Legal restrictions and uncertainties surrounding scientific data are a barrier to efficient data sharing and reuse, and ultimately the pace of research. Copyright in particular is problematic for data. It is often unclear if data are protected by copyright and the law differs greatly internationally.
To try and more universally clarify the legal status of data published in our open access journals – maximizing the potential for secondary data uses such as text mining – we have been working towards a solution: public domain dedication of data under the Creative Commons CC0 waiver.
In a detailed editorial published in BMC Research Notes we set out the case and process for evolving the copyright and licensing structure in open access journals to make published data truly open, according to the Panton Principles. But we need the community’s help putting these principles into practice.
The drafting of this article was one of the main outcomes of our June 2011 Publishing Open Data Working Group meeting – a meeting involving, publishers, editors, funders, librarians and scientists (authors) themselves. In the article we propose a revised copyright license for content published in open access journals, which applies a Creative Commons attribution license to the main body of articles (papers) and a CC0 waiver to data included in additional files (supplementary material), reference lists (bibliographic data), and tabular data.
Practical examples of secondary uses of data in journal articles made possible by CC0 and definitions of data are discussed. Also, new legal wording (license statement) for all published articles is proposed and we believe this model could be adopted by many publishers. However, we want to make this change – which we believe will have numerous benefits for science – with the consensus and support of the scientific community. We therefore now seek public views on the proposals.
Questions we seek the scientific community’s input on:
- How appropriate is public domain dedication for data you (already) publish in journals?
- How do you define data – what data file types do you commonly publish as additional files (supplementary material)?
- How might removing legal restrictions on data sharing benefit (or harm) your research?
We look forward to receiving responses to these proposals within the next two months. Assuming we have support from our authors and editors for making published data maximally open we will begin the next phase of implementing Open Data in our journals, the process for which is also outlined in the article.