When did OA become exclusively peer-reviewed articles?

Heather Morrison has a post about the “gratis v. libre” distinction that Peter Suber is suggesting as being more neutral than “weak vs. strong” when discussing the difference between open access as a way to read material and open access as a way to reuse material.

It’s a useful distinction. No, more than that, it’s a necessary distinction. And it allows people to start discussing whether “the goals” should be libre (which seems to be required by some of the OA declarations) or gratis (which opens readership–what a lot of us thought was the goal).

That’s why I featured it in Open access basics, the starting point for the PALINET Leadership Network’s cluster of articles on open access. (I believe I was one of the first to pick up on Suber’s usage–and note, with a little disappointment, that pretty much nobody but Suber has mentioned the PLN open access cluster. Too bad; I believe it’s a significant contribution and could use wider readership and discussion.)

Here’s the thing, though: Morrison includes this paragraph:

Since IJPE is not a peer-reviewed journal, the focus of the open access movement, it is not quite accurate to call IJPE OA – even though it is gratis, libre, and scholarly in nature.

Huh? Because the primary focus of the OA movement has been peer-reviewed articles, then anything else can’t be called OA? When did that happen?

The paragraph and those that follow do bring up another issue: Does “libre” mean anything at this point?

IJPE operates under a Creative Commons Attribution (BY), Noncommercial (NC), Sharealike (SA) license. That’s not the most restrictive CC license, but it certainly doesn’t remove the permission barriers that some people feel need to be removed: You can’t reuse IJPE material in commercial settings without permission, and the SA portion makes datamining and derivation a little tricky.

If I were to call Cites & Insights OA, I’d call it gratis, not libre, because I use a BY-NC license (but explicitly allow derivative works without requiring sharealike).

I would have left a shorter version of this as a comment at Morrison’s blog–but it doesn’t support comments.


Update: It may be useful to quote Peter Suber, from his longer Open access overview:

  • Royalty-free literature is the low-hanging fruit of OA, but OA needn’t be limited to royalty-free literature. OA to royalty-producing literature, like monographs and novels, is possible as soon as the authors consent. But because these authors will fear losing revenue, their consent is more difficult to obtain. They have to be persuaded either (1) that the benefits of OA exceed the value of their royalties, or (2) that OA will trigger a net increase in sales. However, there is growing evidence that both conditions are met for most research monographs. Nevertheless, this is still a minor front in the larger campaign for OA to royalty-free literature.
  • Nor need OA even be limited to literature. It can apply to any digital content, from raw and semi-raw data to learning objects, music, images, multi-media presentations, and software. It can apply to works that are born digital or to older works, like public-domain literature and cultural-heritage objects, digitized later in life.
  • I refer to “peer-reviewed research articles and their preprints” in my subtitle because it’s the focus of most OA activity and the focus of this overview, not because it sets the boundaries of OA.

There are plenty of issues and controversies around open access. This needn’t be one of them.

2 Responses to “When did OA become exclusively peer-reviewed articles?”

  1. Dorothea Salo Says:

    Ugh, this kind of thing makes my head ache.

    But you knew that.

  2. Stephen Michael Kellat Says:

    This would be why I attempted putting the very first episode of LISTen in the E-LIS archive. OA doesn’t have to be print alone necessarily.


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