PRISM - a new lobby against open access

This was to be expected. Remember how Elsevier and American Chemical Society hired Eric Dezenhall? (click here for more) Well apparently under Dezenhall's direction these guys have formed Partnership for Research Integrity in Science & Medicine or PRISM, a lobby group against open access.

As I've mentioned before, there is a concern about how open access (OA) is to be funded. It takes lots of money to hire editors and a production team to produce a top tiered journal such as Science, Nature, Cell and even PLoS Biology. And it is not only the peer review and production, but also the filtering service. The money must come from somewhere, whether it be from subscriptions, ads, or publication fees. Now in an ideal OA world all the fees would be covered by the publication fee (the model pursued by the PLoS journals) but such fees may be too expensive for some investigators with limited budgets. For example PLoS Biology charges the authors $2500 per manuscript and despite this PLoS Biology is still not making a profit (although this may change soon). PLoS will lower the fee for researchers with limited budgets and this may be the way to solve the funding discrepancy problem. In any case, OA will require public funding. So why is this bad? According to PRISM. public funding of OA acts as:

Threats to the economic viability of journals and the independent system of peer review
The potential for introducing selective bias into the scientific record
Government data repositories being subject to budget uncertainties
Unwarranted increases in government spending to compete with private sector publishing
Expropriation of publishers' investments in copyrighted articles
Undermining the reasonable protections of copyright holders

This is mostly spin. How will OA stifle competition? If all journals operate using the PLoS model they would still exist as separate entities. I just don't get it. And then there is tghe whole copyright issue. If journals get publishing fees, what difference would it make whether it held the copyright? And then bias? Budget uncertainties? This is just crying wolf.

Another thing that I don't like is that PRISM claims to have support from

scientific, medical and other scholarly researchers who advance the cause of knowledge;
the institutions that encourage and support them;
the publishers who disseminate, archive and ensure the quality control of this research; and
the physicians, clinicians, engineers and other intellectual pioneers who put knowledge into action.

Like who exactly? If PRISM wants to be a credible organization they should name their supporters. But they won't because it'll mostly be the scientific publishers.

Also see:
PRISM: Fighting Against Open Access
This PRISM does not turn white light into the beautiful colors of the rainbow
PRISM - Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine - Seems like a spoof but it is real, and sad
Publishers launch an anti-OA lobbying organization
a bit more on PRISM


Nice post - thanks for keeping us up to the minute on the open publishing debate, as usual.

Here's the line that gets me:

"Unwarranted increases in government spending to compete with private sector publishing"

Yeah, like the last thing we want is the government providing an alternative forum for scientific communication that might actually be better.

Sounds like the publishers are scared they won't be able to compete with open access, which to me is admitting it's superiority.

Geez, what ever happened to good old-fashioned capitalism - risk-taking, competition, survival of the fittest? Is the private sector is so spineless these days that they can't even survive without a copyright or patent monopolies? Suck it up and start thinking about how you can provide better products and services instead of making the lawyers do all the work!

Because, of course, the government otherwise has *no* other input into research that could *possibly* bias the scientific record. I mean, what next?! They'll be putting up the money for the research in the first place, or some such crazy scheme!

I'm seeing some sort of public system of supplying grants to scientists, I dunno, some sort of national institute... Then, they could set up a system for educating people after high school. With facilites on hand for them to congregate together into a critical mass of knowlege confined to different departments, and *also* at the same time provide the lab space to carry it out. Some kind of universitas magistrorum et scholarium.

What a poorly thought out argument.

PRISM was also attacked in the blogosphere yesterday for failing to heed its own moral advice. It seems all the homepage images on PRISM's site were infringed from Getty Images, with the water marks to prove that they weren't paid for.…
By the afternoon the scandal was covered up and the images paid and properly attributed, but not a very good start for a group who claims moral highground.


LOL. Very nicely put. I think such a system might have merit. Perhaps a national government that serves the public good might have some interest in these concepts.

What we're seeing here is even less than a poorly thought out argument. It's the incoherent, babbling last words of dying bureaucrats. Kind of like a short-circuited robot making random beeps and whistles, they're spewing forth rhetorical, semi-nonsensical bureaucrat-speak instead.

BTW - anyone look at the stuff Nature Preceedings is putting out? It's pretty crap. In fact, some is very crap. My guess is that it's intentionally crap, so they can show that open publishing is doomed and sandbag the whole thing. People should be hopping mad about this...boycott??!!


(I'm the director at Nature responsible for Nature Precedings and various other new web projects.)

I'd like to point people to the discussion that you had with my colleague, Hilary Spencer, over on your own blog. I think Hilary gives a good summary of where we're coming from, and your responses there seem much more considered than your rather rash comments above.

To address your point about quality in particular, Nature Precedings is a *preprint server*, so it's going to have some poor stuff as well as some great stuff (and there *is* some great stuff). The same goes for, but no one suggests that that's not a useful service for the scientists (mainly physicists) who use it.

Also, at the risk of stating the obvious, I don't think that boycotting a publisher for trying new approaches to free information sharing is the best way to promote open science. A much more effective (not to say constructive) response would be to submit your best work to Nature Precedings or a similar service.