Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Stevan Harnad on PRISM

Stevan Harnad, Association of American Publishers' Anti-Open-Access Lobby: PRISM, Open Access Archivangelism, August 29, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) has launched "PRISM" (Partnership for Research Integrity in Science & Medicine), an anti-OA lobbying organization, to counteract the accelerating growth of OA and the dramatic success of the pro-OA Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA) lobbying organization in the US and the EC Open Access Petition in Europe.

See Peter Suber's splendid, measured critique of PRISM's statements in Open Access News (more to come in Peter's September SPARC Open Access Newsletter [SOAN]).

The blogosphere is also on the case. (See especially the brilliant caricature of the publishing lobby's arguments here.) Unlike the pro-OA lobby, which has a huge and growing public support base worldwide, the anti-OA lobby is up against the problem that it has neither a public support constituency, nor any ethical or practical case to build one on. It is simply an industry trying to favor its corporate interests over the public interest without quite saying so. Hence PRISM is now applying, quite literally, the "pit-bull" tactics recommended to them by the PR firm of Eric Dezenhall, namely, to pretend that OA (i) represents government interference in both the corporate sector and the research sphere and that it (ii) puts both peer-review and scientific quality at risk.

Although the bickering and blogging and spinning on this will be frenetic, the actual issues behind it are extremely simple: ...

(2) OA is therefore in the best interests of research, researchers, research institutions (universities), research funders (private and governmental), the vast R&D industry, and the tax-paying public that funds the research and the research institutions, and for whose benefit the research is being conducted.

(3) OA might, however, be in conflict with the best interests of the peer-reviewed journal publishing industry, as it might reduce their subscription revenues or even eventually force them to downsize and change their cost-recovery model from subscription charges paid by the user-institution to peer-review service charges paid by the author-institution. (So far none of this has happened, but with the growth of OA, it might.) ...

(5) Researchers' institutions and funders cannot mandate the transition of publishers to Gold OA, but they can mandate their own transition to Green OA.

(6) Hence it is these Green OA mandates, being adopted and proposed worldwide, that are the real target of the anti-OA lobby.

(7) The anti-OA lobby's argument against OA and OA mandates is that they represent (7a) government interference in private-sector industry and (7b) they will destroy peer-reviewed journals, peer-review, and the research quality that peer-review certifies.

(8) The reply is very simple:
(8a) Inasmuch as research is publicly funded, it is for the funders to decide the conditions under which that public money is spent;

(8b) it is also up to the universities to decide on the conditions under which their employees publish their findings;

(8c) peer review is done by researchers for free; publishers merely fund the management of the peer review process;

(8d) if and when subscription demand can no longer sustain the cost of managing peer review, that cost can be covered through a conversion to the Gold OA cost-recovery model, with the OA institutional repositories themselves providing all the access and the archiving, and the Gold OA journals merely managing the peer review and certifying its outcome with their name.

That's all there is to it: The online era has made possible an obvious benefit for research, and the publishing lobby is trying to resist adapting to it. What needs to be kept clearly in mind is that research is not conducted and funded as a service to the publishing industry, but vice versa.

Fortunately, the very openness of the online era is to the benefit of the pro-OA lobby, as the specious arguments of the anti-OA lobby can be openly exposed and answered rather than being left to be voiced solely in closed corridors (lobbies), where their obvious rebuttals cannot be promptly echoed in reply....

Update. See Daniel Griffin's story in Information World Review based on Stevan's blog post.