The Gates Foundation Emerges As A Leader In The Fight For Full Open Access And Open Data

from the great,-so-how-about-open-source-too? dept

As Techdirt readers know, the battle to provide open access to the world’s research has been going on for many years now. Despite the clear benefits of sharing information freely, the top academic publishers are still resisting, which probably has something to do with the 35% profit margins they currently enjoy. There have been various attempts to force their hand, notably through boycotts, but these have been disappointingly ineffective so far. Funding organizations have helped by requiring that any work they fund should be published as some kind of open access, but often they have been rather timid in their demands and enforcement. Against that background, the following is noteworthy:

One of the world’s most influential global health charities says that the research it funds cannot currently be published in several leading journals, because the journals do not comply with its open-access policy.

Scientists who do research funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are not — for the moment — allowed to publish papers about that work in journals that include Nature, Science, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

That comes from a news story published in Nature, one of the leading titles that falls foul of the new rules. These were first announced in November 2014, when Nature called them the “world’s strongest policy on open access research.” After a two-year grace period, the new rules have come fully into force, no exceptions allowed. There are five so-called “elements” to the new policy, including the following:

Publication Will Be On “Open Access” Terms. All publications shall be published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Generic License (CC BY 4.0) or an equivalent license. This will permit all users of the publication to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and transform and build upon the material, including for any purpose (including commercial) without further permission or fees being required.

As that points out, the CC-BY license allows anyone to use material with attribution, including for commercial purposes. This is something academic publishers are very unwilling to allow, since it means that rivals can reprint the content immediately, and without payment.

Publications Will Be Accessible and Open Immediately. All publications shall be available immediately upon their publication, without any embargo period. An embargo period is the period during which the publisher will require a subscription or the payment of a fee to gain access to the publication.

This is also an unusually strong demand. In the past, major funders have meekly allowed an extended period of exclusivity to publishers in the form of an embargo before research is available under open access terms. The new requirement by the Gates Foundation is therefore a bold move, and again something that publishers have always fought hard against.

Data Underlying Published Research Results Will Be Accessible and Open Immediately. The foundation will require that data underlying the published research results be immediately accessible and open.

A separate requirement for open data recognizes that the underlying results are just as important as the main findings, and that they should be available under an open license for other researchers to use freely.

The Nature story says that the new rules will only affect a few hundred research papers, since 92% of the 2,000-2,500 papers published each year with funding from the Gates Foundation are in journals that already comply with the stringent open access policy. However, the ones that currently don’t meet them are big names in the world of scientific publishing, which sets up an interesting battle of wills. It’s one that Peter Suber, a key figure in the open access movement, thinks that the Gates Foundation is likely to win:

“I predict that the Gates Foundation won’t compromise. The journals ought to compromise, and in due time, I predict that they will,” says Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Open Access Project and the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Suber recalls that in 2008, many journals were unwilling to accommodate a US National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy, which, at the time, mandated that papers be made freely available no later than 12 months after publication. “Essentially, the NIH forced publishers to choose between accommodating the new policy and refusing to publish the large volume of high-quality research by NIH-funded authors,” he says. In the end, publishers accommodated the policy, Suber notes. He expects that the Gates policy will draw the same concessions from publishers.

If Suber is right — and he usually is on these matters — this will represent a serious defeat for the old-style, dog-in-the-manger publishers, who have hitherto regarded themselves as indispensable and thus able to dictate terms to the open access movement and their funders. It might encourage other organizations to impose similar terms, and to usher in finally the long-awaited open access revolution.

The Gates Foundation is therefore to be congratulated on making this stand for both open access and open data. However, there is a certain irony here that an organization fighting so hard for openness should be funded by a man whose huge fortune is based on selling software that is resolutely closed source.

