Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

UK food lobby raising FUD about OA

The UK Food Standards Agency is considering an OA policy.  This by itself isn't news.  It's been considering an OA policy since 2004

But now lobbyists are noticing and raising concerns.  What's new here is that the lobbyists are not publishers but food manufacturers.  Apparently they object to some FSA-sponsored research done at Southampton, which led to a proposal to ban certain food colorings.  But instead of (or in addition to) criticizing the science, they are criticizing OA, as if it would lower peer-review standards. 

For details, see Rick Pendrous, Experts raise concerns over FSA's possible adoption of 'open access' research policy, Food Manufacture, July 1, 2008.  Excerpt:

Industry experts have raised concerns about the Food Standards Agency (FSA) adopting an 'open access' policy for publication of its research.

Their fears have emerged from the controversy following the publication of research into the effect of colourants on children.

Traditionally scientific research is peer-reviewed by experts in the field before being published in respected academic journals, which sometimes have a virtual stranglehold on publication. The process is often very time-consuming and restricts the distribution of information.

Increasingly, academics are exploring 'open access' publication which, while retaining validation of the research, would result in studies being more quickly disseminated online.

FSA chief scientist Andrew Wadge said: "We are also investigating open access publication, which would speed things up."

However, leading industry experts and academics are increasingly worried that the FSA is too much led by public opinion. Concerns were raised regarding the research it commissioned from Southampton University into the consumption of food additives by children.

Several commentators were highly critical of the FSA's call for an EU-wide ban on the six colours used in the study, which was subsequently rejected by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for its failure to identify the effects of individual additives.

One source said: "It makes me nervous about how they will handle 'open access' - let alone peer review - going forward." ...

Comment.  As usual, the lobbyists don't connect the dots or try to show how OA is supposed to jeopardize peer review.  The food manufacturers may be completely misinformed and believe that the essence of OA is to bypass peer review rather than to remove access barriers to peer-reviewed research.  We know that this misconception is widespread among people new to the issue who haven't taken the trouble to read about it.  Or, like the publishing lobby, the food lobby may know that OA is compatible with strong, independent peer review but prefer to raise FUD than concede the point.  Either way, however, it's a false and deceptive line to take.  For a detailed response, see my article from September 2007.