Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Response from the Chair of the AAP/PSP

Brian Crawford, Chairman of the Professional/Scholarly Publishing division (PSP) of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) has posted a response on the CHMINF discussion list (January 26, 2007) to the Jim Giles' story in Nature.  Forgive the length; here's the response in its entirety.

Some time ago, our trade association engaged a public relations firm to assist us in communicating more effectively our messages about the unintended consequences of government-mandated open access to published scientific research. I am writing to bring to your attention recent news coverage that seeks to portray AAP/PSP and its member publishers in an unfavorable manner for taking this action.

A news item by reporter Jim Giles published in Nature (itself owned by a member publisher of AAP) has criticized the motives of publishers and our choice of public relations consulting firm-one known for its expertise and effectiveness. I want to assure you that our purpose is to communicate important information about the added value that publishers bring to the scholarly publishing process-information not widely known or appreciated by policy makers. Scholarly publishers have been slow to recognize that the misleading soundbite messages and aggressive lobbying tactics of those who wish to influence government and public policy have been orchestrated and funded by organizations wishing to advance their own agenda. That they continue to do so without regard for the very real risk of damage to science and the public, should peer-reviewed publishing be compromised by unnecessary government intervention, needs to be countered with clear and concise messaging of our own.

An astonishing example of how misleading the accusations against publishers can be appears in today's Washington Post, where reporter Rick Weiss asserts that the AAP has "...for years waged an intellectually nuanced battle against medical associations and advocates for the ill" and also quotes a SPARC representative who accuses us of engaging in a "disinformation campaign." Nothing could be further from the truth. AAP/PSP, acting on behalf of its member and other publishers, is actively involved in facilitating author participation in the current voluntary NIH public access policy, and has offered to assist NIH as it struggles to implement its own policy. In addition, AAP/PSP has itself fostered publisher participation in public-private cooperative initiatives designed to broaden access to the medical literature. An example of this is patientInform, which seeks to empower patients and their caregivers by providing free access to the latest medical research, along with expert analysis written specifically for the layman. Another publisher initiative designed to improve health and human welfare is HINARI, whereby publishers provide immediate online access to a broad spectrum of health-related peer-reviewed research to developing nations. Finally, individual publishers continue to broaden access to scientific content through their own initiatives.

Regrettably, the news reports above were somehow stimulated by reporters gaining access to internal emails and background information shared within AAP/PSP and among those volunteer publisher representatives who have worked so hard to support the health and vitality of our industry by helping to improve our education and outreach. The inappropriate disclosure of this information is very disturbing to me personally, and I regret that it has led to such a gross misinterpretation of our motives and methods.

In order to avoid any further misunderstanding about our intentions, AAP/PSP has released a statement (below) that confirms our commitment to achieving the widest possible dissemination of peer-reviewed research and preserving the integrity of the scholarly record-even when that means cautioning against the perils of government mandates. I encourage you to read and disseminate the attached statement as you see fit, and to share it with any members of the media who contact you for comment about your support of our messages and our association's activities in this area. Let me emphasize that "our messages" means just that-our point of view, expressed from our own perspective as publishing professionals committed to freedom of speech and open intellectual debate.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue, and for your support.

Brian D. Crawford, Ph.D.
Chair, PSP Executive Council


Some commentators have expressed surprise that the publishing industry is making its case about an important issue that could affect the future of research and science. We believe it's important to be clear about serious unintended consequences of government mandated open access.

Private sector non-profit and commercial publishers serve researchers and scientists by managing and funding the peer review process, disseminating authors' work, investing in technology and preserving millions of peer-reviewed articles as part of the permanent record of science. Peer review is the complex and expensive system that provides the checks and balances necessary to ensure that what is made publicly available has been verified by experts. Peer review helps keep science independent of politics or ideology. Thanks to publishers, scientists today have more access to more peer-reviewed articles than ever before. We don't believe there is a credible substitute that can provide the same level of contribution and support to science.

There are proposals under consideration that would mandate more government involvement and put this system at risk. Legislation that would undermine the quality, sustainability and independence of science would have consequences on all those who rely on sound science.

The AAP/PSP will continue to ensure that all sides of the debate are heard.

PS:  Also see the response posted earlier today from Barbara Meredith, VP of the AAP/PSP.