Open Access – Still to Have Its Google Moment

Byron Russell | Publishing Technology | January 15, 2016

As searches are centred on words – and not IP licence type, a problem is immediately created for providers of Open Access content. Ask any Open Access publisher, and they will tell you that one of their biggest challenges – if not the biggest – is discoverability. And here the most popular search engines are only partially helpful...If a researcher is specifically looking for Open Access content, as will increasingly be the case, they can of course go to a directory (Archie again!) such as DOAJ, but that is far from exhaustive and is not even fully searchable – it lists over 10,700 journal records, but only 6,800 are searchable at article level.

Even the broader classification of Open Access is unclear. The Creative Commons definition of Open Access in the sense of “non-commercial” is fuzzy – the website defines it as: “[not] primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation”. The 2009 Creative Commons report on defining non-commercial alone runs to 119 pages. Is an article published under a CC-BY-NC-ND license as “open” as one published under a CC-BY-NC-SA licence? And how is any search engine to identify, differentiate and flag between these various licences?

So the challenge inherent with the discoverability of any Open Access content lies in the complexity of its own licensing arrangements. There are no fewer than 30 (six licence types each with five versions) plus edge cases, ranging from the most typical CC-BY to CC-BY-NC-SA. Add to this the different modes of access (Gold, Green or self-archiving, and delayed, moving-wall Open Access), not to mention hybrid (mixed subscribed and Open Access content) and flipped journals (journals converting from subscriptions to Open Access) and it is little wonder the web’s spiders are in a spin...