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Just who is on the defensive?

First the summary, from Jennifer McLennan at ARL:

> The consultant advised them to focus on simple messages, such
> as "Public access equals government censorship". He hinted that
> the publishers should attempt to equate traditional publishing
> models with peer review, and "paint a picture of what the world
> would look like without peer-reviewed articles". ... Dezenhall
> noted that if the other side is on the defensive, it doesn't
> matter if they can discredit your statements, she added: "Media
> massaging is not the same as intellectual debate.

(The publishers' group mentioned in the article: Elsevier, Wiley
and the American Chemical Society)

Now as quick comment to start off, their PR advisor has chosen
what are perhaps the weakest arguments against open access.

If governments want to censor or direct academic research they
already have the ability--and governments use it. Limiting my
examples to the US:. They direct the research and publication
permitted from government laboratories, as the US does with
global warming; they can control what they fund, as with
stem-cell research; they can prohibit some classes of research
altogether, as with cannabis; they can restrict it, as with
cryptography. They can even restrict the attendance at scientific
meetings. They can unbelievably, already delay or prevent the
publication of medical research providing cures, purely for
military advantage, as they did with penicillin in world war II.

Peer review is not carried out by publishers. It is carried out
completely by scientists--the scientists who submit the papers,
the scientists who submit the papers, the scientists who allot
them to referees, the scientists who do the refereeing. and the
scientists who make the final decision on the basis of the
referee's reports. Publishers claim to organize the process, but
it has never been clearly shown just what they do but pay office
expenses and purchase the software to keep track of the
correspondence. Open source software is also available, and
scientists are perfectly able to operate on their own; for many
journals they do just that.

What would the world look like without peer review? It would
presumably have fraudulent medical research, such as some of the
recent stem cell research, and it might have fraudulent research
in other fields, such as the Lucent fraud a few years back, all
published under the current publishing system--complete with

The main problems with open-access are getting scientists to use
it, and making the financial readjustments required. If the
commercial publishers remain involved, it might cost more than
the present, but otherwise it would almost certainly cost less.

That commercial and large society publishers should use such
arguments is a sign of the strength and inevitability of the open
access movement.

But this is the advice he gave them, not necessarily what they
will actually decide to say.  In that case, it shows that even an
outside advisor perceives the strength and inevitability of the
open access movement.

David Goodman, Ph.D., M.L.S.


Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2007 15:09:48 -0500 (EST)
From: "News@Nature Breaking News Alert"
Subject: PR's 'pit bull' takes on open access
To: dgoodman@Princeton.EDU


PR's 'pit bull' takes on open access

A news story in this week's Nature details how scientific
publishers have hired a controversial consultant -- better known
for helping the likes of Enron and Exxon -- to help them fight
the open-access movement. The author of Nail 'Em! Confronting
High-Profile Attacks on Celebrities and Businesses is now helping
publishers strategize about how to counter the push towards
making scientific results freely available to all. Read the full
story at news@nature.com.

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