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Re: PR's 'pit bull' takes on open access: excerpts from article in Nature Magazine

Having been a medical publisher, I know where the money comes 
from--in part from subscriptions paid for by libraries and other 
government institutions, and in larger part from other 
parties--advertisers, individual subscribers, society members, 
corporate purchasers of reprints, foreign translations, etc. (I 
don't think that the Easter Bunny contributes--at least he never 
wrote us a check.) Yes, some taxpayer money flows to 
subscriptions--but the percentage varies widely and is in fact 
smallest for the journals most relevant to patients.

One of the big problems with your argument over the years is that 
you look at basic science journals for which a large part of 
funding does come from government, and assume that the same is 
true of large medical journals, especially those published by 
nonprofit societies, which have a far more diversified base of 
revenue. The contention that the public has already paid to read 
the final manuscripts that appear in, say, the New England 
Journal, or Circulation, or Diabetes Care, is largely false.

Your argument would have more force if PLoS had successfully 
invented a business model in which taxpayer dollars support open 
access. However, PLoS's IRS 990 reveals that it remains 
overwhelmingly dependent on on foundation support. If a model of 
taxpayer supported open access is viable, it hasn't been invented 

That's not to say it can't be. If, as David Goodman argues, peer 
review and copyediting really can be done on a volunteer basis, 
or, as Heather Morrison claims, that a journal can be run on 
about $500, then by golly let's do it. Let's have our top medical 
editors in major universities divert their time from research and 
patient care and instead spend their time copyediting and 
maintaining online peer review systems. Sure sounds like a plan 
to me.

Peter Banks
Banks Publishing
Publications Consulting and Services

On 1/27/07 9:54 AM, "Michael Eisen" <mbeisen@LBL.GOV> wrote:

> And where do you think the money that pays for peer-review, 
> copyediting, composition and all the other things publishers 
> provide comes from? The Easter Bunny?
> As Peter well knows, a substantial fraction of the money spent 
> on journal subscriptions comes directly or indirectly from 
> public funds. It is the height of irony for an industry that 
> has lived off the public till for decades to now decry the 
> involvement of government in publishing. The problem with 
> scientific publishing today is not that publishers are cheating 
> taxpayers of something they already own, it's that the 
> scientific community is complicit in this process. We not only 
> allow publishers to deny the public - and much of the 
> scientific community - full access to the results of research 
> they funded, but we pay them huge amounts of money to do so. 
> The solution here is not to demonize publishers, but rather for 
> governments and other public bodies to no longer allow their 
> money to be used to support an ineffective system that is no 
> longer serving their interests. The taxpayers can, instead, use 
> their funds to further develop a new system for disseminating 
> the results of scientific research that ensures universal open 
> access. And, I'm sure Peter won't object since he apparently 
> believes that taxpayers don't currently contribute to revenues 
> of the publishing industry.
> Michael Eisen, Ph.D.
> Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
> UC Berkeley
> Co-Founder
> Public Library of Science
> On Jan 26, 2007, at 5:50 AM, Peter Banks wrote:
>> It is quite astounding to hear the outcry over publishers 
>> engaging in "media messaging" rather than "intellectual 
>> debate."
>> For years, the OA camp has used media messaging--with its 
>> attending distortions and gross simplifications--to great 
>> effect. Consider a pearl like, "Taxpayers have the right to 
>> access research they have already paid for." Indeed they do. 
>> They can look at exactly what they have paid for--which is 
>> research up to the stage of preprints. They have not, however, 
>> paid for peer-review, copyediting, composition, or any of the 
>> other value that a publisher adds to the manuscript. That 
>> inconvenient fact has not, however, stopped OA advocates from 
>> disingenuously implying that publishers are cheating taxpayers 
>> from something they already own. (By this logic, one might 
>> argue that citizens have the right to free bread for having 
>> paid agricultural subsidies.)
>> Before OA advocates start huffing about the need for 
>> "intellectual debate," they need to demonstrate their own 
>> intellectual integrity.
>> Peter Banks
>> Banks Publishing
>> Publications Consulting and Services
>> pbanks@bankspub.com
>> On 1/24/07 3:58 PM, "David Goodman" <dgoodman@Princeton.EDU> wrote:
>>> 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 they use it. 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 delay or prevent the publication of medical research, 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 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--and open source software is also available. 
>>> Scientists are perfectly able to operate without them, and 
>>> 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 peer-review.
>>> The main problems with peer-review are getting scientists to 
>>> use it, and making the financial readjustments required for a 
>>> system which would almost certainly cost less than the 
>>> present.
>>> That commercial publishers should use such arguments is a 
>>> sign of the strength and inevitability of the open access 
>>> movement.
>>> David Goodman, Ph.D., M.L.S.
>>> dgoodman@princeton.edu
>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>> From: Leslie Carr <lac@ECS.SOTON.AC.UK>
>>> Date: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 3:23 pm
>>> takes on open access: excerpts from article in Nature Magazine
>>>> Jennifer McLennan (ARL) points out the following article to 
>>>> appear in Nature 
>>>> http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v445/n7126/full/445347a.html