Creative Commons has played a major part in Openness; now it has a Science Advisory Board


At #okfest Puneet Kishoor invited me to join the newly formed Science Advisory Board of Creative Commons which has now been announced

Creative Commons’ Science Advisory Board (SAB) guides its science program and provides overall strategic vision and focus. The SAB brings legal, institutional, and domain-specific knowledge in the use and sharing of scientific tools and data. Our SAB is made up eminent scholars and practitioners from different disciplines and four continents who have volunteered to provide us both the domain expertise as well as regional perspective to help create a truly globally responsive program.

I am both honoured and eager to get started.

First I must honour Creative Commons as one of the cornerstones of Openness in this century. Quite simply without Creative Commons and its licences Open Access, and many aspects of Open Scholarship would be impossible, certainly in science. Because CC is one of the simple, clear guiding principles without which we would founder for direction. “Simple” does not mean trivial. CC has required a huge amount of work. But it has distilled much of the operational complexities into crystal clear concepts – legally enforceable licences.

Licences don’t solve everything, and people who try to control community behaviour through licences alone will be disappointed. But where large amounts of money are at stake – STM output is worth hundreds of billions each year, licences are essential. And I’ve just written about the Open Goldberg Variations, licensed under CC0. Without such as licence it may not have been possible to crate the OGV as such. It is a clear human and legal statement of the dedication into the public domain. Nor would our work on the Panton Principles have been possible without the involvement of John Wilbanks and the possibility of CC0 as one of the licences to define the output.

[battery running out…]

But CC is much more than a licensing system. It’s the major exploration of how we make scholarly and cultural works available. Not all CC licences are Open, and I’m quite happy with that. It’s a way for creative artists to state what can and what cannot be done with their works.

But restrictive CC licences (NC, ND) are not appropriate for published science. Once science is published (whether publicly funded or not) it now only makes sense if everyone (including other publishers) can make unrestricted us of this. For that reason I am disturbed about publishers such as nature who are requiring Author charges (APCs) to be related to the type of CC licence – you have to pay more for CC-BY than CC-NC. IMO this is a clear violation of the spirit of licencing in science, it confuses and restricts – which I suspect is the intention. Science should only have the following CC licences: CC-BY for articles and CC0 for data. So this is an area that I shall want us to discuss on the SAB.

And it is frankly awful that so many publishers don’t even use simple formal licences but have vague terms and conditions on scattered web pages which are often woolly and contradictory. With CC the formal basis of the discourse becomes clear, in a way that terms such as “Open Access” no longer (unfortunately) seem to be.



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