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

Couture Marc marc.couture at teluq.ca
Tue Jan 28 15:50:17 UTC 2014

Mark raises relevant questions about the use of posts to this list in a research project.

As it's a little bit off-topic, even considering the general nature of the thread where it appeared (Open Science Anthology published), I renamed it if some wish to go further into this subject.

As in any research-ethics related matter, there is no clear-cut answers to Mark's questions, but rather general principles and guidelines upon which ethical review committees base their analyses and decisions.

In the specific case of posts to forums or discussion lists, these can be:

- The extent to which the forum or list is private (vs public).

- Expectations of the participants about both privacy  and use of their contributions for research purposes?

- Risks (or possible harm) to which participants are or would be subject to if non-anonymized results (not the original posts, but rather their analysis) are made public?

In my opinion (and I must say that I sit on an ethical review committee), it wouldn't be difficult for Mark to convince an ethical review committee that what he intends to do doesn't require participant consent, and maybe not even anonymization.

As to copyright issues, it's true that any text we write, be it a blog post or a 12-volume treatise, is protected by copyright if it's original (I won't enter here into the subtleties of the legal definition of "original").

However, I believe that no authorization is required from the copyright holders (the participants) for this kind of use, considering:

- what would be in fact be retained of the original posts in the final publication;

- exceptions (fair use, fair dealing) or provisions in copyright law concerning the use of copyrighted material for research purposes.

So, I would say that although ethical concerns and copyright matters must be addressed in such a research (as in any other research), they don't necessarily impede the research activity in a significant way.

Things could be different in other seemingly similar situtations, for instance discussion lists about individual health problems. See for instance Eysenbach G. (2001). Ethical issues in qualitative research on internet communities. BMJ, 323, p. 1103. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.323.7321.1103 (Toll-free).

Marc Couture

From: Mark MacGillivray
Sent: 28 Jan 2014 08:11
To: Mike Taylor
Cc : open-access at lists.okfn.org; Bjoern Brembs; Emanuil Tolev; Heather Morrison; open-science
Subject: Re: [Open-access] [open-science] Open Science Anthology published

I have a particularly relevant example for the members of these lists, in regard to the topic this thread has now focused on.

We have seen in this discussion various points of view about whether or not copyright of various (or any) sorts is good or bad for scholarship.

We have even seen questions arise as to the use of the content of the emails on this thread as sources to quote or derive from.

And we have seen disagreement on whether or not copyright restrictions harms scholarship.

So here is a concrete example:

My current research is about how people access and share information to make decisions. As part of this research, I have taken the public archives of these mailing lists and analysed the interactions between list members, and I would like to publish these analyses in my research. What this means is that the interactions I wish to observe in order to perform my scholarship are interactions that - because of the definition of intellectual property and copyright laws - have been polluted with rights restrictions without the consent of those involved, despite the fact that I can observe these interactions in a public forum and in a public archive with no access restrictions and with no statement of restrictions of any kind.

It therefore seems not only that the output of my research can be placed under restrictions without my consent, but also that the observable events upon which I wish to perform my scholarship can be placed under restrictions with or without consent.

And here are two questions about what I should therefore do next:

If I were to publish my research, including the names of the people involved in the discussions I analysed, would I be breaking the law? If so, need I ask for consent from everyone exposed in the research - despite the fact that they are already observably exposed by having voluntarily contributed to a publicly archived mailing list? If so, why is it that their comments made on a public mailing list using public identifiers and archived in public were put under copyright restriction in the first place?

Secondly, if I were to publish my research but remove all identifying features of the data, would I still need to ask for consent, or am I then just performing an analysis of observable events without making use of the reserved content of those events?

Finally, the key questions:

Is it right that our intellectual property and copyright frameworks should make it possible for people to own the observable events upon which our scholarship must be founded? Does it seem like a good idea, particularly when so much of the interesting interactions between human beings is now taking place in mediums that provide an opportunity to observe and learn far more than we ever have done before, that those same mediums should be the ones to carry such a polluting effect upon the observations we can make?

Regardless of any right that any of us have to protect our works, is that right greater than the right of other scholars to make clear, accurate, comprehensive observations? Should we be free to restrict our works and still claim that we are scholars?

Could it be the case that intellectual property and copyright laws - in their concept, rather than particular formulations of them - are (now) fundamentally incompatible with scholarship?

Please note that these are not questions about privacy or making observations into purposefully hidden events. I am talking here only of observations that are occurring in a public arena, of people performing public actions, without making any effort to hide their identities. Privacy concerns may arguably override any right to make observations, but here I am interested specifically in the cases where such observations are public.

I would greatly appreciate answers to these questions, along with a statement explicitly placing such answers in the public domain so that I may publish my observations and analysis of them in my research findings.


On Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 12:21 PM, Mike Taylor <mike at indexdata.com<mailto:mike at indexdata.com>> wrote:
On 28 January 2014 12:01, Tom Olijhoek <tom.olijhoek at gmail.com<mailto:tom.olijhoek at gmail.com>> wrote:
> I completely agree with all that Jan Velterop said..
Absolutely. The best post I've ever seen on this, or any other, mailing list.

> If I remember correctly Mike Taylor at Berlin11 argued that many more
> billions of dollars are in fact wasted by not being able to share
> information to the full extent, than can be earned by protecting pieces of
> info in order to be able to sell them.
Exactly. The problem we face is that accountants can calculate the
money that's to be made by hiding information, but the enormous
benefits of NOT hiding it are much harder to estimate (and, really,
impossible to know). The cost to worry about in academic publishing is
not subscriptions, page-charges or APC. It's the incredible
opportunity cost of NOT freeing our research.

> I also particularly oppose the notion of protecting the taxpayers property
> in one country from being used freely by citizens in other countries. The
> idea of open access restricted to one country is non-sense. How shortsighted
> can you be? People playing with these ideas probably implicitly suppose that
> their country will produce all (the good science).
I don't think anyone really supports this notion. It's a bit of a
straw-horse that people sometimes throw in for rhetorical purposes.
Even Kent Anderson can't actually believe that's a good way to go
(even if it was possible, which it's not).

-- Mike.
open-access mailing list
open-access at lists.okfn.org<mailto:open-access at lists.okfn.org>
Unsubscribe: https://lists.okfn.org/mailman/options/open-access

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.okfn.org/pipermail/open-science/attachments/20140128/084dcc6b/attachment-0003.html>

More information about the open-science mailing list