Peter Murray-Rust of the Unilever Centre for Molecular Informatics, Cambridge, has recently been looking into the licensing practices and access policies of publishers of science journals. He has particularly focused on the publishers of chemistry journals who say they endorse Open Access publishing, or what has come to be known as ‘Open Choice’ publishing, whereby authors can pay a fee in order to make their article freely available. He has written about his findings in a series of entries on his blog.

His first post begins by arguing for the importance of Open Access in scientific publishing and data. He cites BioMed Central, PLoS and the Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry as examples of good practice in open access scientific publishing – as they all display clear or well-known license agreements in all the relevant places, which state that material of access, re-use and re-distribution. It is, he emphasises, ‘instantly clear what is going on’. He says:

[…] So the practice for ‘full open access’ is simple:

  • announce the policy on the journal masthead
  • announce the policy in the TOC by each Open Access article
  • put appropriate copyright notices (i.e. NOT the publisher, but the authors) in the paper and accompany them by a clear statement of the terms of re-use. This is most easily done by a simple inclusion of a well-known and understood license. The publisher might, if they wish, create their own license with the same intent but different words, but why bother?

The second post reviews the American Chemical Society’s AuthorChoice option. He applauds the clarity of their scheme – particularly their use of the term ‘Free Access’ as distinct from Open Access (as re-distribution and re-use are limited). However he suggests that there is room for improvement in how Free Access articles are advertised – as clicking through from their abstract leads to a page asking for subscription details.

The third post reviews Blackwell’s Online Open scheme. The scheme allows certain reproduction rights to authors of the articles, and allows third parties to use the articles under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial license. While this means that the material is not truly open (as redistribution and re-use are restricted – especially for the author) Blackwell at least make the status of ‘Online Open’ articles clear with a footnote on the first page which contains licensing information.

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Dr. Jonathan Gray is Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, where he is currently writing a book on data worlds. He is also Cofounder of the Public Data Lab; and Research Associate at the Digital Methods Initiative (University of Amsterdam) and the médialab (Sciences Po, Paris). More about his work can be found at and he tweets at @jwyg.

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