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Comments on “The Gates Foundation Emerges As A Leader In The Fight For Full Open Access And Open Data”

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Ninja (profile) says:

I have mixed feelings with the foundation but this is very, very nice indeed. It seems to be an effective remedy. If most research institutions or the ones that grant funds enact such rules then it will be the end of the tight, expensive grip the publishers exert at science. It’s a huge win for humanity. A win I hope extends to all intellectual property.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You misunderstand me, I don’t think they are evil or bad and it’s very good that the Gates are putting money that several hundred millions around the world don’t have to good, social and useful goals. I just disagreed with positions and actions in the past (and I may possibly be mixing Microsoft, something Bill said and the Foundation). It’s not that I hate them, I just take them with grains of salt.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Tanzania applied the legislation concerning intellectual property rights on seeds as a condition for receiving development assistance through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN). … The initiative receives the support of the EU, the US, the UK, the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Anonymous Coward says:

>However, there is a certain irony here that an organization >fighting so hard for openness should be funded by a man whose >huge fortune is based on selling software that is resolutely >closed source.

I was thinking the same thing. Back in the day, Microsoft was synonymous with closed source proprietary software.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s worse than closed source proprietary software.

It was that Gates is a monopolist. PC-DOS is IBM’s OS for their PC. But Microsoft has the rights to sell MS-DOS on other brands. That was a smart move.

But then Microsoft dictates to all other PC OEMs that if you want to sell MS-DOS on your PCs, you must pay for a copy of MS-DOS for every PC you sell — whether that PC has MS-DOS on it or not. Thus, all competing OSes are instantly disadvantaged. Companies that made better OSes, and there were some, can’t compete with Microsoft, because every sale of their superior OS also funds Microsoft to compete against them with its inferior MS-DOS.

I hope history never forgets this. It’s now so ancient most people don’t remember. It was (just barely) before GUIs.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yes, that too. But his empire was built long before Linux. Once you’re playing dirty, you might as well continue.

The 1980’s and 1990’s are littered with corpses of companies that competed with Microsoft. If you had something good, Microsoft either bought it from you on unfavorable terms, outright stole it, or built their own inferior product while destroying your business.

One tactic: ‘partner’ with a company. The agreement includes that if your company goes bankrupt, then your IP reverts to Microsoft. You agree, because it seems you’re getting a good deal. However, before the ink is dry, Microsoft is already trying to put you out of business.

Here’s another favorite: After saying “the internet is a fad” — Bill Gates; suddenly Microsoft wakes up and smells the Internet. It needs a browser now! There is a company, Spyglass, with a browser made for Windows. Microsoft buys them for $100,000 up front, plus a royalty percent of sales. Guess how many copies of IE were ever sold?

Remember kiddies: Open Source is a cancer! — Steve Ballmer. Open Source is Un-American and legislators need to be educated to the danger! — Jim Alchin, the #4 guy at MS at the time, and later head of Longhorn and Vista.

But I’ll stop now.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Suspicious

They seem more like rich people trying to buy public opinion and like to play shadow games with things like "common core".


I’m not the biggest fan of common core (like most US education initiatives since the Reagan Administration, it emphasizes a one-size-fits-all approach based on standardized testing that fails to recognize the individual needs of teachers, students, and entire populations), but the scare quotes and references to some kind of sinister "shadow games" seem a little over-the-top.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t think so. It’s easy to stop looking like a greedy miser once you have more money than you could ever dream of spending. And Melinda may have brought this perceived change about.

But remember. Gates threw temper tantrums if he didn’t get his way. Just like a lot of rich and powerful people. And this was even before Twitter.

Back in the mid 1990’s, there was some prime time tv magazine show. It came and went. I don’t remember the name. But the host was Connie Chung. She was interviewing Bill Gates. In his office. She asked a reasonable journalistic question critical of Microsoft’s monopoly and Bill Gates just lost it. Major temper tantrum. He threw her and the entire crew out of his office on the spot — all recorded — and broadcast on national tv.

That was very informative to me about Gates to watch him instantly change from a calm, cool, collected, in-charge guy to a raving lunatic in seconds.

Paul Rieger (user link) says:

what is my rights and with two days left to move out

I do not know if you can help or not
but this is how its going down as I
ben getting paid every week then when
when the company Chang hands with a
nother company as I get paid every
other week that is where I fill behind
on my house payments big time as I
have a very short time left so if you
can help me with this or point me to
Someone that will help me

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