Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, February 16, 2007

"Denial, rigidity, and attack"

Charles W. Bailey, Jr., The Brussels Declaration: You Donít Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows, DigitalKoans, February 15, 2007.  Excerpt:

The recent "Brussels Declaration on STM Publishing" by major scholarly publishers, such as Elsevier and Wiley, can be boiled down to: the scholarly publishing system ainít broke, so donít try to fix it. It provides an interesting contrast to the 2004 "Washington DC Principles for Free Access to Science" by not-for-profit publishers, which outlined a variety of strategies for making content freely available.

Sadly, it suggests that the "Brussels Declaration" publishers fail to fully understand that the decades-old serials crisis has deeply alienated several generations of librarians, who are their primary customers. Publishers count on libraries being captive customers because scholarly publishing is monopolistic in nature (e.g., one journal article does not substitute for another article) and, consequently, demand is relatively inelastic, regardless of price. However, it is a rare business that thrives by alienating its customers....

As has often been noted, the open access movement is not anti-publisher, but it is publisher-neutral, meaning that, as long as certain critical functions (such as peer review) are adequately performed, it does not matter how [OA] scholarly works are published....

The clock is ticking. The more intransigent publishers are, the stronger the incentive for those who want change to improve open source publishing tools, to fund low-cost or open access publishing alternatives, to seek remedies from governments and other organizations that fund research, and to develop new modes of scholarly publishing.

Dialog, openness to new funding strategies and publishing practices, compromise, and imagination may serve publishers better in the long run than denial, rigidity, and attack. A more flexible outlook may reveal opportunities, not just dangers, in a scholarly publishing system in flux.