Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

As noted around the science blogosphere, something wicked this way comes. PRISM, or the Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine (created by the Association of American Publishers), is setting up a strawman argument against Open Access publications, claiming that the tradition of peer review is under attack. Open Access, such as PLOS journals and other initiatives, make it easier for people to have access to the research that they, as taxpayers, implicitly fund. Wouldn’t you like to know what you are paying for, and whether it benefits your life? Wouldn’t you like scientists to have free and easy access to published results so we can use accumulated knowledge rather than burying it?

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.

Bora at A Blog Around the Clock has the most comprehensive list of opinions on this topic, I suggest you go check it out.


  1. #1 Minnesotachuck
    August 27, 2007

    It’s called ‘disruptive innovation’. See The Innovator’s Dilema, by Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School; one of the best-selling business books of the 1990s.

    The answer to PRISM’s question of how the traditional publishers will make money? They won’t and will eventually go out of business unless their finger-in-the-dike rear-guard action succeeds in holding back the flood.

  2. #2 john hawkins
    August 28, 2007

    sound like they are following the the movie and CD business
    It easier to call in the PR and Lawyers than to change the business model. Now if something could be done about the IEEE standards and the AMA ownership of CPT…..

  3. #3 Tim Marzullo
    August 28, 2007

    Yeah paper based publishing is on its way out and these companies are simply fighting it tooth and nail.

    Scientific publishing is an odd beast, because those who actually provide the content (scientists), and those who moderate the content (editors), are not paid for doing so. So the companies are merely providing the distribution, printing, and web-hosting. Take distribution and printing out and all of a sudden you have something rather cheap comparatively to run.

  4. #4 leah
    August 29, 2007

    They are wicked but also laughable, in particular for launching a copyright advocacy website without paying for use of any of their homepage images.
    A comic scandal.

  5. #5 E
    September 4, 2007

    We should not halt innovation and progress because of some misplaced nostalgia for archaic methods that have been rendered irrelevant by technological advance.

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