When technological or social changes start altering the business landscape in a particular industry, people involved in that business tend to respond in three general ways.
The visionaries immediately see where their world is going, jump to the front edge of it and make sure that the change is as swift and painless as possible, resulting in as good new business environment as possible. They immediately sell their horses and invest in the development of the internal combustion engine, gear-boxes, brakes and start building car factories.
The followers are much more timid, but they are astute enough to know that they can choose to either adapt of die. So they watch for a while and, once they are ready, they sell their livery horses, turn their stables into garages and start driving schools, taxi-cab services, limo rentals, rent-a-car chains, road-paving companies, etc.
The fools feel threatened and, in a knee-jerk response, start buying more livery horses, expanding their stables and, to show off their foolishness, they get on their high horses and start yelling how cars are the tools of the Devil and, like, totally un-American.
The Web is changing the business world of the science publishing industry. You can guess where this post is going now, can’t you….
There are now 2811 journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals, the seven PLoS journals just being the most well-known of them, with many smaller journals being published by BioMedCentral and Hindawi. Those are the visionaries, the organizations that are making sure that the new business world of Open Access, now quite inevitable, is reached in a way that is the best for everyone: researchers, readers/taxpayers, universities, publishers, libraries, students, medical practitioners, the governments of the world, etc. The old business model is quickly giving way to the new model and the early adopters are experimenting with it and showing that it can be done without too much pain and with universal benefit.
There are others, watching and getting ready to jump as soon as they feel comfortable doing so. I can bet money that Nature will go Open Access as soon as the forward-looking editors manage to persuade their backward-looking corporate overlords that the data and statistics show that this is the sound business way to go. Science is making some small noises as well, but they have to deal with the Victorian mindset of their AAAS bosses. They’ll get there, but it may take them a few years. And once Nature and Science go Open Access, everyone else will have to follow suit.
Except the screamers. Those who are buying livery horses right now. One such livery horse is Eric Dezenhall, the PR guy from the Frank Luntz school of obfuscation, recently hired by outfits like Reed Elsevier and American Chemical Society to get on a high horse and scream how Open Access is the tool of the Devil and, like, so un-American. Oh, btw, he suggested to the Association of American Publishers to join forces with American Enterprise Institute and National Consumers League, those paragons of honesty, freedom, democracy and openness, to launch a campaign of lies and defamations against the Open Access movement. Just sayin’….
These folks have now come up with another Luntz-grade moniker: PRISM, which stands for, believe it or not, “Partnership for Research Integrity in Science & Medicine”!
Their main points, from the front page of the website (and if you dig around the site, there is some even more incredible stuff there):
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.
Oh, up is down. Black is White. War is peace, Freedom is slavery, Ignorance is strength. Stalin is the coryphaeus of science. Socialized medicine is inefficient. Bush would be pleasant to have beer with. We are winning in Iraq (but first we have to find the WMDs which are like so there). Clean Air Act actually cleans air. Evolution is ‘just a theory’. Global warming is a hoax. When you stop laughing (the kind of laugh one usually tries to suppress at a funeral), read some of the first responses on blogs:
Peter Suber debunks their claims one by one:
The Orwellian censorship argument doesn’t need or deserve an answer. But if you want one, here’s how I answered it…
When journalists let us down, thank goodness there are bloggers.
Watch his blog for more…
Martin Fenner rightly warns them about a potential backlash:
These “arguments” were obviously created in a PR department, as they don’t make sense to anybody involved in scientific publishing. The peer review process is not different in open access journals. And to call deposition of NIH-funded research papers in the NIH-managed PubMed Central “government interference” is difficult to understand.
PRISM might be successful in avoiding a change in U.S. legislation, but the strange logic used by PRISM could lead many scientists to think twice before submitting a paper to a journal that endorses the PRISM principles. Which in the end could be worse for the journal publisher than the proposed change in legislation.
Martin also reminds us that this is not new – this shady activity, by all the same people, has already been exposed a few months ago, see this Nature article, this article in the Scientific American, this article in Washington Post, as well as some older blog posts by me, Revere, Jonathan Eisen, Mike Dunford, Alex Palazzo, Steve Higgins, Tim Lambert, Corie Lok, Matt Nisbet, Afarensis, Josh Rosenau, Mike again and Alex again. Now you have the background on the group and, surprisingly or not, perhaps hoping that everyone forgot in the meantime, they are trying the same stunt again, using the same people and the same incredibly lame arguments.
