How Open Should Academic Papers Be?

February 7, 2013

(This article was originally published at Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

Richard Van Noorden reports in Nature that 95% of the authors submitting to the Nature Publishing Group choose more restrictive open-source licenses, CC-BY-NC-SA or CC-BY-NC-ND, even when given the opportunity to use a much more open license, CC-BY. (I include their data below.)

How open should papers be? Should authors own their work or should universities? What if they’re paid for by a government research grant? For instance, should NIH go further in requiring openness than it already has?

Personally, I don’t mind publishers trying to make a buck off my papers. But I don’t want to write something and then hand them the copyright, because then they’ll try to restrict the distribution.

Creative Commons Licenses

Here’s the license cheat sheet, straight from Creative Commons:

CC-BY: This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.

CC BY-NC-SA: This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

CC BY-NC-ND: This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

Stan’s Doc is Really Open

We want everyone to use Stan and its doc, so we licensed Stan’s doc under CC BY. Using CC BY, a publisher could print all or part of the Stan manual and sell it. I’d be excited if someone did this, not mad at them for using my work without paying me.

The Data

The article references a message-board post by Grace Baynes, the key data from which is as follows.

Nature Publishing Group can offer some more data on author choice of 
licenses on Scientific Reports. Since we introduced CC-BY as an 
option in July 2012, authors have chosen CC-BY on 5% of papers. 

1 January 2011 to 30 June 2012
* Two license choices were available: CC-BY-NC-SA, CC-BY-NC-ND
532 papers accepted
* 75% were CC-BY-NC-SA 
* 25% were CC-BY-NC-ND

1 July 2012 to 7 November 2012
Introduced CC-BY; Three license choices available
412 papers accepted
* 37% were CC BY-NC-SA 
* 58% were CC BY-NC-ND 
* 5% were CC BY 
Order of the license on the rights form was: 
We speculated that more authors might be choosing ND because it was 
the middle option listed on the form. On 8 November 2012, we released 
an updated form with the options reorganized.

8 November 2012 to 21 January 2013
273 papers accepted 
* 11% were CC BY-NC-SA 
* 83% were CC BY-NC-ND 
* 5% were CC BY 

Order on the rights form revised to: 

P.S. Thanks to Slashdot, where I saw the link.

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