Peter Suber's comments on strongOA/weakOA

For some reason this blog does not accept comments from Peter Suber so he has sent one by email. I copy it and then add a brief comment:

[PS] I made two points in my <a href=“http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/2008/04/strong-and-weak-oa.html”>blog post</a> last week on strong/weak OA which address two of Klaus’ concerns.
(1) Stevan and I wanted a term for the kinds of OA which remove price barriers and some or any permission barriers. We suggested the term “strong OA” to cover them. As I said in my blog post, “there is more than one kind of permission barrier to remove, and therefore…there is more than one kind or degree of strong OA.” CC-NC removes some permission barriers (and therefore is strong in this sense) and leaves some in place (and therefore is not as strong as other licenses). The only way to say that CC-NC is not strong is to use “strong” in some other sense. Klaus is free to do that, but he should then be clear that he’s using his own definition of the term.
Disagreeing how to define the term “strong OA” (and therefore on whether CC-NC counts as strong OA) shouldn’t hide the fact that we agree on the BBB, agree on CC-NC, and on all the other issues of substance which he raises here. Nor should it hide the fact that clarity about the strong/weak distinction (regardless of the terms we use to express it) can promote communication and minimize needless quarrels among people who agree on issues of substance. Stevan and I were trying to promote this kind of clarity, starting with ourselves. We wanted to be clear and careful about distinctions we all recognize, not to be mufti.
(2) Klaus writes, “Harnad and Suber don’t have the right to [change] BBB.” This is a deeper misunderstanding because it’s not about words. Stevan and I were not changing the BBB. In fact, this was uppermost in my mind. Formerly, Stevan did want to revise the BBB. I didn’t, and we have now found common ground on this. As I said in my post: “We agree that the BBB definition of OA does not need to be revised.” This was an important development for all supporters of the BBB.
I agree with Klaus, Bernd-Christoph Kämper, and others that CC-BY is better than CC-NC. That has been my position for years, and I haven’t retreated from it. Anyone who thinks I did should reread what I said.

PMR: This helps to clarify the position in part. It seems that for Suber-Harnda strongOA represents a spectrum of strengths and using this terminology we can reasonably say “this strongOA is stronger than that strongOA”.  I (and I suspect many others) misread strongOA to mean a single barrier line corresponding to (roughly) BBB or CC-BY. This is an easy line to define (I hope). A spectrum of strongOA is not.
strongOA thus represents the removal of some or all permission-barriers. Unless we know what a permission barrier is then we can’t say whether a document or service has what barriers. Is the freedom to download what you read on the screen (you can’t help downloading it)  a permission? Because if so, and I assume it isn’t, then almost all OA can be classified as strongOA.  In fact Suber-Harnad have said that almost all OA is weakOA.
So is CC-NC the proposed borderline? Is so we need to know – and have a right to comment.

[PS] A minor point: I would have welcomed this discussion any of the forums I formerly moderated. But in fact I no longer moderate any forums. The BOAI Forum is now moderated by Iryna Kuchma and the SPARC OA Forum is moderated by Stacie Lemimck. In both cases, the switchovers were announced on the lists themselves.

PMR: Thanks. But in general there doesn’t seem to be huge amounts of general discussion on either of these – mainly reports and announcements. But I don’t subscribe. It would certainly be better to have a central area rather than try to manage it on a blog.

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One Response to Peter Suber's comments on strongOA/weakOA

  1. The Need to Specify a Minimal Lower Bound for Permission-Barrier-Free OA
    I agree that Permission-Barrier-Free OA (by whatever name we give it) needs at least a minimal lower bound to be specified, otherwise it is too vague.
    Price-Barrier-Free OA (regardless of what name we gave it) does not need an upper or lower bound, because it is not on a continuum. It just means free access online, However, as I have said before, it does need to be shored up a bit by stating the obvious:
    (1) The free access is to the full digital document (not just the metadata).
    (2) The free access is one-click and non-gerrymandered: Instant download without having to do a song and dance for every page.
    (3) The free access is immediate, not delayed or embargoed. (A document is not OA if it *will be* available free in a year, or in 10 or 10,000.
    (4) The free access is permanent and continuous: A document is not OA if it is available free for a limited time, say, for an hour, or on even-numbered calendar months.
    (5) There is no “degree of free” access: Low-priced access is not “almost” free access.
    (6) The free access is for anyone netwide, not just those at certain sites or in certain domains or regions.
    For Green Price-Barrier-Free OA self-archiving and Green Price-Barrier-Free OA mandates all of these specifications are dead-obvious, irrespective or what proper name we choose for it. They are spelled out only for the pedantic and the obtuse.
    But in the case of Permission-Barrier-Free OA, regardless of the name (and even in the case of the BBB definition), a minimal lower bound has to be specified, otherwise the condition is so vague as to make no sense. It is not just Peter Murray-Rust who is perplexed. Anyone would be. The BBB definition gives examples, but it does not give a lower bound. That is like saying “hot” means temperatures like 30 degrees, 300 degrees or 3000 degrees. That leaves one in perplexity about what, between 0 degrees and 30 degrees, counts as not hot. In particular, does Price-Barrier-Free OA alone count as Permission-Barrier-Free OA? The answer is No, but the only way to give this content is to specify a minimal lower bound for Permission-Barrier-Free OA.

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