A couple of years ago, I posted a blog
noting the complementarity between Wikipedia
(which excludes original research from its scope, but strongly encourages
citation of original sources), and open access journals which publish original
research which Wikipedia authors can easily cite, and which Wikipedia readers
can reliably follow links to gain access to.
So I was especially happy to hear the new complementarity
just got even better, with the announcement
last month that Wikipedia’s content will soon be switching from its current
licensing scheme (the GNU Free
Documentation License) to a Creative Commons license – specifically the Creative Commons
Attribution/Share-Alike License (CC-BY-SA).
This new license chosen by Wikipedia is a variant of the Creative Commons Attribution
License (CC-BY), which is used by BioMed Central and many other open access
publishers. The difference between the two is that the version used by Wikipedia requires that any derived work that includes the
material must be similarly licensed.
What this means in practice is that it is now
straightforward, from a licensing perspective, for any organization whether
commercial or non-commercial to create derivative works incorporating both open
access research articles and Wikipedia content, and to distribute these combined
works under the CC-BY-SA license. The Creative Commons website even includes a
compatibility wizard to work out what can be combined and how it can be
As Wikipedia and open access journals continue to grow, the
academic, educational and indeed commercial possibilities opened up by this
rapidly expanding resource of freely licensable content are truly exciting.