Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, September 07, 2007

Supporting non-profit publisher concerns, but not PRISM

Fytton Rowland, The open access debate, UKSG Serials e-News, September 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

Recently, the American Association of Publishers (AAP) launched the PRISM coalition (Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine), an anti-Open Access (OA) lobbying group. This followed their taking advice from a PR consultant, Eric Dezenhall, who specialises in damage limitation exercises....

For-profit commercial publishers are legally required to defend their shareholders' interests, of course, but what of the not-for-profits that belong to the AAP? Interestingly, Rockefeller University Press (RUP) have written to the AAP (of which they are a member) asking that the PRISM statements should include a disclaimer that not all members of the AAP agree with PRISM's views, and stating categorically that RUP 'strongly disagree with the spin' put on OA by PRISM.

A large proportion of the scholarly literature is published by not-for-profits....OA presents these bodies with a dilemma. By their charters, their mission is to advance scholarship and they publish in pursuance of that mission. But their members or their proprietor universities have become used, in many cases, to surpluses from the publishing operations cross-subsidising other activities. The larger American learned society publishers, with some exceptions, have been particularly strong in their resistance to OA. Publishing staff of British learned societies also speak frankly, in private at least, in the same way. Smaller societies feel that OA threatens not just their surpluses, but their very existence, as I discovered in my research in New Zealand a few years ago. Yet, if they oppose unfettered access to published scholarly work, they may be failing to advance scholarship as their charters require.

I have always been a staunch advocate for the not-for-profit sector of scholarly publishing industry, having spent the first half of my career working in it, and I sympathise with my former colleagues about the difficult position that they are now in. But simply allying themselves with the oligopolists of the commercial scholarly publishing industry won't do. Their managers need to work with academics - who are their authors, editors, referees, readers and indeed their proprietors - to find new business models that protect the not-for-profits' existence and stability while allowing all the world's scholars and students unfettered access to published research work. OA isn't going to go away, and if existing publishers refuse to provide it, someone else will.