Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More on PRISM

Bruce Byfield, PRISM Coalition lobbies against open access,, September 24, 2007.  Excerpt:

Forces are marshaling to oppose the open access movement, the open source-inspired movement to make academic research publicly available online. The American Association of Publishers (AAP) recently announced the creation of the Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine (PRISM)....

"It's really designed to oppose open access with all kinds of misinformation," says Leslie Chan, a senior lecturer at the University of Toronto and one of the founding members of the open access movement.

Little is known about PRISM or its supporters, aside from the fact that they are using AAP resources.'s request for an interview received a response from Sara Firestone, the director of the professional and scholarly publishing division of the AAP, asking what questions would be asked. We submitted a list of questions, but Firestone and the AAP ignored subsequent attempts at contact....

The first result of the [AAP] meeting with Dezenhall seems to have been the resistance in the last year to the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), a bipartisan bill introduced in the United States last year. According to Chan, the AAP responded to the bill by distributing a letter to enlist the paid staffs of academic professional associations in the resistance to it.

In many cases, this effort resulted in a split between the staff and boards or steering committees of professional associations. For instance, in the American Anthropological Association, the executive director endorsed the AAP letter on behalf of the association without consultation, arguing that the letter demanded an urgent response. When the steering committee of AnthroSource, an online database of anthropological arguments, wrote a letter protesting the unilateral action and attempted to pass a bylaw that would prevent the executive director from similar unilateral arguments in the future, a conflict ensued that ended with the association staff forcing out the members of the steering committee.

"Debate never reached the members," said Chan, who was a member of the AnthroSource steering committee. "That was unfortunate, because one of the things we were hoping for was public debate. But it never really materialized."

Meanwhile, by creating similar situations throughout the North American academic community, the AAP was able to create the illusion that a majority of its members opposed open access -- even though at least some of them were advocating it.

Now, with PRISM, the AAP appears to be creating a similar illusion....PRISM's Web site and public statements are written to "create the impression that all members of the AAP are behind the initiative," says Chan, while the group remains vague on exactly whom it represents....

Chan suggests that PRISM represents an industry that advocates protectionism instead of embracing new innovations. "The publishers have only themselves to fear," he says. "They shouldn't be fearing government or people who advocate open access. They should be afraid of other smart people who are going to run with the open access business model. It's like the music publishers being so afraid of the little guys downloading that they forgot to look out for Apple [with iTunes]." ...