Here are some of the most recent responses:
Why is the publishing industry afraid of open access? I can’t answer that question, but I can point you to the evidence for their fear: it’s right here. Jonathan Eisen points out why PRISM, the anti-open access lobbying group, is total bullshit. The Open Reading Frame doesn’t like it either.
Basically, it appears to me that this is an old boyz network who are determined to protect their turf: selling access to scientific information to academics and to the public.
Reminded me the story of Hippasus; he was also murdered to avoid the “scholarly research of Pythagoras” getting tainted by letting people learn about heresies like irrational numbers.
I looked through it an thought – this must be a spoof. A good April 1 joke about the dinosaurs of the publishing industry. The reason it seems like a joke is well, the stuff there is so incredibly inane as to make one laugh. In essence the whole site is an anti Open Access site.
I could go on and on about the silly stuff there … but lets just say that everything on the site seems like a spoof. But alas, it is not. PRISM is for real. It is the last gasp of a dying breed – publishers who refuse to do what is the right thing for science and society. Yes, I understand there are some issues with Open Access that still need to be solved. But this McCarthy like tone of PRISM – basically equating openness with evil and godlessness is ridiculous. I think this is a sad day for the people behind PRISM – the AAP (Association of American Publishers). I am sure they have done some good things over the years. This is certainly not one of them and a good sign that anyone out there with any common sense who might be involved in AAP should get out or fight for change within the institution.
Bill Hooker knows what to do (and we should do the same):
This is disgusting. This runs counter to everything that science, academia, scholarship (and scholarly publishing!) stand for.
There are no names on the PRISM site yet — but I’m going to find as many as I can and publish them here. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I want to know just who is taking part in this revolting effort to steal from the commons and turn public goods into private profit.
(We can start with the AAP: their members page is essentially one long list of companies and organizations with whom I will assiduously avoid doing business until and unless they dissociate themselves from PRISM, and preferably from the AAP altogether.)
Bill also wrote an excellent letter to Rachel Deahl, a senior news editor at Publisher’s Weekly, who in her article parroted all the PRISM nonsense, and ends with some age advice:
I’m not sure whether this will do any good — William Walsh has pointed out that Publisher’s Weekly is owned, once removed, by Reed Elsevier, noted price-gougers and employers of the notorious Publisher’s Pitbull, so Ms Deahl’s options may be limited by her bosses. This is also a good place to point out that if you write to her, being a jerk about it will not only be pointless and stupid but will in fact damage the OA cause. (That should go without saying but these things do tend to get out of hand when emotions run high and email allows one to send in haste and repent at leisure…)
What disappoints me is that few of the conventional publishers have taken a positive view about the future. The future is EXCITING. The publishers are obstructing us getting there. Even the more forward-looking ones.
Part of the problem is that publishing is a cross between a public service and a commercial business. It hasn’t worked out where it stands and where it should stand. It is becoming increasingly clear that if it takes the business route it will go down the video media route typified by the appalling FACT  adverts on DVDs. (These are the ubiquitous adverts telling you what will happen if you copy the DVD you have bought or rented. It really sets the scene for an evening’s watching. Perhaps we should have:
“You wouldn’t steal a car?”
“You wouldn’t steal a TV?”
“If you read a scientific paper you are not entitled to this is THEFT!!!!”
And it should be mandatory to have to read this declaration for 30 seconds before you are allowed to read the paper.
After all I am not just a scientific reader of a paper, I am a potential thief. And I should be told what dire fate awaits me if I dare to read scientific research I haven’t paid for. I shall have more replies from publishers to publish shortly.
I don’t participate much in the OA Debate, largely because I see the outcome as a foregone conclusion. What we are seeing now is the reaction of publishers with an established business model (read license to print money) being threatened by change. Given that OA will not be going away, in my opinion what publishers should be doing is thinking creatively and developing new business models for scientific publishing. Of course there is always the option of being ridiculously reactionary, resulting in unintentional hilarity: PRISM – Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine.
Of course this made me think of the anti-comunist/open-source propaganda poster that’s been doing the rounds of the net: If you program open source, you’re programming COMMUNISM (see included image). If anyone has Photoshop/GIMP skills, please modify the image to read “If you publish in OA journals, you’re publishing COMMUNISM! – A reminder from your friends at PRISM.
This, as they say, makes matters interesting. There are a whole bunch of issues being conflated here; the (editorial) role and responsibility of journals, the assessment of scientists and of science, the scientific culture we want to foster, live and work in – and all of these are bound up with economic and political considerations.
