Transcription and Translation

The article is here. A snippet:

For a six-month fee of $300,000 to $500,000, Dezenhall told the association’s professional and scholarly publishing division, he could help — in part by simplifying the industry’s message to a few key phrases that even a busy senator could grasp.

Phrases like: “Public access equals government censorship,” and “government [is] seeking to nationalize science and be a publisher.”

The publishers liked what they heard. “Eric helped us see the issues in a few high-concept messages,” one member summarized in an enthusiastic follow-up to the meeting.

In the article, Heather Joseph, director of the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition, sums it up nicely:

It is dismaying to see the AAP turn it into a disinformation campaign, These policies are not about government censorship or destroying peer review — they are about expanding access to publicly funded science — pure and simple.


  1. #1 Theodore Price
    January 28, 2007

    Let’s see if understand this. While I work for these publishers for free, submitting the manuscripts that make up their journals and doing the peer review, my subscription fees and page charges are paying for a disinformation campaign. Why do we put up with this?

    In 2002-2003 we were completing a study which the entire group considered to be a pretty solid study. We eventually decided to submit it to a BMC journal because we liked the idea of open access even though the particular BMC journal was fairly new and we were unsure if the paper would get much attention there. Before and after that paper I have published several similar works in Elsevier journals and while all of them have recieved about the same number of annual citations (no staggering numbers but at least above average per journal) I have recieved more comments via email on the BMC paper than all the others combined. Moreover, many of the comments were of a technical nature and from semi-developing countries. I wonder how many of these types of comments I miss from the other papers because these people do not have access. Moreover, I wonder why I haven’t switched to publishing all my work in open access journals. I think this current development may motivate me to do so.

    One worry is getting a job with papers largely in these journals. Since I am currently in the process of interviewing for positions this is a major concern, although I get the impression that since I am applying for positions where they are looking specifically for a pain neuroscience person that the data I present at meetings is actually a more important consideration than the papers. I guess the next issue will be how publishing only in open access will influence grant funding. I’m not sure what I think about this now but it is obviously a concern. I’d be curious to know what you think about this.

  2. #2 Bartholomew Cubbins
    January 28, 2007

    I’ve heard the grumblings over the politics with PLoS Biology (no data points on the others) but the model is great and is a great way to stick it to the people whom those described in the article represent. I had to read the article twice because after my first read I thought, “I must have missed some compelling argument that these publishing are putting forth”. Nope. It’s a money grab being disguised as the public good.

    TP – I was thinking that getting influential academic lab heads together to discuss this issue might help resolve the issue, but these people are the ones on the boards of these for-profit journals. It’s a tough nut.

  3. #3 Theodore Price
    January 28, 2007

    BC- Tough nut indeed, but a good idea you have there. I might try to do that myself with some lab heads around McGill to see what they have to say.

  4. #4 Brian
    January 28, 2007

    One thing that could be done by scientists themselves to lead to more open access publishing is to write “author-pays” fees into their grant budgets. It would gradually change the publishing model, without draconian laws from Congress that probably would just wind up killing a lot of top tier journals. Plus, scientists are expected to publish, and grant-funded data does belong to the public anyway, so I can’t see any real reason why grant review committees would be loathe to deny funding for this.

  5. #5 Brian
    January 28, 2007

    But you’re right, BC, in that this whole PR thing is incredibly disgusting. Publishers get their “product” for free (something that cost the taxpayers many thousands of dollars) – all they’re doing is sifting through it and reprinting it. It’s not a negligible job, but they don’t have any right to the data that publicly funded scientists produce. And Elsevier made a $2 billion profit before taxes on their 1700 journals.

  6. #6 apalazzo
    January 29, 2007

    I know that HHMI is considering a proposal where its evaluations of investigators can only take into account publications that are freely available 6 months post-publication. This would be a start.

    To play devil’s advocate, Elsivere and Wiley own and operate many “archive journals” that although are money losers, do provide a valuable service by publishing work that can’t get into top or second tier journals. Being owned and operated by a single publisher, the subscriptions to Elsivere (or Wiley) publications are sold in bundles to libraries. In this respect consolidation has been beneficial. Now having said all that, these publishers should use RELEVANT arguments against open access, namely their viability and the service that they provide to the scientific community, not these illogical catch phrases that have no basis in fact.

  7. #7 Corie Lok
    January 29, 2007

    Let’s not forget here that the publishing business is a little more than just sifting and reprinting papers. There’s a reason why posting PDFs of draft manuscripts online is not considered “publishing”. The reality is that peer review and turning a manuscript into a readable high-quality article with nice graphics and figures takes work and costs money and someone has to pay for that. The question is who and that is certainly up for debate.

  8. #8 PhilipJ
    January 30, 2007

    Since when have publishers started paying peer reviewers?