Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Brussels Declaration "reads a lot like the start of a PR campaign"

Self-Evident? In a Shot at Public Access Advocates, Publishers Release Brussels Declaration, Library Journal Academic Newswire, February 15, 2007.  Excerpt:

Not long after a report that disclosed a publishers' meeting with a public relations executive to form a response to calls for public access to government-funded research comes the Brussels Declaration, a statement sponsored the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM). And, perhaps not surprisingly, the document reads a lot like the start of a public relations campaign. In ten bulleted points, STM outlines what it calls "self-evident" values, ranging from the sensible ("one size fits all solutions will not work"), to the obvious ("publishing in all media has associated costs"), to the outright contentious ("open deposit of accepted manuscripts risks destabilizing subscription revenues and undermining peer review").

The declaration, signed by 35 major publishers and eight trade associations, is the latest development in a once-again simmering battle between public access advocates (including libraries) and publishers. After the report of the publishers' meetings, public access advocates seized on the issue last week by releasing a statement of support from one of its allies, the American Society for Cell Biology, which called for free public access to government-funded research....

Notably, the declaration seems to follow advice reportedly given to publishers by PR "pit bull" Eric Dezenhall. For example, it touts the role of publishers in the "irreplaceable" peer-review process, even citing peer-review in assailing public access proposals. "Despite very significant investment and a massive rise in access to scientific information, [the publishing] community continues to be beset by propositions and manifestos on the practice of scholarly publishing," reads an introduction to the Brussels Declaration. "Unfortunately, the measures proposed have largely not been investigated or tested in any evidence-based manner that would pass rigorous peer review." Of course, some of the ten "self-evident" values espoused by publishers in the Berlin Declaration also seem to lack hard evidence, and the declaration even offers some ambiguous statistics, for example suggesting that "even after 12 months, on average electronic articles still have 40-50 percent of their lifetime downloads to come."