I think that’s the action of a terrified group of amoral scumbags who see the future rushing in and will do whatever they can think of to stop it. I think it’s the action of a terrified group of amoral scumbags completely bankrupt of actual insight or innovation and utterly desperate to keep their current unjustifiable profit margins. I think, in short, it’s the action of a terrified group of amoral scumbags. I am just that appalled.
Translation: “Please don’t devote any of the incredibly scarce resources that you have left over after you finish paying our protection money to attempt to escape the less-than-zero-sum game that we’ve constructed for you.”
See where Dezenhall tells publishers to equate peer review with traditional publishing and public access to censorship? Nice. All this for an estimated $300,000 – $500,000.
Oh, William uncovered some more:
Speaking of Elsevier, I noticed that PRISM’s “In the News” section features a statement by Representative John Conyers voicing his concerns over a mandatory NIH access policy. According to Opensecrets.org, Reed Elsevier, through its PAC, contributed $2,000 to his campaign during the 2006 election cycle. It also contributed $2,000 during the 2004 cycle and $1,000 during the 2002 cycle. Since Opensecret’s data was last updated in June, I checked the Reed Elsevier Inc. PAC’s 2007 mid-year report from the FEC. It lists a $500 contribution for the 2008 cycle…..While there is nothing wrong with these contributions, isn’t it fair to say that government is already involved in science publishing?
What this recent initiative by the publishers points to is that the only sure way for the scholarly communities to take charge of the scholarly communication process is to rid themselves of their commercial exploiters and promote the publication of free, collaboratively produced and subsidised journals. Forget the Green and Gold routes insofar as they depend upon the acquiescence of the business world and go for the Platinum Route – it is the only way to take charge, and you have been exploited long enough.
Perhaps ‘PRISM’ really means, ‘Publishers Resisting Intellectual Solidarity in the Market’!
Tom Wilson again:
I have another suggestion: since the publishers are spending so much money on the peer review process, isnt’t it time that those who do the reviews were properly paid for it? The University and College Union in the UK, I believe, has a recommended daily rate for consultancy and similar work – or at least the Association of University Teachers had such a rate and, when I last looked, it was £650
It takes me, typically, about a day to properly review and write my comments on a paper, so £650 would seem a fair return for the work.
However, apart from that, the real issue is that the commercial publishers are making the running in trying to persuade the population to support their ludicrous claims – so what are the academics going to do? Sit back and wait to be rolled over? Business as usual? There’s only one response to this development and that is to fight it. What are the American Association of University Professors and the UCU going to do in response? Can we expect them to lobby Congress and Parliament to counter the action of the publishers? I don’t live in the US, but perhaps someone could write to the AAUP and ask them, and I shall do the same here in the UK asking the UCU how it proposes to counter any developments here.
And there is something else, which is long overdue, that all academics can do: resign from the editorial boards of non-OA journals, and state their daily rate for reviewing. Let’s have a bit of action! I doubt if anyone will notice it when I resign from the two commercially-published journals on which I serve (one of which I founded), but if we have concerted action from thousands of academics then perhaps the publishers will understand that setting up PRISM to peddle their lies is counter-productive.
And Tom also wrote a letter:
In spite of its title, this is, in fact a lobby group for the publishing industry and, no doubt it will seek to extend its activities in some way or other to the UK. So, my question is: What is the UCU intending to do to counteract the highly misleading propositions put forward on the PRISM Web page?
One of the tactics of the latest anti-OA lobbying effort has some interesting implications. With apologies to my fellow open access advocates, let me offer some help to the opposition (they obviously need it!), and point out that this could backfire, badly – or beautifully, depending on your perspective.
Here is a sample letter, that a researcher who gives away their own work, but worries about the terrifying possibility that the publishing industry might have to do without hundreds of millions of dollars a year, might send:
The following message contains satire. Reader caution is advised.
PRISM, the Coalition of the highly profitable publishing industry developed by a branch of the Association of American Publishers, is alerting us to their concern that they believe that the hundreds of millions of dollars a year of revenue they enjoy is at risk, and that we average citizens and voters MUST act to join their lobbying effort, and share our deep concerns about this with our U.S. representative.
I am sure that you, dear reader, are every bit as concerned as I am about this horrendous possible loss of profits for the wealthy. Urgent action is needed, now!
Let’s set up a charitable foundation to help out these poor profit-makers. We can call it, “Save the Millionaires!”.
How would be academics who are accustomed to providing free peer review services know what to charge these highly profitable publishers for our services?
Tom has done some homework! ———snip———-£650 translates into($1,300 US, $1,377 Canadian).
