The Scientific Activist

Now That Is One Ugly PRISM

This is all over the blogosphere already, but since I occasionally blog about open access issues, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the controversy over a new anti-open access organization called PRISM. The go-to post on this topic is at A Blog Around the Clock, where Bora is collecting reactions from around the blogosphere. Peter Suber first alerted the net to this insidious organization over at Open Access News.

PRISM was apparently formed in response to the House’s passage last month of mandatory public access to publications stemming from NIH-supported research. The press release announcing PRISM’s formation calls it “an effort to safeguard the scientific and medical peer-review process and educate the public about the risks of proposed government interference with the scholarly communication process.” If we get rid of the doublespeak, though, that statement would say that PRISM is “an effort to safeguard the profits of the scientific publishing industry and mislead the public about proposed government open access legislation.”

The traditional publishers see open access as a threat–as they should. It challenges their old-school publishing models, and they just might have to… (gasp!)… adapt. It’s understandable that they’re going to try to protect their own interests, but what appears on PRISM’s website are outright lies and scare tactics. PRISM claims that the new open access legislation will succeed in “undermining the peer review process” and “opening the door to scientific censorship in the form of selective additions to or omissions from the scientific record.” These arguments are so incredibly absurd that I hardly believe anyone in this industry is thick enough to actually believe them. Either this industry group is intentionally and flagrantly misleading the public, or its members are just incredibly clueless.

Addendum: I’ll just add that my beef here is not with the traditional publishers. There are excellent open access journals out there, and there are excellent journals published in the traditional mold. Open access is an exciting and promising new phenomenon, though, and one that the traditional publishers are going to have to adjust to. The methods employed by this new industry group, however, are totally outrageous.


  1. #1 PISD Coalition
    August 29, 2007

    Your concerns about the traditional publishers are misplaced. You should be more skeptical of the Open Access conspiracy’s so-called “good intentions”. For a detailed refutation of OA, see the PISD website.

  2. #2 Nick Anthis
    August 29, 2007


  3. #3 leah
    August 29, 2007

    We can also poke holes through PRISM’s moral highground by noting that when the site launched they had infringed 100% of the images on their homepage.
    Yup, they took the pics from Getty Images and the leftover watermarks proved that they weren’t paid for.
    So much for supporting original works of authorship.

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