SciELO adopts CC-BY as main Open Access attribution

By Solange Santos, Denise Peres Sales and Abel L Packer

creative commons

SciELO is the most important Open Access program (OA) among developing and emerging countries and one of the leading worldwide. The pioneer adoption of OA in 1998 under the leadership of FAPESP, BIREME/PAHO/WHO and quality journals from scientific societies and academic institutions is a milestone in the development of the research and scholarly communication in Brazil. The SciELO model was adopted the same year by Chile and it has expanded as a network of journal collections that now covers 16 countries which, altogether, index about 1,000 journals and accumulate more than 500,000 Open Access articles.

Since then, the adoption and implementation of OA has contributed decisively to increase the visibility of journals from Brazil and other countries of the SciELO Network. The publication in Open Access is an integral part of the principles and objectives of SciELO aiming the continuous improvement of the journals it indexes and the sustainable increase of use, influence and impact of the research they report. The development of SciELO is currently guided by lines of action on professionalization, internationalization and financial sustainability, which are reflected in the new SciELO Indexing Criteria published in September 2014.

The formalization of the Open Access at the journals and articles level is one of the indexing criteria of SciELO. It is fulfilled through the adoption of access attribution of the Creative Commons (CC) system that encourage reuse and distribution of indexed articles in their collections. The license identified as CC-BY is defined as the main OA attribution by the new SciELO Criteria, replacing the previously adopted CC-BY-NC. With this decision, SciELO aligns with the leading journals and international Open Access publishers.

Thus, in order to advance the implementation of this criterion that seeks to maximize access and reuse of research results, SciELO Brazil will adopt as standard the CC-BY license from July 1, 2015. The perspective is that by the end of 2015 the CC-BY license is applied to most journals and articles of SciELO Brazil Collection. From 2016 this standard should be adopted by all SciELO Network collections.

The advantages of CC-BY license

The main Open Access declarations (Budapest, Bethesda, Berlin and Salvador) emphasize that OA goes beyond simply providing access. OA seeks removing both access barriers as well as barriers to reuse of contents and, thus, it has the potential to transform and formalize them as public goods of great contribution to the progress of research, innovation, education and informed public policies. Furthermore, OA allows all research results to be available to all citizens, taking into account that most scientific research is publicly funded.

From this perspective, for Open Access to fully reach its potential, it is necessary that barriers to reuse scientific contents are also removed. In this sense, the CC licenses are adopted internationally as the most appropriate legal solution to explicit, promote and encourage the reuse of the research results, also allowing categorically that the author keeps the rights he deems appropriate. Thus, rather than limiting to transfer usage rights exclusively to publishers, an open license is attributed to the article, that encourages and facilitates reuse and sharing increasing, therefore, their visibility, use, influence and impact.

The various types of CC licenses grant users different kinds of freedoms. Among all licenses, CC-BY is the most effective to maximize the dissemination of information, considering that it is the least restrictive, providing a higher degree of freedom of contents reuse and, like other licenses, it ensures that the authorship credit is properly attributed to the author or authors, the journal or other means where the article was originally published. This makes the CC-BY license the license with greater compatibility when combined with other types of licenses, i.e., the contents are released to fully interoperate with the most diverse systems and services, including commercial ones.

All other licenses of the CC system, which are also accepted by SciELO as second options, operate under the slogan “some rights reserved” and are listed below ordered from the least to most restrictive:

Sharing by the same License – Share Alike (CC-BY-SA)

More restrictive than the CC-BY, this license allows derivative works to be created and distributed, including for commercial purposes, as long as credit is given to the author and that the derivative works are licensed under the same terms. Thus, this type of license propagates the continuous use of the original license in the derivatives. Therefore, when compared with the CC-BY license, this one has disadvantages because it puts some limitations on reuse, since the licensed content with Share-Alike attribute can only be combined and redistributed with other contents that adopt the same attribute, whereas CC-BY can be combined with any content, provided the requirements of the CC-BY license are met.

Non- Commercial use (CC-BY-NC)

This license allows derivative works to be adapted and created, being guaranteed the credit to the author and forbidden the use for commercial purposes. It was the main license previously adopted by indexing criteria of SciELO Brazil.

