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Re: Just who is on the defensive?

PR battles like this are extremely unsophisticated; perhaps
that's in their nature. As a publisher, I wouldn't want to be
associated with rather rabid sound-bites such as "Public access
equals government censorship"

The issue shouldn't be -- and for most clear-thinking publishers
isn't -- about OA yea or nea. It is about the fundamentally
problematic idea of mandating access to the formally published
literature without willing to provide in any way for payment for
the work that the process of elevating author drafts (treated as
pretty 'worthless' by the academic community until formally
published) to the formal, official literature, the record of
science, or as I used to call it, the 'Minutes of Science',

The argument that subbscriptions would not suffer, because
librarians would continue to support journals financially is a
bogus argument, and reduces formal science publising to
scrambling for alms to sustain its function. Perhaps that's the
idea, but it ain't a recipe for a reliable, sustainable, and
stable system of science publishing. Open access is fine. Not
just fine; it's better than the subscription system. But like any
useful activity in society, it needs an economic basis.

Given the benefits of open access, an argument might even be made
that its increased utility would justify a higher price. The
mandates that are being considered, however, aim to remove
(perhaps not by intention, but as an unintended consequence) any
economic basis. That's the issue. Not OA or NOA.

Those who do not think a system of formal publication of research
results is needed, are free to do so and publish their articles
informally on their web sites, or any other web sites that would
have the material, for that matter. They don't need a publisher
(at least not for their own stuff) and, to be blunt, they
shouldn't bother a publisher with any request to have their paper
officially published and given the 'value' tags that the
scientific community wants to see before any article is properly

Requiring a publisher to do this work and at the same time
arguing that the publisher shouldn't be paid but just should go
begging for his money (the alms-race:
http://theparachute.blogspot.com/2006/06/alms-race.html) is,
frankly, a form of intellectual dishonesty.

Jan Velterop

Original Message ----
From: Phil Davis <pmd8@cornell.edu>
To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
Sent: Thursday, 25 January, 2007 11:55:51 PM
Subject: Re: Just who is on the defensive?

David Goodman wrote:

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

"Public access equals government censorship"

Honestly, I've been wondering what took the big publishers so
long to react. They've allowed the pro-OA side to frame the
debate, control language, and even create a lobbying
organization. No wonder why they are defensive and going out for
professional help! Rhetorical positions about transparency of
government, accountability, public interest, and social justice
are very powerful and have been used astutely.  Censorship, on
the other hand, is a dirty word and most academics have an
immediate negative reaction to this term, which is why it will be

Dezehnall's group will undoubtedly find other negative
associations, the right language, and the right frame for a big
media campaign.  They are very good at this. The debate over Open
Access, like the debate over abortion, the death penalty,
euthanasia, taxation, and other controversial topics create
polarized groups for the very reason that their arguments are
grounded in different value-systems.

This is why Dezenhall's PR group is attempting to associate the
OA debate with some deeply held values of scientists.  David
Goodman may be right about the weakness of this argument, but
"Media messaging is not the same as intellectual debate."

Phil Davis, PhD Student
Dept. of Communication,
Cornell University