From Open Access to Open Source: definitions of openness in diverse fields

Chelsea Hegner/ January 28, 2022/ Open Source, Unkategorisiert/ 0 comments

Openness is a movement and a guiding principle that originated in the software field and has since found its way into a variety of other topics and fields of activity. In this article we present selected topics and the significance of openness in them. 

Open Source

Open source is a movement, a way of thinking, and a way of working. Beginning in open source software (OSS), it now goes far beyond this frame of reference to find new ways to solve problems in communities and industries. Open source is also often used synonymously with open source software and open source hardware.

Open Source Software

The term open source originally goes back to open source software (OSS). OSS describes code that is accessible to the public and can be modified and shared, i.e. the software is published under an open license so that the source code can be displayed to all users or modified by them. Such software relies on transparency, collaborative development and peer review. Advantages of open, decentralized and collaboratively developed software are the often significantly lower costs as well as its flexibility and longevity. The freely accessible source code is constantly checked and improved through peer review processes. All changes are transparent and can be reviewed and tracked. By continuously updating the code through the community, bugs can be found and fixed quickly. The community makes its resources, help and perspectives available to everyone. Open source projects are often hosted on GitHub. Other well-known open source projects include Linux, Ansible and Kubernetes.

Emergence: peer-review and open feedback processes

In Internet forums, programmers were able for the first time to enter into a joint exchange worldwide and share their source codes with each other and develop them further. They took advantage of the open and collaborative environment, which favored open feedback processes, and created new standards for open communication and collaboration in the exchange.

Initially, OSS was referred to as free software – based on the freedom to use the software as you wish. But this caused some confusion in the meaning of “free” and “open”, so that it came to the final separation of the terms at the end of the 1990s. Today, however, free software does not mean the same as open source, because with free software only the owners are allowed to access its otherwise closed source code. This is not released for the community for changes. Open source, on the other hand, dispenses with such provider ties and does not primarily stand for the debates about user freedom, but mainly for methodological, production and business aspects of free software.

Open Source Hardware

Open Source Hardware (OSH) also follows the principle and values of Open Source Software. OSH is hardware that is constructed according to open or free blueprints, i.e. the blueprints are made available to the public so that they can not only be viewed, but also shared, further processed and adapted for various new purposes. In the case of modifications, preference is also given here to components that are openly licensed.

Open Government und Open Data

The two terms Open Government and Open Data, which are often used synonymously, originate from the field of politics and administration and stand for a movement to make government data available for the use of the democratic public.

Open Government

Open Government is a democratic approach to participation-oriented opportunities for civil society in the field of politics and administration. It means opening up government and administration – or, more precisely, disclosing their data – to the citizens of the state. In addition to participation, this opening is also intended to create transparency and new forms of cooperation between the state, politics, administration and civil society, to intensify the newly forged bonds and thus also to strengthen common interests and concerns as well as more legitimate political decisions. These goals are also reflected in the four substantive pillars that support the open government movement: citizen participation, transparency, anti-corruption and accountability. To achieve this, however, it is not only data that must be disclosed. The condition for this strategic project, which is intended not only to strengthen democracy but also to increase efficiency in administration, is collaborative cooperation with the population, based on transparency in all decisions and actions. In short, the aim is to use Web 2.0 technologies and an open way of thinking and acting to make administration and government more open and thus more transparent, participatory and cooperative.

Open Data

The Open Government movement is based on the concept of Open Data. Open Data is data of general public interest that is made freely accessible and may be freely redistributed and processed. The focus is primarily on official data, such as statistics, maps, laws, court rulings and other documents and information carriers (open government data). Personal information or other information subject to data protection is excluded. However, the approach is not limited to public administration, but also includes data from universities, non-profit institutions and private-sector companies. Overall, Open Data describes all data. In practice, the data is to be made accessible in as simple and structured a manner as possible, without legal restrictions, in a machine-readable form with the help of Web 2.0 applications. Here, too, the goal is to increase administrative transparency and the social control function.

Open Access

The Open Data ambition to be able to freely share and use data and findings led to the emergence of the Open Access movement, which aims to make public research freely available to the general public. Open Access (OA) means free and open access to scientific publications, such as literature, peer-reviewed research results or other materials for all interested parties worldwide. OA files are always online publications, as research results can be used more flexibly and freely on the Internet. The OA movement emerged in the 1990s on the premise that previous publication structures had led to a privatization of knowledge financed by the general public. In addition to financial aspects, rapid relevance checks, enabling and accelerating scientific collaboration, and better findability of OA publications also speak for the concept of sharing and advancing knowledge.

Publishing and licensing 

If a scientific paper is published under OA conditions, anyone with Internet access is given the opportunity and permission to use it free of charge, i.e. to read it, save it, download it, link to it, etc. Further rights of free use, reproduction, distribution or modification of the publication are regulated by free licenses. In principle, this is done under Creative Commons licenses (CC licenses). The most free form of CC licenses, which corresponds solely to the OA claim, is the so-called CC-BY license, which ensures that the authors are legally protected and always named as authors of the work.
There are two primary ways of OA publishing: the gold way (Gold OA) and the green way (Green OA).

Gold OA

With golden OA, the final version of the publication appears directly in an OA medium, such as books or OA journals that use peer-review processes. In this case, publication fees are often charged to the author. If these are paid by publishers, we speak of Diamond Open Access – the simplest and most fairly perceived form of OA. On the golden way, authors also have the option of hybrid OA, in which they can “buy” their works from publishers. In this case, publishers earn twice.

Green OA

In green open access, the final version of a publication is not made freely available. Instead, parallel publications, secondary publications, or self-archiving on private or institutional websites of the authors occur in addition to the publisher’s version. This means that the authors do not incur any costs when they make their work available free of charge. Such green-published documents are mostly pre- or postprints that have been submitted to the publishers as copies.

Open Science und Open Education

Finally, let us turn to the field of education. Open Science is often used synonymously with Open Access and refers to a collaborative knowledge and science practice in which research data, lab reports, and other research processes are freely accessible. Data, documents, and other material are published for reuse, redistribution, and copying to advance and advance knowledge and research and its underlying data, methods, and concepts. The situation is similar in the field of Open Education, which aims to make education freely available. However, in terms of free access to education, open education is not limited to Internet-based knowledge transfer with the help of free teaching materials (OER) – and is therefore not to be equated with e-learning processes – but is also to be understood as a movement or concept for the development of models that enable all people to participate in education. 

We have compiled further, detailed information on openness in education in the following articles:

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