Heather hits a trifecta (or is it five now?):
When we academics provide free peer review to not-for-profits whose goal is dissemination of knowledge as part of the service component of our work, it makes sense that our employers provide the equipment, offices, and occasionally a bit of work time, for free. If we’re working for a highly profitable for-profit company, though, it seems to me that there are other rules that apply…
I still recall the excitement of publishing my first journal article. I also recall the confusion that I felt when I was sent an agreement by email, telling me that I was signing away all rights to my article. “This can’t be right”, I thought, “I generated the data, I did the work, I wrote the words and it’s not mine?” Ultimately, your peers convince you to accept this as quite normal practice and move on. It’s not normal though, is it?
This is mostly spin. How will OA stifle competition? If all journals operate using the PLoS model they would still exist as separate entities. I just don’t get it. And then there is tghe whole copyright issue. If journals get publishing fees, what difference would it make whether it held the copyright? And then bias? Budget uncertainties? This is just crying wolf.
If PRISM wants to be a credible organization they should name their supporters. But they won’t because it’ll mostly be the scientific publishers.
PRISM’s issue is this: if more and more research is made open access (ie, free) how will traditional publishers make any money? The concern is legitamate, but the hoopla, rhetoric, and obfuscation shown on their website suggests that they would rather bend the facts to create a non-issue (that peer review is under attack) rather than face a more real, but less sympathetic issue (how to keep making money). Their main beef seems to be the nebulous threat of “government interference,” specifically that the government would like open access to the research that, ya know, it pays for. GASP.
This is bothersome, because I think that a real conversation could be had between ‘old school’ publishers and open-access publishers without running to a slick PR firm. It seems that the Association of American Publishers would rather the issue be weighed in the court of mis-informed public opinion rather than in the light of day, where both monetary concerns can be considered along with what is paramount to the scientific endeavor.
What is this policy being proposed that’s so horrible, you ask? It’s the NIH’s public access policy: the requirement that all research funded by federal grants be available freely to the public. The group behind PRISM (the Professional & Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers [AAP]), however, thinks this means the end of peer review, apparently…
There are plenty of reasons why PRISM’s logic falls apart (see here for a thorough bashing), but I wanted to point out just one: they’re hypocritical. While their entire web site advocates strict enforcement of copyright laws, the images they’ve used on their front page are a violation of copyright law. Take a look at this screenshot from their front page:…..
It seems that a coalition of non-Open Access journals, Partnership in Research Integrity in Science & Medicine, is out to take down journals like PLOS. I know people have to put bread on the table, but really there isn’t an open-ended guarantee that you can milk your business model forever. In any case, Blog Around the Clock has links to many comments around the web in regards to this issue.
OK, this by Marlene is in French:
Pour l’instant pas vraiment d’échos côté francophone, mais l’intérêt pour l’OA est moindre, et puis c’est encore un peu les vacances…
What a bunch of spineless bums.
Now that sounds like an ENRON business model, not science in the public interest. I have little doubt that the publishing industry feels rather threatened by PLoS and other open access journals, which obviously not suffer one whit from open access policies initiated by the federal government. But why actually expect corporate cronyism to care about the public interest, when it’s much easier to talk out both sides of one’s mouth and pad the bottom line?
This issue is germaine to Bioethics for several reasons. First, it is intuitive that the quality and quantity of open discussion within any field increases with greater open access to source material. Second, a large challenge in Bioethics is reconciling the conflicts in economic and ethical interests – this fits as both a meta-issue (should bioethicists support the closed distribution of information only to those who will pay for it?), and a direct issue (should only rich bioethicists have access to NIH papers?). Third, the cause of increasing public awareness and critical approaches to bioethical issues would be facilitated by ensuring the public has access to source material so they can make their own decisions about situations without needing to rely solely upon expert (and possibly biased) interpretations.
Open access to scientific papers is bad because it makes them more accessible. No really! That’s the argument. But I’m getting ahead of myself….
William, among others, notices a curious thing about the PRISM website:
Go to the Getty Images site and search for image AA011147. The result is a photograph entitled “Scientist Using a Microscope and Taking Notes.”
From the side, the subject looks like a younger Colin Firth, hard at work with microscope, clipboard and gigantic graphing calculator. It’s a nice enough picture. One gets the sense that important research is being conducted by an attractive man.
That may be why the AAP decided to feature it on their PRISM homepage.
Quick question: Why does the picture on their site feature a Getty watermark? I was under the impression that purchased images were non-watermarked.
I’m not going to attempt to add more smackdown to what has already been done. However, I would like to talk a little about the makeup of The Executive Council of the Professional & Scholarly Publishing Division. Who are the members of this Committee?
