Well, this is annoying. I recently published a paper in Nature for which I was senior and corresponding author on “A phylogeny driven genomic encyclopedia of bacteria and archaea.” Though I did not want to submit it to Nature, the project involved a large large large number of other people and in fairness to their contribution to the project I agreed to submit it to Nature. However, the reason I agreed in the end was that Nature said they would use their Genome Paper open license for it. For papers reporting genome sequence data, Nature claims to make the papers available at no charge and supposedly uses a Creative Commons license for publishing the paper. In addition, I note, that as the work was done my many US Government employees, we did not sign over Copyright to Nature.
“This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/), which permits distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. This licence does not permit commercial exploitation, and derivative works must be licensed under the same or similar licence.”
I suppose you could say that this all could be part of the Nature publishing machine just making a mistake here or there. In fact, I would bet that this is in essence what has happened. The system is designed for articles for which Nature holds the Copyright and has the rights to sell. And the papers that do not follow that model get caught up in the machinery. Nevertheless, it is annoying. And it makes me worry a bit about what is going to happen with Nature’s new supposedly “open access” journal “Scientific Reports” which actually is not quite as open as it might seem. (The journal uses a somewhat restrictive Creative Commons license which does not fit the standard definition of “Open Access”).
This seems to be YARFOA – Yet another reason for (full) open access. If you set something free, even if someone claimed they had rights to it, it would seem more obvious to everyone out there that such a claim would be inappropriate.
I note – I am not saying Nature is trying to steal rights here. In fact, in the past Nature has done a decent job at making sure that papers that were supposed to be available at no cost were. For example, I looked into papers I published in Nature that Nature told us would be freely available for ever more? This is what we were told for papers reporting genome sequence data years ago. It was a very nice policy of Nature’s that helped spread knowledge about genome papers and also helped convince me publishing in Nature was not so bad in terms of openness while I was starting to become a more openaccess advocate. So I decided to take a look at some of the papers that I was an author on that were supposedly made freely available forever. Here is a sampling:
- The genome sequence of Bacillus anthracis Ames and comparison to closely related bacteria. Still free. Yay. Anyone can get anthrax.
- Genome sequence of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Still free.
- Genome sequencing: Brouhaha over the other yeast. Still free.
- Microbiology: Gastrogenomics. Still free.