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Re: Wellcome Trust report

I certainly do not represent any community within Liblicense-l. But that
is not the point. And I wonder why the question of my legitimacy seems to
be raised here. In this forum, so far as I know, we all intervene as
individuals, and not as representatives of anything.

My objection is not to capitalism; it is in believing that capitalism is
the appropriate solution in all circumstances. My point is that scientific
research results can be disseminated and exchanged with mechanisms that
are not inherently capitalistic in nature. This does not mean forgetting
about money; neither does it exclude the intervention of capitalistically
minded players at some stages of the process. Roads are free to everybody
as a common, infrastructural, good; yet capitalistic entrepreneurs do
compete for certain building contracts. The point, though, is that these
capitalistic entrepreneurs - barring corruption - do not interfere with
the aims and objectives of road building; neither do they take advantage
of the public context of road building to extract very high profits. They
earn a decent living.

Also, I think that moving into the digital world removes or will shortly
remove the question of printers. So, I do not believe that the issue of
printers is of the essence. In any case, publishers regularly contend that
printing is but a small fraction of the total cost of a journal. Perhaps,
Mr.  Watkinson meant "publishers" and not printers. Also, the largest
printer/publisher in the world is the US Government...

What I am arguing about is that the communication of scientific research
should be organized so as to optimize the whole potential of distributed
human intelligence (on the shoulders of giants... etc.) and thus optimize
the production of new, useful, knowledge. Its financing should be designed
in such a way as not to interfere with this goal. In particular, it should
be organized in such a way that teachers and researchers would have an
optimal access to every validated results their colleagues produce; it
should be organized in such a way that poor countries or poor institutions
would not be excluded. By contrast, the present situation amounts to a
waste of human intelligence at a time when the magnitude of the problems
we face clearly show that we cannot afford it.

"Open access" is the pithiest way to express this goal. Open access can be
supported by a variety of financial means going from direct institutional
support and the use of public money (e.g. Scielo) to upstream payments of
publishing cost (� la PLoS or BioMed Central) by a variety of players
(granting agencies, libraries or library consortia, universities,
foundations, etc...).

For those who object to the use of public money in the context of
scientific publishing, let them remember that most of scientific research
in the world is done through public money in the first place. Generally,
research does not obey capitalistic rules of development. Where it does
(e.g. part of pharmaceutical research), it can lead to very bad
consequences (e.g. orphan diseases prevalent in countries that, on account
of their poverty, cannot form an attractive market for a capitalistic

The issue then becomes : is the publishing phase of scientific research to
be radically separated from the rest of the research process? Personally,
I think not; on the contrary, and several granting agencies are clearly
moving in that direction, publishing should be construed as an integral
part of the whole research process.

How learned societies fit into this whole scheme is indeed a complicated
question and part of the dilemma is that learned societies have grown used
to financing many worthwhile activities. and some not so worthwhile, on
the back of their journals. While this is true, it must also be remembered
that the situation would be a lot simpler if we had to deal only with
learned societies: their values, at least, converge to a large extent with
the aggregate values of their respective constituencies. That is not true
of large, commercial, publishers.

Jean-Claude Gu�don

On Sat June 5 2004 12:23 am, Anthony Watkinson wrote:

> These societies represent their communities. Professor Guedon does not.
> How far does his objection to capitalism carry? Should learned societies
> have contracts with suppliers of print or should they bring all functions
> in house? I suppose there must be not-for-profit printers but I do not
> know any.