Prism is a coalition of scholarly publishers who are advocating the merits of closed source scientific publication, and are lobbying for more copyright. However, their argument falls apart in many places, particularly in the fact that they violated copyright issues in the images they used in their website.
It seems a group running by the rather Orwellian sounding name PRISM (“Partnerships for Research in Science and Medicine”) (SPECTRE, anyone?) are busy doing all they can to try to lock up academic publication. This, of course, in cahoots with the traditional scientific publishing community (who are surely feeling the heat of internet-based dissemination of scientific publications by now).
Has PRISM violated copyright?
Copyright Advocacy Group Violates Copyright
Prism’s goal as an organisation is to “protect the quality of scientific research”. It vows to oppose policies “that threaten to introduce undue government intervention in science and scholarly publishing.”
The outfit wants to restrict access to publicly-funded research results by making everyone pay a fee to see it. In otherwords you pay for the research once with your taxes and another time to see the results in print.
Prism is a new initiative by commercial scholarly publishers to discredit the open access movement. It favors the continued use of copyrights for academic publications. So far, so good. Too bad its website contains copyrighted images that were obviously not properly obtained. Hypocrisy, thy name is Prism.
You would think that a group advocating for stronger copyright controls would make sure that they had legal permission to use images before posting them on a website; you would be wrong, though.
Mark Hoofnagle fisks them line by line with gusto:
They purport to be the saviors of scientific publishing, protecting us from the evil of open access. But how much do you want to bet they’re the same old industry lobbying group, disguising themselves as actors in the public interest? Well, there’s an easy way to tell. Let’s apply the deck of cards!
Mike Dunford has a long, thoughtful analysis that starts with this:
If you look closely at the publishing industry’s complaints, I think you’ll find something interesting. The complaints are really an admission that the billion dollar profits of the academic publishing industry are nothing more than a hidden government subsidy. Your tax dollars are used to conduct the research that is reported in these papers. Your tax dollars are used, in many cases, to pay for portions of the publication process. Your tax dollars are then used to allow other researchers (often funded by your tax dollars) to buy access to that research. The publishing industry is fighting tooth and nail right now to make sure that they get to continue to extract as many government dollars as possible.
Prism — an astroturf organization established by science publishers to discredit free open access journals — has been caught using a bunch of infringing Getty images on its front page. Prism advocates against open copyright for science journals, preferring to lock up scientific knowledge with a maximal version of copyright that limits scientific endeavor to those parties who can pay rent to the corporations that fund Prism. Like many copyright maximalists, Prism only uses moral arguments about copyright as cover for self-interested greed — they talk a good line about “respecting copyright,” but what they mean is, “pay us and pay us and pay us, and screw everyone else.”
COPYRIGHT GROUP violates copyright.
It’s no surprise that bloggers (we write for free) think that open access is a good idea, if not absolutely required. I think that Tara’s and Bora’s entries are the most illuminating: both in content and Bora’s in sheer volume. Check them out so that you can build your arsenal of talking points.
And by the way, the next time YOU publish, consider using one of the 2814 open access journals available for submission. I put a link to the directory of open access journals down in my sidebar, too.
If PRISM wants to be a credible organization they should name their supporters. But they won’t because it’ll mostly be the scientific publishers.
The brief article by Daniel Griffin on PRISM today in IWR is nearly identical to the one from last week by Rachel Deahl that appeared in PW. IWR is a publication of VNU Business, which is a division of Incisive Media. Incisive Media is owned by Apax Partners, a private equity investment group which, along with OMERS Capital Partners, recently acquired Thomson Learning (now Cengage Learning). Thomson Learning is still listed as a member of the AAP.
Now perhaps some of the PRISM folks will start to understand how library patrons feel. That can only be a good thing. And a whole bunch of people who would have let PRISM pass in silence are now spreading the word about the issues. That’s a good thing too. So this has turned into a win for the angels–but for reasons somewhat orthogonal to the actual event.
The traditional publishers see open access as a threat–as they should. It challenges their old-school publishing models, and they just might have to… (gasp!)… adapt. It’s understandable that they’re going to try to protect their own interests, but what appears on PRISM’s website are outright lies and scare tactics. PRISM claims that the new open access legislation will succeed in “undermining the peer review process” and “opening the door to scientific censorship in the form of selective additions to or omissions from the scientific record.” These arguments are so incredibly absurd that I hardly believe anyone in this industry is thick enough to actually believe them. Either this industry group is intentionally and flagrantly misleading the public, or its members are just incredibly clueless.