It is important to note that there is some difficulty to clearly identify the boundaries of what actually constitutes commercial use, such as: reuse of texts and images in tutorials, brochures and blogs; data reuse, tables and images in commercialized medical and technical manuals; use of contents in portals and information access services in universities, other institutions and private for-profit companies; indexing of articles in commercialized databases and repositories, among others. Thus, the CC-BY-NC license does not prevent many types of reuse of contents in contexts involving sales or commercial interests, but attempting to restrict the commercial use, it ends up generating doubts about types and terms of use, which may sometimes discourage reuse of contents. This difficulty that CC-BY-NC license presents was one of the reasons that encouraged the SciELO program to adopt CC-BY as main license. By adopting CC-BY license, SciELO could disseminate and fully interoperate journals and articles on commercial and non-commercial contexts indistinctively.

Non- Commercial use – Sharing under the same license (CC-BY-NC-SA)

This license allows derived works to be adapted and created from the original with non-commercial purposes, provided that credit is given to the author and new works are licensed under the same terms. Therefore, this license is still more restrictive than CC-BY-NC, since besides prohibiting commercial use, CC-BY-NC-SA propagates this restriction to all its derivative works.

Thus, the propagation of non-commercialization makes CC-BY-NC-SA further disadvantageous than CC-BY-NC because, in addition to doubts about the use and reuse of contents in commercial contexts, it now requires that the means and the context are also non-commercial.

No to Derivative Works (CC-BY-ND)

This license allows redistribution and use for commercial and non-commercial purposes, as long as the work is fully redistributed, without modification, and that credits are properly attributed to the author.

Non- Commercial use – No to Derivative Works (CC-BY-NC-ND).

This license is the most restrictive among the six main licenses of the Creative Commons system. The CC-BY-NC-ND license allows the download and sharing of the work and requires that credit is attributed to the author, but does not allow any modification or use of the work or parts of it for commercial purposes.

International Organisms and Intergovernmental Agencies (CC-[…] IGO)

International organizations and intergovernmental agencies also adopt the CC licensing system with IGO qualification (Intergovernmental Organizations), for example, CC-BY-IGO or CC-BY-SA-IGO. As these organizations have privileges and immunities regarding national legislation, the IGO qualification indicates that legal disputes are resolved through mediation or arbitration. As SciELO indexes and publishes journals from international organizations the standard license in these cases is CC-BY-IGO.

CC-BY is used by most Open Access journals

As shown, the Creative Commons system comprises licenses that combine different levels of restriction on sharing and reuse of contents. As also mentioned above, SciELO in its new indexing criteria defined CC-BY as the main license to be used in order to maximize the presence and use of SciELO journals and the research they communicate in all environments, commercial or not, that constitute the international scientific communication system.

This indexing criterion follows the Open Access policies of major publishers and OA journals such as PLoS, eLife, Biomed Central and Hindawi, among others, adopting CC-BY license due to the advantages of wide dissemination it offers. The Bulletin of the World Health Organization adopts CC-BY-IGO. The Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) that includes leading publishers and scholarly communication systems that adopt Open Access decisively recommends the adoption of CC-BY license.

Current distribution of CC-BY licenses in SciELO Brasil

The table below shows the distribution of SciELO Brazil journals according to the CC-BY licenses adopted in 2014, highlighting CC-BY-NC defined as main license until 2013 by the indexing criteria and adopted by 80% of the journals. It is also important to notice that 17% of all journals have already adopted the CC-BY license and only a very small number of nine journals adopt the most restrictive license.

License Adopted in 2014

Number of journals

% of journals in the SciELO Brazil Collection

Total of articles

% of articles in SciELO Brazil






















The SciELO program’s prospect is to achieve the adoption of CC-BY license by over 90% of the SciELO Brazil journals from 2016.


Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities. Openaccess. 2003. Available from:

Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing. Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard (DASH). 2003. Available from:

CARROLL, M.W. Why Full Open Access Matters. PLoS Biol. 2011, vol. 9 nº 11: e1001210. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001210

Critérios SciELO Brasil: critérios, políticas e procedimentos para admissão e permanência de periódicos científicos na Coleção SciELO Brasil. SciELO Brasil. 2014. Available from:

Frequently Asked Questions. Licensing. Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA). Available from:

Read the Budapest Open Access Initiative. Budapest Open Access Initiative. 2002. Available from:

Salvador Declaration on Open Access: The Developing World Perspective. International Seminar Open Access for Developing Countries (icml9). 2005. Available from:

External link

Creative Commons – <>


Translated from the original in Portuguese by Nicholas Cop Consulting.


Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

SANTOS, S., SALES, D.P. and PACKER, A.L. SciELO adopts CC-BY as main Open Access attribution [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2015 [viewed ]. Available from:


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