[Open-access] [open-science] Open Science Anthology published

Bjoern Brembs b.brembs at gmail.com
Mon Jan 27 12:40:33 UTC 2014

On Sunday, January 26, 2014, 10:30:41 PM, you wrote:

> 1.      If the work of scholars is not their work, but
> rather the taxpayers' work, then scholars have no rights
> to grant copyright to publishers, period, no rights to
> obtain patents or to work with commercial companies or
> universities to help them to achieve patents. I think a
> good argument could be made that this is how things should
> work, but in reality this is not how the system works now.
> FYI, this would be an argument AGAINST CC-BY, as CC
> licenses are a partial waiver of copyright, and from this
> perspective scholars have no copyright to grant. If you
> would like to advocate for this position I very much encourage 
> you to do so!

It's actually quite close to my perspective, as I do take issue with university-applied patents and 'spin-off' companies by (public) university scholars, etc.

Thus, I try to make all my research CC0 or CC BY or public domain and argue that this is what all people in similar positions should do.

> 2.      If the work of scholars is 100% paid for by
> taxpayers where you work and live, what an excellent model
> - please write about how this works!

That's how it is here. The state pays my university which pays my salary, that of my technician and that of my postdoc, plus a yearly budget which (in my rather special case) covers almost my entire research budget, if the two people I mentioned remained by sole co-workers.

The model (which is slowly becoming outdated as research becomes more expensive) is that state universities cover all baseline aspects of research and teaching, while the federal government only pays for the extra-ordinary research projects for which one needs grants.

In my case, there is only public money involved, from beginning to end. Student tuitions existed here only a for a few years, went 100% into teaching and were abolished last year. Private donations happen essentially only at institutions with corporate interests such as technical universities or in fields such as economics or some such.

From an international perspective, perhaps this makes my case special, I don't know, but at least for most of Europe and the US (public universities) in my field of research, I get the impression it's at least very similar.

> For example, would you propose that taxpayers should claim copyright? 

To combat abuse by whom? Tax-evaders? Maybe :-) Aliens? I don't know if copyright should be our top priority in this case :-)

Seriously, though, I've seen the issue mentioned of tax-payers from one country protecting their investment against tax-payers from other countries. This is something that the current mantra of "the tax payer paid for it, so the tax payer should be able to access and re-use it" would, IMHO, cover. One country could, in principle, make all their research OA only for that country (more tricky in practice, obviously).

Clearly, this sort of "knowledge protectionism" is a perspective we should try and prevent.
However, I don't really have a good idea on how to defend "let's give away the research we paid for to those who didn't pay" against politicians who already begrudge poor people their social security. 

> What this means is that a very large percentage of research is conducted
> without taxpayer funding.

As with all research that is not tax payer funded, the open access rationale doesn't apply - it applies the rationale of either the scholar, if they are self-funded, or of the entity paying the scholar.

I don't think anybody ever proposed making something public by default which wasn't public to begin with?

> 5.      Research often involves other parties besides
> funders and researchers. An argument can be made that
> research on First Nations groups properly belongs to them
> (in Canada, some of our First Nations groups do make such
> claims). Businesses, medical subjects, organizations that
> help to facilitate the research - many people participate
> in research projects. This illustrates an issue with the
> "funder copyright" scenario - if rich people are able to
> fund research conducted on poor people does this mean that
> rich people should own the results? I would argue no, that
> others who have contributed to works have rights as well.

I don't think issues such as these are relevant for this discussion, as human rights always trump *any* form of license or copyright (at least for me as a non-lawyer), i.e., whatever license were ever established as a "default", there would always be larger reasons (e.g., privacy, your examples, or biological safety, etc.) which necessitate exceptions.

For instance, I'm not sure I would favor a CC BY license for a paper which happened to describe the construction of an H-bomb with household ingredients, but I wouldn't find this particular example an obstacle to OA in general.

All the best,


Björn Brembs
Universität Regensburg

More information about the open-access mailing list