My biggest concern about the creation of PRISM is that lawmakers will consider the journal publishers in the highest regard. Who better to represent the scientific community than the journals that so many scientists regard in such high esteem and work day and night to get their work published in, right? WRONG! Journals are there to make money — if they can make money publishing crap science, they would. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that lawmakers will say journal publishers = science therefore journals representatives represent good science policy.
What should we do? Scientific publishers cannot survive without scientists. Scientists can defend research integrity by thinking twice before entrusting their work to any AAP publisher, or before agreeing to serve as a scientific editor or reviewer for an AAP publisher. Scientists can make sure that their professional organizations do not support the AAP in any way.
The Association of American Publishers made a mistake by seeking to distort this debate. The AAP web site claims that the organization seeks “To promote intellectual freedom and to oppose all forms of censorship, at home and abroad.” Publishing is inherently about providing information, and it is not a field that naturally attracts people who prefer to win the debate than to find the truth. When the AAP hired this pit bull they were working against their own nature. They goofed. Like Michael Vick, they are free to change their ways. The pit bull can then go work for another client, one who has less to lose by offending those who care about integrity.
Nick Anthis discovered a cool spoof site:
This is about the only appropriate response to the absurdity of the the anti-open access organization PRISM. A commenter on the last post pointed me to PISD, the Partnership for Integrity in Scientific Dis-semination:
In fact I strongly suspect that Nature’s precedings, was built to fail, an exercise in futility, to show how openness equals lack of peer review and craptacular creationist papers published. And while the opponents of open access like PRISM might have an axe to grind, they also make a good point, what is peer review, and who oversees peer reviewers?
This is a really important development, because it is the clearest demonstration yet that the traditional publishers see open access as a real threat, and that it is succeeding – you don’t take these kind of measures against something that is flailing.
PRISM seems to be following the Dezenhall script, seeking to put advocates for open access on the defensive regardless of the merits of the case. Swiftboating is being applied to science.
Partnership for Research Integrity in Science & Medicine is very worried about there being free, public access to the results of research that the public paid for. This is because they’re leeches who want to simultaneously enjoy public funding, but not have to give anything back to the public in exchange for it. However, while they’re so worried about protecting their copyrights they’re perfectly willing to engage in copyright infringement themselves. Hypocritical assholes. I wish them the worst.
With Congress considering legislation that would — gasp — require journal articles produced through publicly-funded research to be made freely available to the public, the publishing industry has dug deep into its bag of dirty PR tricks and emerged with … PRISM, the cleverly acronymed Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine.
Just as Microsoft started the FUD machine as Linux gained prominence, watch for a truckload of FUD from PRISM in the days to come.
Prismatic opacity pattern recognition
What is important is control of the language. PRISM has focussed on the term ‘Open Access’. We must draw a sharp distinction between Open Access and ‘Open Science’ (or ‘Open Research’ which may be a better term). The key is that while those of us who believe in Open Research are largely in favour of Open Access literature, publishing in the Open Access literature does not imply any commitment to Open Research. Indeed it doesn’t even imply a commitment to providing the raw data that supports a publication. It is purely and simple a commitment to provide specific peer reviewed research literature in a freely accessible form which can be freely re-used and re-mixed.
The case for public access to research the public is funding (through taxation) has been made elsewhere, and debated at length, so I won’t go into that here. I think there’s a slightly different point to be made from the point of view of advancing science, though. As a scientist, it’s very frustrating to find an interesting article referenced in a piece of research I read, or that crops up when doing a literature search, only to find that my institution doesn’t subscribe to the relevant journal. It’s obvious that making my research freely available is more useful to the scientific community at large than publishing it in a journal that requires other scientists (or their employers) to pay to read it. I’m aware of the parallel here to some of the things I said about free software a while back!
For junior scientists, there’s another issue, too. The next job (particularly if it’s a faculty/tenured post) will largely depend upon your publication record. The impact factors of open access journals are often not that high (partly because they’re relatively new), which may mean that potential employers who are too focussed on biobliometrics will rate papers therein less highly. Nailing your colours to either side of such debates can be dangerous, too, if you’re un-tenured. I’m evidently not entirely risk-averse!
Leah drew a comic strip:
Bloggers yesterday had a schadenfreude-ic chuckle at the expense of the “advocacy” group Prism. Prism claims to be a grassroots organization in favor of increased copyright protections for scientific research. They favor making research pay-per-view even when that work is legally in the public domain and for public benefit. It turns out, however, that they only claim the moral high-ground when it will add to their own profits. Bloggers discovered yesterday that 100% of the images on Prism’s home page were infringed from Getty Images, with the watermarks still on the images to prove lack of compensation.
