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

Heather Morrison Heather.Morrison at uottawa.ca
Mon Jan 27 14:49:43 UTC 2014

hi Bjoern,

First I'll return to what I am interpreting as your argument that taxpayer funding means that articles must be published CC-BY. Then I will explain that if you have the good fortune to enjoy 100% public funding, this is a good thing but not ubiquitous.

Funding agencies do have the rights to attach conditions when they supply funding. However, this does not mean that funding agencies always have the legal right to insist that funded articles be published CC-BY. Here are some examples of when this will not be the case:

1. If an article includes third party works, whether this portion of the work can be released under a CC-BY license is within the legal rights of the third party, not the scholar or their funder. If a scholar publishes an article with the CC-BY license they may be violating the rights of a third party. It is quite possible that this will happen without the scholar realizing that this is the case, because not many people understand these nuances of copyright.

2. A lot of scholarly research involves human subjects, who have rights under the ethical guidelines of funding agencies. There are many potential circumstances where informed consent would not provide rights to grant blanket permission for derivatives and/or commercial use of portions of works (above and beyond copyright as these may also be third party works). For example, if you include a picture of a research subject in an article, you do not have the right to grant anyone in the world permission to alter the picture and/or use it for commercial purposes unless you have explicitly stated in the process of obtaining consent that the picture will be used for this purpose. I have doubts that scholars or research ethics committees (or anyone, for that matter) has sufficient knowledge of the potential consequences to explain them in order to gain informed consent.

Another reason why I think scholars and funding agencies alike should hesitate before demanding CC-BY is the potential for derivatives to cause harm through the spread of misinformation. My understanding of the study of toxicology is that a common saying, for good reason, is that the difference between a drug and a poison is a dose. Unleashing the creativity involved with automated derivatives may have benefits, but if a doctor is relying on a derivative that inserted a zero in the wrong place, the result could be death. Note that I am not demanding that derivatives be forbidden, rather suggesting that there are substantive reasons for hesitation about requiring that all scholarly works permit derivatives on a blanket basis.

Now to explain just how fortunate Bjoern and others in his situation are:

If your university and research are 100% publicly funded, then I would suggest that this is a special case. I would argue that this should be the norm - I favour fully publicly funded higher education. However, in much of the world this is not the case.

Some reading:

Denhart, Chris. Forbes July 2013: how the $1.2 trillion college debt crisis is crippling students, parents and the economy:

Freeman, Sunny, July 2013 Huffington Post Canada: Student Debt Canada: Post-Grads Delay Adult Life, Struggle with Payments, TD says:

TD is Toronto Dominion, a very conservative Canadian bank. This is Forbes and TD explaining that student debt is a huge issue.

In Canada and the US student debt is non-forgivable; it cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, no matter what. I argue that we are in effect asking the next generation to take on this burden to "invest" in their education then sign off on trade deals that have the effect of eliminating a large portion of the high-paying jobs for which they were investing. This is why I suggest that students, at least in North America, are in effect subsidizing both universities and taxpayers. For example, in the case of research, there are many grad students taking on a huge debt load some will never recover from in order to do research in the public interest.

North America is not unique, however. For example, see this article from the Guardian on the desperate situation of universities in Greece:

Smith, Helena, September 25, 2013. Austerity measures push Greek universities to point of collapse.

Meanwhile, in the UK:

Malik, Shiv. November 25, 2013. The Guardian. Poorest students face £350m cut in grants.

The cuts to student funding in the UK are particularly troubling to me in the context of UK's publisher-friendly open access policy. It strikes me that the UK is more concerned with the health of publisher profits than the prospects of the UK's own next generation.


Dr. Heather Morrison
Assistant Professor
École des sciences de l'information / School of Information Studies
University of Ottawa
613-562-5800 ext. 7634
Heather.Morrison at uottawa.ca<mailto:Heather.Morrison at uottawa.ca>

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