Peter Murray Rust posts a blog asking is-this-paper-open-access. I search for a topic in Google or Pub Med and happily find that the paper is available through Pub Med Central. Yes!! I can read it. So it's open access, right? Depends on what you mean by open access. Peter Murray Rust asks these questions:
- Can I post it on the web? For commercial use? For any use?
- Is it Green? Or Gold? BOAI [Budapest Open Access Initiative] ? Or something else? How did you tell?
- Is it gratis? Is it libre? If so what permissions have been relaxed?
- Can I send someone a copy? Anyone? Or just a non-commercial?
- Does its location affect whether it is Open Access?
- Has someone paid for Open Access? Would their funders be satisfied?
For those unfamiliar with open access terminology, see Open Access: An Introduction
But the bottom line is that all open access is not equal. As I learned from bitter experience through the Neuroscience Information Framework, Pub Med Central might ensure that I can read an article, but not that my computer system, in this case NIF, cannot. Rather, NIF can access the The PMC Open Access Subset :
Note also, that I might be able to read the paper, but not distribute it to my colleagues or only to my colleagues in the non-commercial sphere. It reminds me of the controversies regarding the "Green" label or the "Made in America" label. They sound good and noble, and advertisers know that. So buyer beware!