Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Backlash against the AAP

PR Nightmare? Science Publishers' Consultation with PR "Pit Bull" Raises Questions, Library Journal Academic Newswire, February 1, 2007.  Excerpt:

...According to a report in the journal Nature "employees from Elsevier, Wiley and the American Chemical Society," attended a meeting arranged last year by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) at which Eric Dezenhall, described as a PR "pit bull," attempted to help publishers craft a campaign to fight calls for public access.

Citing emails, Nature reported that Dezenhall advised publishers to focus on "simple" and sometimes misleading messages, such as "public access equals government censorship" ...But the foray into a possible PR effort now appears to be generating negative publicity. The publishers were blistered by critics in a range of articles including Scientific American, the Washington Post, and Salon, where Andrew Leonard blogged, under the headline "Science Publishers Get Stupid," that "any publisher of scientific research who even begins to entertain the notion that free access to scientific information can or should be equated with government censorship should be mocked mercilessly...for their disingenuous mendacity."

Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC, one of the earliest and biggest supporters of public access initiatives, said the consultation with Dezenhall is "a sure sign" that the public access movement is gaining momentum. "I think [the PR consultation] has already has backfired," Joseph said of publishers' meeting with Dezenhall. "The research community as a whole is certainly abuzz over this. We've seen a couple of dozen stories and blog postings highlighting the distaste that individuals have for this kind of behavior. Once these tactics are exposed, it's extremely difficult to regain credibility."

Joseph predicted that the Federal Research Public Access Act, legislation that would mandate public access to federally funded research across the spectrum of government agencies, will almost certainly be re-introduced and that when that happens advocates will be sure to remind legislators of this episode. "I can't imagine that Congress and Congressional staff members will look too kindly on these kinds of disinformation tactics," she added....