What are the drawbacks of the system? The process currently applies only to the Web. Once a licensed file is downloaded, the user may have no idea which of the standard provisions apply since they do not accompany the file. Exploring technological solutions for ensuring that the identity of any file in any format is maintained and thereby retained in the public commons is a major development thrust of the project at the current time.
A second drawback is that finding files licensed under a Creative Commons license currently is very difficult. The team has talked to Google with the idea that a researcher will eventually be able to do searches on Google that are limited to public-domain and public-commons works. With this capability, a user will have at least some confidence that what they have found through this process, whether a music file or journal article, can be used freely without breaching someone’s copyright.
A third drawback may arise if the Creative Commons Project proves to be a great success and hundreds of scientists start attaching open-access licenses to their articles and data sets before submitting them for peer review. Some scientists already attach such licenses to their submitted journal articles. Those articles are summarily rejected by most publishers without even being subjected to peer review. Will increased submissions by other scientists help place pressure on the publishers? Possibly, however my experience is that most scientists are likely to buckle. The current scholarly reward system is such that most scientists are more concerned with whether the journals in which they publish are ranked in Science Citation Index or Social Sciences Citation Index than whether they are broadly accessible. The reward system is not focused on the bigger picture of overall progress in science. We should change the reward system for the individual scientist decision maker.
Most researchers want the ability to cite across any and all scholarly domains and link from any citation found on the Web to the full article or the full data set on the open Web. That is what open access is all about; we would like to be able to use the Web as one large open library for us to share with one another. Open-access electronic journals are not likely to completely replace the commercial scientific literature, but open-access literature has a potential major role to play. Most researchers realize the benefits of having access and freely available access to one another’s works.
The secret to open access, according to Peter Suber, is to keep control in the hands of those who most want open access—the authoring scholars. How do we keep control in the hands of the authoring scholars? How do we affect the decision making of individual scholars so that they retain power over their articles? There are several practical actions that can be taken to change the reward system. We should, for instance, consider changing the policies of funding agencies. These policies should encourage researchers to report in their grant applications only those articles and data sets that are in open-access archives. It does little good for a reviewer to assess another scholar’s work or research proposals unless the reviewer has access to all the relevant significant works created by that other scientist. The current system of limited access for scientists in other than the wealthiest of institutions supports lost opportunities in advancing the progress of science.
We should be changing promotion and tenure policies. Peer-reviewed data sets and articles placed in open archives are much more valuable to society, and therefore ought to be recognized as such. The work of university scientists should be available to the world and not just to a small population of economically privileged scientists.
We should also change university intellectual property policies. Formal university policies should encourage professors and researchers to use open-access licenses and should give them full authority to use such licenses for their intellectual property.
Finally, we should identify within each of our disciplinary domains those journals willing to accept open-access licenses and those that are not. We should identify those journals allowing authors to post final journal articles on the Web and those that are not. The goal is that the reward system will eventually benefit economically those that follow open-access approaches.
If the reward system for scholars is restructured and online facilities were made easy, would individual scholars across the globe make use of open-access methods and archives to make their works available for sharing with others? I believe that the history of science shows that the majority of scientists would do so.