[Taxacom] [tdwg] copyright, creative commons licences, etc.

Donat Agosti agosti at amnh.org
Fri Sep 14 04:02:47 CDT 2007

Actually, here is an interesting article in yesterdays press.co.nz regarding
open access

An information revolution 

The Press | Thursday, 13 September 2007

New Zealand scientists need to get aboard the coming revolution in
information access, writes DAVID PENMAN. 

Social networking, data modelling, real-time measurement, broadband and so
on are all bound in the internet age. 
It is somewhat ironic that the internet was conceived as a means to share
scientific data, yet it is now an enormous vehicle for social change and
commercial benefit. Somehow, the scientists have become the laggards in
sharing information, yet there are enormous benefits that can come from a
greater sharing of data. 
We see public sharing of financial data - the stock market, the exchange
rate and interest rates - yet we see little evidence of open sharing of
other information that affects our lives. 
ECan has some pilot projects in real-time monitoring of water resources that
water users and communities can access. Wouldn't it be fantastic to roll out
such a system across Canterbury and make the information freely and openly
available to all? Can we not envisage information on water use, water
quality, greenhouse gas emissions, public transport use, air quality, waste
generation etc being available on television, the internet or even in
Cathedral Square? Is this the sort of information we need to change our
behaviour in the drive for sustainability? 
Why can't we just do it, then? We require an information infrastructure. We
can now share data at least among research active institutions through
Karen, the "big pipe" broadband; we can store vast amounts of data in
networked servers and now in the new IBM supercomputer "Blue Fern" at the
University of Canterbury; we can model and visualise current states and
future scenarios; and the technology to do real-time measurements is
becoming available. Right now, most information is accessed from so-called
legacy data. The next revolution will be real-time data collection and
So we have most of the bits; we just need the resources and the will to
bring the pieces together. From this platform, new businesses will emerge
and communities will become engaged with the regulators (the councils), the
scientists, and businesses. 
No longer will officials be able to hide behind the lack of resources to
measure use and change. We will have scientific evidence of what change
might look like before decisions are taken, and we will become more involved
as citizens in a civil society with what our politicians and officials are
Yes, we will take ownership of information about us, our communities and the
impacts of our activities. Because we can "own" and visualise information we
will be able to use it in an active democracy. The information embedded
behind each pixel on your screen should be yours and you should be confident
that it is scientifically robust and freely available. 
Open Access is a rapidly growing movement committed to making data openly
and freely available. Where data are generated using taxpayers funds, it
should be made openly and freely available. This is now a requirement for
some of the major US and European science funds. Basically scientists will
have two years to publish papers based on their data, and then the data
become available to others. Many journals now require authors to at least
indicate where the raw data may be located. 
The internet then becomes what it was intended to be - a means to share
scientific data. 
So what is the situation in New Zealand? Our scientific institutions have
been required to make data publicly available at the cost of access if the
information was contained within a designated "nationally significant
database or collection" and only if the request was for a "public good"
purpose. If a commercial product might emerge, then an agreement to pay a
commercial rate was negotiated. Other data from publicly-funded research are
not generally available. 
The great temptation for institutions is to hold the data because it might
be commercially significant. In a few cases this may be so, but mostly there
is a false sense of value of individual data sets. Experience tells us that
the real value comes from looking at multiple data sets in new ways and with
new tools. 
The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology is now reviewing its
data policy and moving towards the norm for the OECD - greater open access
for publicly-funded data. Rather than the research provider deciding on
access, all information is openly and freely available unless restrictions
such as national security, environmental damage (eg, the GPS co-ordinates of
threatened species), or clear commercial disadvantage can be justified. 
Our researchers will also have to change. No longer can they sit with filing
cabinets full of data waiting for the definitive experiment or the life time
monograph. Publish quickly in electronic media, make your data and models
freely available and get rewards from both publishing and showing that your
data are being used by others - this should become the norm. 
Many initiatives are now underway to liberate data. The Global Biodiversity
Information Facility, of which New Zealand is a member, has just launched
its new data access portal (www.data.gbif.org) and now makes over 130
million records on species openly and freely available. 
The Encyclopedia of Life (www.eol.org) is making a webpage on every known
species, and investments in monitoring networks such as Neon (Near Earth
Observation Network) in the United States are providing real-time data to
We are facing the new revolution and either we join now to lead developments
or we find communities bypassing our scientists by accessing information in
the social networks. 
Libraries are becoming available to all without leaving your home,
information on your environment will become openly and freely available and
communities will be able to use the internet to take more control of our
institutions - a new style of democracy will emerge. 
* Professor David Penman is Assistant Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) in the
College of Science at the University of Canterbury. He also chairs the
Governing Board of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility based in

From: tdwg-bounces at lists.tdwg.org [mailto:tdwg-bounces at lists.tdwg.org] On
Behalf Of Donat Agosti
Sent: Friday, September 14, 2007 10:21 AM
To: tdwg at lists.tdwg.org
Subject: [tdwg] copyright, creative commons licences, etc.

TDWG is about making data interoperable, thus leading, in the best case, to
a seamless system of our knowledge linked to those of other domains.

This is a huge technical challenge, but by getting closer to technical
solutions, other issues become relevant, such as who is generating content,
how is content acknowledged and how is copyright and IPR handled.

This is especially important, since we now face for the first time a system,
which aims at being the mother of all the biodiversity information, the
Encyclopedia of Life which is playing the same game as the publishers of our
scientific knowledge. Being corporate, they care about the copyright and
IPR, and thus send out forms to transfer your rights to them. These are
individual licenses which often lead to the situation, that you loose all
rights, and thus we can not access our publications in an open way, be it as
open access or via self archiving.

Our community has to be more vigilant the way we operate in this realm. We
need to define what we want, and act accordingly. If we want to be able to
have open access to our data, we should not sign contract which do not allow
this. We have to negotiate individually and through whatever channels we
have, such as our societies, that we only provide the publishers the right
of the article for the specific publication they do, but that you can at
least self archive or deposit the publications in thematic repositories,
such as could be Zoobank.
Regarding access to databases, we have to be clear when we sign contracts
like a Creative Commons license with institutions like EOL. Should they have
the right to develop commercial products? Should they use a share a like
license? If they want to produce commercial products, how is assured that
the revenues are shared, or do you not mind? Should we allow individual
contracts which at the end need zillions of lawyers? BHL is spending
considerable amount of time to resolve all this existing contracts, so do
all of the institutional repositories, and which seems clearly not something
we want to initiate.

Regarding participation in initiatives which live on our data, it needs to
be clear what each of the parties does. Do you build on the assumption, that
you do not mind that one party is patenting some of the programs or should
all what they do open source? For example, if UBIO at Woods Hole is
patenting their taxonomic infrastructure, can we agree to that? 

We need a debate about this, and we should not let EOL go ahead, especially
since many of us hope that it is a step closer to an open access
infrastructure for biodiversity information. To signs right now are that we
run into a lot of troubles and unease if we continue with what is happening
right now, that is listen to the corporate lawyers and not of what we as a
community really want.

So, before you sign any contracts, think twice. The publishers need your
content, especially if it went through peer review. EOL needs our content,
so you do not have to sign whatever you get offered. A discussion within
bodies like TDWG would be very timely and useful.


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