Blake Stacey found an uncanny similarity between photos of Eric Dezenhall and Dr.Evil:
Well, what would you expect? This is, after all, the man who said that “it’s hard to fight an adversary that manages to be both elusive and in possession of a better message: Free information.”
The American Association of Publishers and everyone associated with it should be ashamed of trying to protect their profit margins by slandering the open access movement as government intervention and censorship. Research paid for with government funds should be freely accessible to the general public. Peer review will survive. PRISM, however, will be doomed by its own weasel words, which represent a betrayal of everything science stands for.
I wish it was amazing that these people have so little grasp of what has been going on in the world the last 5 years (but I must say such failure to adapt seems to be a common trait in too many organizations). Previously I have posted on the importance of continuing the scientific tradition of open debate and open access. In the past there have been distribution complexities that made paid journals an acceptable compromise. That people working at journals don’t see that the internet changes that is going to lead to their rapid irrelevance. They had to figure this out a couple of years ago. Given they still haven’t, I must say that they really don’t seem to have much understanding of science or modern communication methods. Given their industry that is sad. It this time for the scientific community to give up on these journals and start looking to move to work with new organizations that will encourage scientific communication and advancement (PLoS – arXiv.org – Open Access Engineering Journals) and leave those that seek to keep outdated practices to go out of business.
“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” Dr. W. Edwards Deming
The ethicist has spoken very eloquently: Janet Stemwedel, very worth reading, ending with this:
Also, I’d be thrilled if this lobbying group would choose some word other than “Integrity” to fill in the “I” in their acronym. At least in the context of scientific practice, it’s not clear that they understand what integrity means.
When ideologues trash science and the scientific process it is not news. But when disseminators of scientific knowledge do it, it is appalling.
Anyway, today I noticed (via GTO) the web presence of the PISD coalition, which is truly hilarious. Of course, it is a mockup of the incredibly stupid (and widely blogged about) web page of the PRISM coalition. There are quite a number of highlights on the PISD page, most of which is written in a Q&A style. Here is a quote that I liked in particular:
Peer reviewing doesn’t cost journals anything–scientists usually referee papers for free. Isn’t that a little unfair?
It is indeed a source of consternation to many in the publishing industry that current publishing conventions provide scientists with the opportunity to referee papers at no cost.
which reminds me that I still have two papers sitting on my desk waiting to be refereed. (one OA, one not, but both at no cost. Which one should I do first? )
What PRISM truly represents is an entrenched industry still attempting to hold at bay the disruptive effect of 21st Century communications. In the same way that the music industry was forced to adapt to iTunes, and cinema and television had no choice but to use sites like YouTube to their advantage, so will the scientific publishing industry have to eventually determine a way to use today’s technology to its advantage. Anything less than a commitment to this principle is to the detriment of scientific discovery and the global public, which stands to benefit enormously from greater access to publicly-funded research.
Prisms have a wonderful ability to take in a uniform band and split it into its constituent parts. Let’s hope the increasing criticism over the launch of PRISM does a similar job of fragmenting this coalition, and exposing their true colors.
That’s all there is to it: The online era has made possible an obvious benefit for research, and the publishing lobby is trying to resist adapting to it. What needs to be kept clearly in mind is that research is not conducted and funded as a service to the publishing industry, but vice versa.
Fortunately, the very openness of the online era is to the benefit of the pro-OA lobby, as the specious arguments of the anti-OA lobby can be openly exposed and answered rather than being left to be voiced solely in closed corridors (lobbies), where their obvious rebuttals cannot be promptly echoed in reply.
I think academics and the public need to fight back against this attempt to mislead the public about the issues surrounding Open Access publishing. And one way to fight back is to recommend that the members of AAP drop out or request termination of the PRISM effort. So here is a list (see below for the full list) with links of the members of AAP. If you are involved or have connections to any of these groups, consider writing or calling them and suggesting they reconsider involvement in AAP. Look, for example at all the University presses. If they do not back out of PRISM we should consider launching a boycott of AAP members.
Full list of AAP from the AAP web site:
Yes, this is followed by the complete list! Go and peruse it.
If the purpose of PRISM is to convince legislators that there is an advocacy group that supports the publishers’ goals then my sense is that they are going to fail. The site is not very convincing and lacks information about its supporters or any input from them that would influence people into thinking that there is a broad base of support for PRISM’s views. PRISM does raise some important issues that need to be addressed in the rush to make access to government-funded research public, especially in how to support the peer review process realistically in an era in which public access to research is becoming a given. But the broader outlines of the solutions to many of these problems would seem to lie in how the scholarly publishing community has resisted changes in publishing technologies that disrupt their traditional business models.
