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Thursday, February 15, 2007

More on the Brussels Declaration

Matt Hodgkinson, Declaration of Pomposity, and a Declaration of War?  Journalology, February 15, 2007.  Excerpt:

Ahead of the EC Conference on Scientific Publishing in the European Research Area, a group of publishers have released what they dub the 'Brussels Declaration', which shamelessly echoes the Berlin Declaration on Open Access, the Budapest Open Access Initiative and the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing....

They have stated that "we have decided to publish a declaration of principles which we believe to be self-evident". Oh, for pity's sake! Using language that apes the US Declaration of Independence makes them sound very pompous. Is it really 'self-evident' that "Copyright protects the investment of both authors and publishers"? Insisting on transfer of copyright to the publisher certainly helps maintain publisher profits, but how does that help the authors? ...

The real target of this declaration is self-archiving. Stevan Harnad, the "archivangelist", optimistically commented on the IWR Blog that "There will be no war in Brussels. The meeting is about online access to European research findings. The European research community is meeting to decide how to maximise access, usage and impact for its research findings. The answer -- the very same answer -- has already been proposed by the European Commission [...] As a condition for receiving public research funding, all funded researchers should self-archive the resulting research publications online in an Open Access Repository, free for all would-be users"....

The ninth "principle" in this declaration is that "Open deposit of accepted manuscripts [self-archiving] risks destabilising subscription revenues and undermining peer review [...] Free availability of significant proportions of a journalís content may result in its cancellation and therefore destroy the peer review system upon which researchers and society depend". I sense that hostilities have started... Perhaps soon the publisher tanks will be parked on the University of Southampton's driveway?

Overall this declaration makes these publishers look self-satisfied and a bit silly. I'd have expected better from the BMJ Group, who are one of the signatories.