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  1. Digital Academy
  2. Open-access policy

The open-access policy of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities

Research delivers the greatest benefits to the scientific community and the general public if findings are made available online and can be freely accessed by everyone.

As such, the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities endeavours to release its publications as open-access documents to the extent that this is legally possible within the framework of existing agreements.

Open access means that the publications are freely accessible and, most importantly, can be used by and distributed to third parties. Open-access licenses define the exact conditions under which content can be distributed. There are different kinds of open-access licenses with different levels of restrictions. These include, for example, restrictions on commercial use or on distribution in derived form ("derivative works").

The academy publishes its works under the Creative Commons license CC BY, which is recommended by the German Research Foundation. The CC BY version of the Creative Commons License allows the commercial reuse of content as well as the use and distribution of content in derived works, provided the authors of the original work are cited.

1. Why does the academy make its works available as open-access publications?

The scientific community has always relied on the free exchange of thoughts and ideas along with mutual, constructive criticism. The best way to foster this culture in the digital age is to ensure that research findings can be shared without any legal restrictions. Furthermore, the research carried out at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities is publicly funded. We therefore believe that the results of this research should also belong in the public domain.

2. Why does the academy publish its works under the CC BY license?

The CC BY license offers significantly more freedom regarding the reuse of content than other free licenses, in particular other CC license variants. It is also recommended by the German Research Foundation.

More restrictive licenses impose considerable limitations by comparison. The NC option, for example, prohibits the commercial reuse of content. As a result, NC material may not be used in derivative works with other material subject to licenses which stipulate all content in the work must be distributed under the same terms but which allow commercial use. This is why Wikipedia does not accept media files published under the NC license. The NC option even prohibits the free use of content by public service broadcasters in Germany (judgement passed by the Regional Court of Cologne on 5 March, 2014).

The academy does not use the even more liberal CC0 license, which practically places content in the public domain. As a tax-funded institution, the academy has a vested interest in retaining a certain level of visibility when its research findings are used in other contexts, which is why it requires attribution.

3. Why does the academy use licenses other than CC BY in certain cases?

Exceptions to the CC BY license usually arise from existing agreements with publishing companies that produce printed versions of documents and do not permit unrestricted distribution. A publishing contract, for example, may stipulate that the academy retain the right to make individual excerpts from collected works freely available but not the entire volume. In such cases, the academy can only offer the content under a license that prohibits reuse in derivative works, for example the CC BY ND license (where ND stands for no derivatives). If we did not do this, someone else could collate the individual excerpts to recreate the full volume and distribute the content in this form.

4. Why aren't all academy publications immediately available?

In some cases, we are not permitted to release content digitally, or may only release it after a period of time agreed with the publisher that distributes the printed version. The research projects carried out by the academy are long-term projects that run for many decades. Many of the publishing agreements were concluded at a time when it was impossible to anticipate the different means of digital distribution available today. The academy is committed to renegotiating these agreements and to finding a solution that, at the very least, will not categorically exclude free digital distribution for the entire term of copyright.

5. Does the open-access commitment not significantly restrict the rights of academic authors?

No. In fact the opposite is true. Publishing academic works carried out in the academy under a free license ensures that the authors in particular retain the right to freely distribute their own works after publication. In the past, conventional publishing agreements in the scientific community forced authors to relinquish all rights of use to the publishing company. In such cases, a scientist would then, theoretically, not even be entitled to send a PDF of their work to a student or colleague who wanted like to read it. Open access means that authors retain the rights of use to their own work.

6. Does the academy also make its research data available digitally under free license?

In addition to publishing research findings and publications, the academy aims to make research data freely available wherever this is possible and appropriate. It is possible in cases where it does not impinge on the rights of third parties (e.g. personal rights). It is appropriate if the research data is relevant to the process of academic or scientific reasoning (as opposed to just research notes) and if it can be used as a basis for further research. In some cases, publishing research data digitally may be technically more complex than, for example, releasing publications digitally. This may complicate or delay the publication of research data.