Yesterday Peter Suber and Stevan Harnad announced (Strong and weak OA) a critically important step forward in OA – that the terms “weak OA” and “strong OA” should be used to describe various approaches, philosophies, practices. I reported this (Weak and Strong OA) and promised to elaborate from my perspective.
Until yesterday the label “OA” was too fuzzy to allow precise definition of practice. This had serious practical consequences:
- an author or funder paying for “OA” might be getting less than they expected.
- a reader or user (human or machine) might not know what they could and could not do with an “OA” article. “OA” did not guarantee rights of re-use and it was possible that a reader could do something in good faith that would earn then a lawyer’s letter from the publisher (or worse).
- Many of us (funders, librarians, authors, readers) wasted huge amounts of time trying to make clear what could and could not be done. Generally this led to erring on the side of extreme caution (==paralysis) and was a godsend for those trying to inject FUD int the system.
I take Peter and Stevan’s observations that most OA is not strong OA and there is a place for weak OA. I support that view. I shall of course campaign for strong OA but now it is entirely clear (as I intend to show) what it is that I am campaigning for.
More later, but until then we should all practice trying to catalog digital objects into three categories: nonOA, weakOA, strongOA. I think the results may be surprising.