BMC and PLoS: All the data is CC-BY. Enjoy!

September 13, 2010 in IsItOpenData

Great news:  our recent Is It Open Data? enquiries received rapid, clear, and positive responses from BMC and PLoS.

You can see the responses (or, due to technical difficulties, in some cases restatements of the responses) on the IsItOpenData site.

In summary:  research data published by PLoS and BMC, whether embedded in an article or as supplementary information, is available under CC-BY: it is available for use “without discrimination against users, groups, or fields of endeavor” with attribution.

Although this may seem obvious given the clear CC-BY terms BMC and PLoS apply to articles, the license of supplementary information was not explicit on their websites (aside from perhaps being part of “The Work” as discussed on copyright pages, and an explicit mention in “All articles and accompanying materials” in PLoS’s Terms Of Use page).

Both BMC and PLoS explicitly stated that they support the Panton Principles in theory.  Nonetheless, both require attribution for reuse and redistribution, and thus their data reuse and redistribution policies are not compatible with CC-Zero or other public domain licenses at this time.

Perhaps even more revelatory, however, is the fact that PLoS and BMC both welcome automated downloads of data they publish!  Work remains to clarify how this can be done without placing undue burden on their resources.

Public thanks to BMC and PLoS for giving our enquiries their time and attention, and for their leadership roles toward making scientific data fully Open.

Notes:  we haven’t had a response from Nature yet, though they did reply to say the enquiry is receiving attention.  Also, BMC has posted a draft statement on open data and they want your feedback!

For reference, here are the PLoS and BMC responses together, to make for a quick read:

  1. May users extract raw data and metadata (contextual facts about data collection) from supplementary information published in your journal?

BMC: Yes

PLoS:  Yes

  1. May users extract raw data and metadata from figures, tables, and text in the narrative of your published articles?

BMC:  Yes

PLoS:  Yes

  1. May users extract this information from freely available articles and supplementary information, as well as those that are available by subscription only? For the latter, users would obtain access through an existing subscription.

BMC:  Yes

PLoS:  Yes but all articles are OA

  1. May the extracted data be used as Open Data [1,2] without discrimination against users, groups, or fields of endeavor?

BMC:  Yes

PLoS:  Yes

  1. May users expose the extracted data as Open Data [1,2], in a manner consistent with the Panton Principles? Specifically, may they expose the extracted data on the internet under a Public Domain, PDDL ( or CC0 license (

BMC:  All BMC research content is published under the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (, meaning that the copyrightable material within it can be freely redistributed as long as attribution is given. We recognize that the copyright-ability of data/facts varies by jurisdiction, creating potential obstacles to reuse, and so we support the Panton Principles goal of explicit open licensing of data, putting it into the public domain to ensure maximum interoperability. This is particularly necessary because providing full attribution for all facts/data in a large collection may not be practical. Putting the Panton Principles into practice needs to be done in careful consultation with the scientific community to ensure that researchers still receive appropriate credit for their contributions. Rather than restricting access to data through restrictive licensing terms, cultural norms need to be defined for the assignment of credit, priority with respect to initial publication and the determination of reasonable embargo periods. Field such as astronomy, economics and genomics have already made significant progress in this direction. BioMed Central has drafted a position statement on data sharing, Open Data and licensing, and we invite the wider scientific community to join the discussion to help us define an explicit Open Data licensing policy going forwards.

PLoS:  All the content that we publish, including datasets and so on, is made available under the terms of CCAL, and therefore reusable with attribution. We haven’t yet introduced an explicit statement about data being reusable under the CC zero waiver.

  1. May users obtain articles and supplementary materials (other than audio and video) from your website via automated means for the purposes of extracting raw data, if it is done in a manner that does not place undue burden on your resources? Users would obtain access through an existing subscription where necessary.

BMC:  Yes

PLoS:  Yes — there might be a need to discuss this with our IT folks, to ensure that the performance of the site is not compromised etc.

  1. Will you consider displaying the OKF’s “Open Data” button – – as a means of clarifying to readers and users the Open parts of your material?

BMC:  Yes – we already do.

PLoS:  Yes – we will consider this. We are always looking for ways to improve the way in which PLoS content is presented to emphasize that it can be reused.

3 responses to “BMC and PLoS: All the data is CC-BY. Enjoy!”

  1. […] is a summary of our initial enquiry (tweaked repost from my personal blog).  Stay tuned (ok, click here) to read about the publisher […]

  2. Hilmar Lapp says:

    Heather – I’m confused by the CC-BY licensing of data. As the BMC response seems to point out, most of the data is likely not eligible for copyright protection, and so isn’t the application of a license that is based on the assertion of copyright problematic? If I reuse such CC-BY “licensed” data under a jurisdiction in which the data isn’t copyrightable, and in which the CC-BY license hence doesn’t apply, under which terms am I then reusing the data? I think publishers can’t really skirt this question.

  3. […] Open Science Working Group Skip to content HomeAbout ← BMC and PLoS: All the data is CC-BY. Enjoy! […]

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