PRISM (or the Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine) is a lobby against Open Access (OA) put together by the The Association of American Publishers (or AAP). Most Science Publishers are members of AAP, but since the unveiling of PRISM (and of their website) now many publishers are distancing themselves from this organization ... and rightfully so.
Mike Rossner, Executive Director of Rockefeller University Press (publishers of the Journal of Cell Biology) wrote an open letter to PRISM that most of us would agree with.
I am writing to request that a disclaimer be placed on the PRISM website (http://www.prismcoalition.org/) indicating that the views presented on the site do not necessarily reflect those of all members of the AAP. We at the Rockefeller University Press strongly disagree with the spin that has been placed on the issue of open access by PRISM.
He goes on to list five major complaints about PRISM's assertions.
- OA will not eliminate peer-review.
- The government through the NIH and NSF already dictates the direction of research, so how does OA lead to government censorship?
- The government has been forced to spend money on providing paper repositories (such as PMC) because certain publishers don't provide OA.
- PRISM insists that published papers are private property but most of the research that is summarized in these papers exists because there is public funding of science. If it wasn't for the NIH and NSF there wouldn't be any papers to publish. As Rosner says:
Publishers thus have an obligation to give some of their private property back to the public, on whose taxes they depend for their very existence.
- The title of the organization is incorrect. "Scientific Integrity" is a term that refers to whether a scientist has accurately reported his results and has nothing to do with OA or with peer-review, which has to do with judging whether the accumulated data supports the conclusions of a manuscript.
Responses from others in the publishing industry are below the fold.
Tom Wilson, Editor of the International Journal of Information Management (an Elsevier journal) resigned. Here is part of his letter:
In particular, [PRISM's] claim that open access threatened the peer review process is nothing less than the 'big lie' - the propaganda technique of Dr. Goebbels - and, clearly, I cannot let my name continue to be associated with a publisher who is prepared to use this kind of tactic.
Timo Hannay from Nature writes:
For anyone who's interested here is Nature Publishing Group's (NPG's) take on PRISM: Although Nature America is a member of the AAP, we are not involved in PRISM and we have not been consulted about it. NPG has supported self-archiving in various ways (from submitting manuscripts to PubMed Central on behalf of our authors to establishing Nature Precedings), and our policies are already compliant with the proposed NIH mandate.
Timo also makes a good point, one that I believe that too many in the OA camp gloss over, it takes money to produce a journal like Nature (or PLoS).
The main reason why Nature cannot do so is the absence of a viable economic model for a top-end journal with a high rejection rate and heavy editorial input. Few of the people who criticise Nature for not being open access would also criticise PLoS Biology for losing a lot of money. But the underlying cause of both is the same: current author-side fees don't begin to cover the costs of running such publications. That, not publisher intransigence, is the main barrier.
There are important issues that we, the scientific community, and publishers must address, but PRISM is a step in the wrong direction.