Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, September 17, 2007

Changes at the PRISM web site

PRISM has made several changes to its web site since yesterday.  Here are the major ones.

On the home page, it added these paragraphs:

The Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine (PRISM) was formed to advocate for policies that ensure the quality, integrity, and economic viability of peer-reviewed journals.

PRISM supports new approaches to access and new economic models that offer choices to suit diverse budgets and needs. Publishers have been at the forefront in testing new models to expand access for subscribers and non-subscribers alike.

PRISM expresses concerns about the unintended consequences of unfunded government mandates and mandatory one-size-fits-all policies that underestimate the complexities and differing needs of the scientific community and scientific journals.

PRISM seeks to educate all stakeholders about the importance of maintaining the integrity of published information, and sustaining the incentives for all publishers to invest in the system of independent publishing that continues to sustain the public's trust in scientific and medical research.

Scholarly publishing is complex, as are the issues surrounding the debate about federally mandated free access. Scholarly publishers themselves are not unanimous in their views on this topic, but all are united in their commitment to the advancement of science and the improvement of life through the wide dissemination of research results. 

And deleted these:

What's at risk

Policies are being proposed that threaten to introduce undue government intervention in science and scholarly publishing, putting at risk the integrity of scientific research by:

  • undermining the peer review process by compromising the viability of non-profit and commercial journals that manage and fund it;
  • opening the door to scientific censorship in the form of selective additions to or omissions from the scientific record;
  • subjecting the scientific record to the uncertainty that comes with changing federal budget priorities and bureaucratic meddling with definitive versions; and
  • introducing duplication and inefficiencies that will divert resources that would otherwise be dedicated to research.

The about page added these paragraphs:

Government mandates that ignore the need for sufficient and sustainable financial support for peer-reviewed journals -- whether the source of support is from users, authors, or sponsors -- risk undermining the very fabric of the system of independent, formal peer-reviewed publication, a system that is of crucial importance for scholarly communication and the preservation of scientific knowledge.

In support of scientific objectivity and integrity, the PRISM Principles affirm the importance of broad access and dissemination; preservation of knowledge; and sustainable business models to ensure continued investment and innovation. We believe serving the needs of the academic community is best achieved through a wide array of business models, competing in an open marketplace.

And deleted this sentence:

The coalition is guided by the PRISM Principles, which affirm the key role that publishers play in peer review, access and dissemination, and preservation of knowledge, and which advocate sustainable business models to ensure continued investment and innovation in these essential contributors to scientific objectivity and integrity.


  • The new home page says correctly that "Scholarly publishers themselves are not unanimous in their views on this topic."  But it does not add "a disclaimer...indicating that the views presented on the site do not necessarily reflect those of all members of the AAP", as Rockefeller University Press asked it to.  PRISM still appears to want to speak for all the members of the AAP.
  • The Orwellian claim that OA opens the door to censorship is gone from the front page.  PRISM still alludes to censorship on the page of principles, but doesn't assert any connection between it and OA.
  • All in all, these changes reduce the polemical temperature of the two front pages, which is welcome.  But they are more about tone than substance, and they are limited to the two front pages.  PRISM still insists, on the front page, that its mission is "to educate all stakeholders about the importance of maintaining the integrity of published information."  But we know that another part of its mission is to oppose OA mandates.  It leaves the impression, then, that it believes OA mandates jeopardize the integrity of research publications.  The revised "about" page is explicit:  "Government mandates...risk undermining the very fabric of the system of independent, formal peer-reviewed publication."  And that's only the two front pages.  The internal page on FRPAA is unrevised and still asserts that FRPAA (which would mandate OA for publicly-funded research from 11 agencies of the US federal government) "might as well have been called 'The Advancement of Junk Science Act of 2006.'  By threatening the viability and the very existence of peer-reviewed journals, [FRPAA] risked the opening of the floodgates for non-peer reviewed junk science to enter the marketplace."  As before, PRISM is trying "to equate traditional publishing models with peer review" (as Eric Dezenhall recommended to the AAP, according to Nature).  And as before, the claimed threat to peer review is unargued and easy to refute.

Update. Also see Jennifer Howard, Publishers' Group Tones Down Language in Anti-Open-Access Lobbying Campaign, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 18, 2007.

Update. Also see Tom Wilson's comments on these changes.