Open Access News

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Open letter to Cambridge UP about PRISM

Peter Murray-Rust, PRISM: Open Letter to Cambridge University Press, A Scientist and the Web, September 1, 2007.  Excerpt:

I have sent the following letter to the Chief Executive of Cambridge University Press requesting factual information about the involvement of CUP in PRISM, and have asked that I can publish the reply on this blog Open Letter to Stephen Bourne, Chief Executive Cambridge University Press

Dear Stephen Bourne,

I am writing as an individual member of staff in [Cambridge] University (heavily engaged in developing new approaches to scientific scholarly publishing) to ask about CUP’s involvement with the recently launched PRISM initiative from the AAP. This initiative is an undisguised coalition to discredit Open Access publishing and its launch a few days ago has generated universal dismay and anger in many quarters including several outside mainstream publishing. The press release was reported in full by Peter Suber on his Open Access News blog where he has objectively answered and dismissed the basis of PRISM and its methods. As an example of the language of PRISM it implies that publishing in Open Access journals (as I do on occasions) is “junk science”. There is much more from PRISM which is both deliberately factually incorrect and misleading and I cannot see how a reputable scholarly organisation such as CUP could be associated with it. Indeed at least one similar publisher (Rockefeller University Press) writes:

“I am writing to request that a disclaimer be placed on the PRISM website indicating that the views presented on the site do not necessarily reflect those of all members of the AAP. We at the Rockefeller University Press strongly disagree with the spin that has been placed on the issue of open access by PRISM.” [rest of letter omitted here]

The purpose of my letter is simply to request factual information from CUP about its involvement with PRISM. Since PRISM itself has not reacted to any of the recent comment I can simply speculate that not all members of the AAP (perhaps including yourselves) were consulted before PRISM made its press release and new site. In particular it is unclear whether PRISM is de facto composed of all the members of the AAP or whether it uses their unsought goodwill to reinforce the apparent strength of the PRISM organization.

This mail is an Open Letter (posted on my blog) and I would intend to publish your reply in toto and unedited since your position (and those of similar publishers) is of great public interest. If there is anything you would not wish to be published, please indicate. Alternatively you may leave a comment on the blog itself. (My blog itself, though strongly advocating Open Access and particularly Open Data, attempts to be fair and accurate).

Comment.  These are fair questions well put.  I hope other researchers will send similar letters to their own university presses and to the publishers where they have submitted work and built up a relationship, at least when these publishers are members of AAP or (especially) members of AAP’s Professional/Scholarly Publishing division.  I suspect that AAP/PSP did not consult its members before launching PRISM.  But in any case the members should know that the launch of PRISM tarnishes them, alienates authors, readers, and referees, and, if successful, will only harm science by entrenching rather than removing access barriers to the results of publicly-funded research.