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February 16, 2012 - 16:20 -- Tom Olijhoek

This month was the 10th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, considered by many as the start of the open access movement. In the past 10 years the term open access has come to mean a lot of different things. Publishers have been giving this label to very different kinds of open access. In many cases reading of the articles is all that is allowed but reuse and redistribution are often strictly forbidden. This is in marked contrast to the original definition of Open Access by the BOAI:


“There are many degrees and kinds of wider and easier access to this literature. By “open access” to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial,legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”


The more the open access movement  gains speed, the more desperately publishers are acting up to protect their property by supporting laws like SOPA, PIPA, the RWA and ACTA. Scientists are also acting up. With the cost of Knowledge, the famous mathematician and Fields medalist Tim Gowers has started a list of people who declare in public to refrain from publishing, refereeing or undertaking editorial work for Elsevier. The list has been signed by >6000 people already. One of the reasons for the boycott as stated on the website:


 Elsevier, Springer, and a number of other commercial publishers (many of them large companies but less significant for their mathematics publishing, e.g., Wiley) all exploit our volunteering to extract very large profits from the academic community. They supply some value in the process, but nothing like enough to justify their prices.


For many scientists unhappiness (with the current publishing system) has turned into anger, feeding a willingness to take action. Publishing in Open Access journals gains terrain, but it is often difficult to know the criteria that individual publishers use for their form of open access. @ccess wants to be a place where everyone has garanteed BOAI compliant open access to information organized around themes.  At the same time it will provide a portal to Open Access related information, especially concerning the flavours of open access that publishers use. In this way it will help authors to decide where they can best publish their work.

The @ccess site will also link to communities of scientists and other citizens sharing information. And here is where MalariaWorld comes in. MalariaWorld will be the first community that will become linked under @ccess. In collaboration with @ccess the MalariaWorld community will start building an open access database for malaria information, which could soon become the definite resource for malaria. To begin with we will ask all of you to deposit a PDF of your manuscripts prior to publication in the database. In addition we will ask you to deposit copies of your published papers where you have retained the right for self-archiving. And, most importantly we will ask you to demand a  Licence to Publish from publishers and to not transfer your copyrights for any of your future publications. On the EU website it says:


In most cases, authors grant permission by signing over copyright to the publisher. This gives the publisher the full rights in and control over the article. Consequently, if an author wishes to reuse the article at a later stage, e.g. to make the work available in Open Access, he/she will have to ask permission from the publisher to do so. Alternatively, authors can grant the publisher a Licence to Publish. With this agreement, authors can retain copyright and the right to deposit the article in an Open Access repository, while providing the publisher with the necessary rights to publish the article”


As authors we have the power to keep the (copy)rights to our own works. That the publishers have this power now is only because we have let them have it. We don’t have the obligation to let them keep it. When we start claiming our own work, and organize ourselves in  open science communities with open access databases of our work, I have the feeling that we can force the publishers into acceptance of our demand for open access and free and unrestricted sharing of information.

MalariaWorld-@ccess will be a testcase for more communities to follow. It has the potential to change the way we do science. But it’s success depends on our acting together. Expect a follow-up to this post in the very near future on MalariaWorld with detailed plans and concrete tasks. When the time is there I surely hope that all of you will be prepared to act.