The Great Debate UK

Free and Open Data as a Worldwide Economic Engine

 –Cameron Neylon is Advocacy Director at PLOS. Previously, he was a Senior Scientist at the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council and a faculty member at the University of Southampton. The opinions expressed are those of PLOS.–

California’s governor, referring as much to the state’s financial issues as its lead in technology, has signed into law a new fund to create 50 open-source undergraduate textbooks, as well as a digital library to host them. By being digital, the textbooks will be able to evolve rapidly as the needs of students and the state of knowledge change, but more importantly they will be made available under a Creative Commons license, allowing any individual or organization, anywhere in the world, to read, use, and remix the content.

This small-scale experiment is part of a large and fast growing effort to extend these Creative Commons’ principles to all publicly funded research (and the publishing and educational systems linking research to application and education), but this implementation of open access offers as much to business as it does to academic researchers and students.

It’s not always easy for us researchers to stomach the idea of others making money off of our work, but at PLOS, when we say “open access”, we have always meant more than just making the literature of research readable. When we publish articles under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license, we intend that any person (or computer) is free to use the work, to combine it with other information or data, and to create new works out of it, for any legal purpose – including commercial re-use.