“The US Department of Energy (DOE) released its open-access policy today, after it was approved by the White House Office for Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB)….My own take: We’ll soon have more OA than we had before, and that’s good. Another major federal research-funding agency now has an OA policy, and that’s good. I could go on about why these are good, and in a longer piece I would. But the policy has three significant weaknesses, and it’s the first in a series of about two dozen federal-agency OA policies required by the Obama administration. Here I want to focus on the weaknesses in order to do what I can to head off similar weaknesses from other agencies.
1. The policy relies heavily on publisher web sites, when it should have relied on sites independent of publishers.
The purpose of the White House OA directive was to assure public access to publicly-funded research. Reliance on publisher web sites runs counter to that purpose. Many publishers lobbied aggressively and deceptively against the type of policy that the White House has required agencies to adopt. The only way to insure the cooperation of publishers is through regulation, and I strongly oppose the regulation of publishers. So do publishers and the White House, of course. (Aside, part of the genius of green OA mandates from funding agencies is that they regulate grantees, not publishers.) However, once we rule out the regulation of publishers, and depend on publishers to provide OA, we should not be surprised if publishers deliver late, temporary, or selective OA.
The worst part of CHORUS is the recommendation to rely on publisher web sites, the worst aspect of the DOE policy is its concession to that recommendation, and the worst part of today’s news is the White House approval of the DOE concession.
2. DOE seems to think it will avoid the first problem linking to OA copies of relevant articles in the institutional repositories of DOE-funded authors. But DOE doesn’t require DOE-funded authors to deposit in their institutional repositories. Hence, this is smoke and mirrors. It’s another reason to think that the DOE is not serious about assured OA, and is content with late, temporary, or selective OA.
Just as the chief fault of the gold-leaning OA policy from the RCUK was fixed by the green OA mandate adopted by HEFCE, DOE could fix the chief problem in its current policy simply by requiring DOE-funded authors to deposit in their institutional repositories. (For those without IRs, DOE could require deposit in some designated universal or residual repository like Zenodo.) This step would provide OA to all DOE-funded research, and provide it from sites independent of publishers.
3. The policy offers no reuse rights beyond fair use. This is a substantive problem because fair use doesn’t suffice for the purposes of research. For example, it doesn’t suffice for text mining or translation. But the lack of reuse rights is also a problem for important procedural reasons. The DOE policy is supposed to conform to guidelines laid down by the White House in February 2013. Those guidelines called for agency policies to “maximize the potential for…creative reuse.” Nobody anywhere believes that fair use maximizes the potential for creative reuse. Fair use doesn’t even increase the potential for creative reuse. We already have fair-use rights for all copyrighted works in the US, and to increase the potential for creative reuse we’d have to go further. “Maximize” is a strong word. Creative reuse requires open licenses, and maximizing the potential for creative reuse requires minimally restrictive open licenses, such as CC-BY for texts and CC0 for data. The real problem here is that the White House abandoned its own guidelines. After calling for strong reuse rights, it approved a policy that does nothing to increase reuse rights beyond what we already have….”