With some added focus and some sponsorship of honest debate between government research sponsors, scientists and publishers PRISM may yet serve a positive and constructive purpose as an advocacy group. But if PRISM remains little more than an “astroturf” organization that defends the commercial interests of publishers then it’s not likely to gain the needed respect from any of the parties that it needs to influence in this debate. Publishers in general are reluctant to engage their markets in a more conversational manner, but if scholarly publishers can position PRISM as a tool to build an honest conversation about the future of commercial and non-commercial scholarly publishing then they may be able to make some headway. At the moment I wouldn’t bet on that happening, but you never know.
I don’t suppose I can sue somebody for negligence resulting in impairment of my mental health. But if I could, I would surely go after the assholes at the PRISM coalition, an alleged grassroots group (such front groups for industry are often called astroturf groups) whose task in life is to lock up tax payer financed research under copyright laws they and their cronies wrote for their own benefit. And THEY ARE MAKING ME CRAZY!
So what is PRISM’s purpose? I suspect it is primarily to lobby the political process in the US to put pressure on the NIH to withdraw or moderate its support for Open Access. (I cannot envisage they are going to convince the Wellcome Trust to stop funding “junk science” by engaging in Socratic debate. Indeed I don’t think PRISM care anything for the scientific community except as a source of revenue. ) What they intend to do is use their junk facts and arguments to convince congressmen and governors in the US to support their cause.
Rockefeller University Press is the first AAP-member publisher to publicly dissociate itself from PRISM. Kudos to Rossner for taking this step. I hope that other members of AAP, and especially members of AAP’s Professional/Scholarly Publishing division, will speak up. Even those who share the AAP/PSP’s opposition to government OA policies can call on it to engage in a more honest debate.
If PRISM adds the disclaimer to its site, authors, readers, and subscribers will still want to know which publishers, and how many, dissent from the PRISM campaign. I hope that a disclaimer doesn’t stop others from speaking out. I’ll keep track of any that do here on OAN.
Universities and libraries: your subscription fees are paying for the PRISM campaign. If you’re not happy about that, please ask other publishers to join Rockefeller.
Mike Rossner, Executive Director of Rockefeller University Press, as tranmitted by Peter Suber:
I am writing to request that a disclaimer be placed on the PRISM website (http://www.prismcoalition.org/) 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.
Kudos to Rockefeller for being the first to distance themselves from PRISM. Who is next? Where are the others?
I want to make it clear that while I welcome PRISM to the ongoing
discussion of OA issues, and think the discussion can only be
enriched by the perspective of those who actually publish
scholarly information, I have no affiliation whatsoever with
PRISM and neither endorse nor oppose any of its initiatives. As
time goes on, I’m sure that I’ll agree with some of what they say
and disagree with some of it — just as I agree with some and
disagree with some of what OA evangelicals say.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press is currently a member of AAP but our access policies are our own. We were not involved in the formation of PRISM and do not support many of the statements being made on its behalf.
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…
The reason I am disappointed is that in their focus on obstructing Open Access the PRISM publishers are playing the wrong game. They are busy tying string round their ankles in case the Open Access rat runs up their pants, while ignoring the bull elephant that has stomped into the room. Open Access to research articles is going to happen, but it is surely not the most significant issue for scholarly publishers. Other things are going on that mean a much more fundamental change to what the PRISM publishers term ‘the whole scholarly communication process’. Along with a raft of threats, those things offer up a whole host of opportunities for publishers who are uniquely placed to solve the problems that will roll along with the changes, all the way along the value chain. I’d really like publishers to look a bit more strategically at the course of events and use their business skills to capitalise on them, providing for the research community the new services it will need over the next decades. A few, and two big publishing names in particular, are already doing so. Let’s hope others follow. There are a lot of moving targets, to be sure, and that invokes nervousness. At such times, one nervous twitch can mean shooting yourself in the foot (viz PRISM). Better to put the gun down and do something constructive. Many pensions could benefit.
The supreme irony is that the PRISMoids’ primary products are quality and integrity. And this is precisely what they are destroying before our eyes. They claim to be the guardians of quality – better than amateurs or governments. But one look at their Open Access products shows shoddiness, don’t-care, incompetence. And this now permeates their thinking. They rely on monopoly and restrictive practices – incredibly risky because when (not if) this bubble bursts they are left with nothing.
Cross-posted on DailyKos.
I will add more links to responses as they appear, so check this space later….