[open-science] Should scientific text be put in the public domain rather than licensed with CC-BY?
mn at michaelnielsen.org
Wed Jan 12 17:29:13 UTC 2011
On Wed, 12 Jan 2011, Thomas Kluyver wrote:
> What could we do if all scientific writing was CC0, that couldn't be done if it was
> all CC-BY?
I don't have especially strong feelings about this, but a few
(1) Attribution amongst scientists is currently enforced normatively, not
legally. Those norms aren't perfect, but they are very, very strong: as a
scientist one of the worst accusations that can be made against you is one
The implication is that it's perfectly possible to (normatively) require
attribution, but to release things into the public domain, where
attribution is not legally required.
My understanding is that a large number of written scientific works from
the US Government are already released into the public domain. Yet this
hasn't caused an outbreak of people copying them without attribution. So
I think it's a mistake to think that adopting CC0 means not requiring
attribution. It merely means not LEGALLY requiring attribution, which is
(2) I can easily imagine a future in which a thousand-word piece of text
has (a) tens or hundreds of thousands of authors; and (b) goes through
hundreds or even thousands of public iterations, possibly involving many
quite different sets of authors. I don't know of a case where both these
things have already happened, but point (a) has arguably already happened
in the case of Galaxy Zoo and Foldit, where tens or hundreds of thousands
of people contributed to the analysis. And point (b) is seen in projects
such as the Matlab programming competition. I like a term I've heard John
Wilbanks use to describe the problem with attribution that arises in this
kind of situation: it creates an attribution stacking problem. (I've heard
John mostly use it for data, and don't intend to imply that he agrees with
what I'm saying here.) Personally, I'd be in favour of developing tools
to handle the attribution stacking problem in these kinds of situations.
But I am a bit uncomfortable with the notion of legally requiring
attribution. What happens as the community fragments? Maybe some authors
will disagree with later versions of "their" paper, and want to rescind
authorship? Or they'll agree with only parts of the paper? Perhaps
managing authorship legally in such a complex environment will turn out to
be more trouble than it's worth, and it would be better instead to focus
on coming up with flexible normative solutions.
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