The STM Association initiated an open consultation on article sharing recently and asked for my thoughts on the project. The draft set of Voluntary Principles are an effort to get their arms around the significantly increased level of sharing occurring with STM papers. I think they are genuine in the effort and, as such, shared the following thoughts with them:
When asked to share my views on the consultation, I wondered if this was a real effort to help scholars understand the rules or lip service to an out of control problem by publishers wanting to remain in control. Based on my conversations with a few of the individuals directly involved, I think they are genuine and offer the following thoughts to help move these guidelines forward.
Article sharing is a problem and everyone will benefit from reducing the ambiguity and lack of consistency amongst publishers and even journals within a publisher. We strongly support Open Access at SSRN where close to 85 million papers have been downloaded for free. But, Open Access doesn’t mean free. It is significantly more specific and yet nuanced at the same time. The Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) defined “open access” as:
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, or 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 the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.
I recommend a sustainable system where everyone is compensated in some form for the value they provide. The guidelines are not a debate about the merits of Open Access but I think it is important for the guidelines to specifically mention OA (not just in the FAQ) and help readers by explaining how they fit within the OA framework. No one benefits from general statements; watered down definitions of OA only contribute to misuse. The guidelines also need to very carefully define academic groups and scholarly collaboration networks so that future confusion and current concerns about perceived preferences for one service over another can be eliminated.
SSRN has created a sustainable model for sharing articles by working with thousands of publishers, journals, universities, research organizations and, most importantly, over 275,000 authors. Our focus, since inception, has been on the author and we believe in letting 1000 flowers bloom. We also recognize the value of peer-review and the role of publishers in the scholarly ecosystem. Article sharing guidelines are important and I hope this STM Consultation, by focusing on the researcher, is successful in helping them easily understand the rules for sharing STM articles.
This is an important and hopefully genuine effort to clarify very muddy waters. If you are interested in the topic, I encourage you to share your thoughts with them by 10 April 2015 at: firstname.lastname@example.org