when they reply.
Update (28 March 2012). They did: read all about it.