Tuesday, 24 June 2008

The Forced Authorship Licence - Get your users to write papers for you

You are probably familiar with commercial software licences. You may even have heard of open source licences. But are you familiar with the Forced Authorship Licence (FAL) model? Let me give you an example from real life (the name has been removed to focus on the actual licence):
"X is available free of charge for researchers belonging to Academic community. The download and use of X is subject to the X Academic Licence...Every users is associated with one of the X team. This will help the user in installing and using X and will be co-author of the first paper published by the user, containing X results. You must contact one of the three group leaders and discuss your proposed project before applying for the use of X."

I think this is a great idea. Think of all the publications. If I had thought of this a few years ago, I would now have 30 extra papers instead of the 30 citations of GaussSum.

But it's never to late to start. And why stop at software? If I'm going to be competing with people that use the FAL, I need to think smarter. From now on, all of my papers, software, blog posts, personal communications, and any ideas that arose while reading my papers, attending my talks or reading my posters will carry the Noel O'Blog Licence (NOABL - 'A' for apostrophe and don't you forget it). Instead of citing me, any resulting publication must carry my name as sole author, in bold - no, make that in fire in letters thirty feet high - and when applying for grants, I'm allowed to list these publications together with my own work.

Sounds fair, doesn't it? Oh - I almost forgot. It's spelt "Noel M. O'Boyle". And don't forget that apostrophe.

Image: Licences by Martin Deutsch (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


Egon Willighagen said...

Oh, so they formalized it now? I once heard at a conference people saying they have been using this approach in chemoinformatics for years...

Unknown said...

Well, if you read the original license, you'll see that they choose the name of a greedy, ugly and extremely pitiable creature for their product. This explains everything.
Probably their role model :-)
On the other hand, it made me first think that it was an Aprils fool joke.

Andrew Dalke said...

That's a new one on me.

Think of all the great ways to game the system. It said "first publication", not "first peer reviewed publications". Write up an article for the local paper. Or for that matter, start a new journal (circulation 2 - Mom gets a copy) and publish in there.

Play a game of chicken - write up something fraudulent and pass it by them. Would they really want their name on something wrong? Yet the contract says their name must be on the paper. Mmm, but they can withdraw the license.

Did you notice they require two citations in any paper which uses their software? That's another way to up your citation count. Add it to your NOABL!

Searching citations, I see there are some people who use the software and make one of the groups as collaborators. I wonder if Appl. Phys. Lett (one of the journals where that occurs) knows, and if it is in violation of their author agreement.

Interesting. If a modification requires change to the core and it's contributed back then it must be under a "perpetual royalty-free, irrevocable license." I see nothing there which would exclude GPL as an allowed license. Of course they would then threaten to remove the license.

Just Say No?