Evil communications

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.”
—1 Corinthians 15:33, King James Version

So, RDA/US launched a new website "blending modern design, streamlined navigation and a user-friendly experience." Congratulations for entering the modern era, something that the main RDA website still can’t claim to have done. But once I scrolled passed the blinking lights, what do I see?

All Rights Reserved

© 2015 Research Data Alliance, All rights reserved.

But right below that it also says, "This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1349002."

Hmmm… curious that I am, I click on Terms of Services.


The RDA/US Website has been developed with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Its content is the sole responsibility of the RDA/US leadership team and does not reflect NSF’s views.

Fair enough. Moving on…

Terms of Service

Whoa! I may download or print one copy for personal and non-commercial use. Wait, wasn’t this site developed using funds from NSF? That same NSF, an ever so infinitesimally small part of which belongs to me, a US tax payer?

Two years ago, at the Dublin, Ireland Plenary of RDA, I conducted a session on licensing of RDA outputs. The general consensus, backed by the officers of RDA, was that RDA outputs should be as liberally licensed as possible, and in fact preferably released under a CC0 Public Domain Dedication. What happened?

Giving RDA/US the benefit of doubt, my guess is that the creators of the website, a group at RPI, either automatically (knee-jerk) or knowingly added this highly restrictive language. But the invitation email for the website was signed by the RDA/US Communications Manager, and one would assume that office would know better.

Whether an honest mistake or intentional, it is shameful that an organization that is not only funded by public monies and powered by the volunteer work of hundreds of researchers worldwide, it is supposed to stand for and promote openness in science to its very core would publish its official website under such a restrictive license. If those who are supposed to set an example themselves fall below our higher standards, how can we expect others to follow? Their actions weaken all of us who care about openness in higher research.

If a science publisher had slapped an “All Rights Reserved” on an open access article, they would have been slapped really hard. Consider this my slap: unless RDA/US apologize and change the website, they can go stuff it. As far as I am concerned, I don’t want anything to do with them.