A science publisher gets smart

At least one member of the American Association of Publishers is bridling against the "open access equals government censorship" party line.

Topics: Globalization, How the World Works,

How the World Works has been hard on the commercial science publishers for their ham-handed efforts to equate public access to government-funded research with “censorship.” So it’s only fair to applaud a publisher who thinks that the stance of the American Association of Publishers (AAP) is just as ridiculous as we do.

Peter Suber alerts us to a letter sent to the AAP from Mike Rossner, executive director of the Rockefeller University Press.

To the American Association of Publishers:

I am writing to request that a disclaimer be placed on the PRISM Web site 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.

First, the Web site implies that the NIH (and other funding agencies who mandate release of content after a short delay) are advocating the demise of peer review. Nothing could be further from the truth. These agencies completely understand the need to balance public access to journal content with the necessity for publishers to recoup the costs of peer review. After extended discussions with publishers, these agencies have determined that delayed release of content (none of them are advocating immediate release unless publishers are compensated handsomely for such release) is consistent with the STM [Scientific, Technical, and Medical] subscription business model, in which peer review is a basic tenet.

Second, how can PRISM refer to bias when the government is mandating that ALL papers resulting from research they fund be released to the public after a short delay? The major potential for bias by the government and other funding agencies has already occurred when they decide what research to fund (e.g., stem cell research).

Third, PRISM takes issue with government spending on a repository of papers resulting from government-funded research. The government has been forced into this position by those publishers who refuse to ever release most of their content to the public.



Fourth, PRISM maintains that published papers are private property. Most of the research published by STM publishers only exists because of public funding. No public funding — no research B— no millions in profit. 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.

Finally, we take issue with the title: Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine. The use of the term “research integrity” is inappropriate in this context. The common use of this term refers to whether the data presented are accurate representations of what was actually observed. In other words, has any misconduct occurred? This is not the primary concern of peer reviewers, who ask whether the data presented support the conclusions drawn. It is thus incorrect to link the term research integrity directly with peer review.

I could go on, but I think you will get the point that we strongly disagree with the tack AAP has taken on this issue. We urge you to put a disclaimer on the PRISM site, to make it clear that your assertions do not represent the views of all of your members.

Yours sincerely,
Mike Rossner, Ph.D.
Executive Director
The Rockefeller University Press

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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