petermr's blog

A Scientist and the Web



A recent anonymous comment on this blog read

In that case, perhaps you should have parted with the observation “ACS is a problem”.
:-) , but partly serious.

I thnk the tone of this is out of keeping with this blog and I am therefore writing a “moderatorial”. This was a term I used (I doubt it was a neologism) when Henry and I ran the XML-DEV list. A Moderatorial (example) was to guide the list, but not constrain it. Although this is not a list, anyone can post a comment and I will automatically post it whether or not I agree with the sentiment.

However I wish to avoid flame wars and ad hominem remarks and outline my own philosophy on this blog.

I try to post statements which are accurate and not unnecessarily emotive. I do not completely have a strict Wikipedian-like Neutral Point of View (NPOV) in my posts and use the list for advocacy. However I do not wish the comments to be one-sided and invite a range of views – the result might indeed be neutral. I take as an example the excellent blog from Peter Suber – he is analytical and incisive. A typical example read:

(From ACS press release)

In October, American Chemical Society journal authors will have the option of paying to immediately provide free online access to their articles on the society’s website. Authors will also be able to post electronic copies of their sponsored articles on personal websites and institutional repositories. Fees for the program will range from $1,000 to $3,000 per paper, depending on whether the author is an ACS member or is affiliated with an institution that subscribes to ACS journals.

Comments (from PeterS).

(2) See my (PeterS) nine questions for hybrid journal programs, just published on Sunday. Of the nine, the ACS announcements give good and welcome answers to two: it will let authors deposit articles in repositories independent of ACS and it will not retreat on its green self-archiving policy. It gives unwelcome answers to two more: it will not let participating authors retain copyright and it does not promise to reduce its subscription prices in proportion to author uptake. (Hence, it plans to use the “double charge” business model.) It leaves us uncertain on the remainder: Will it let participating authors use OA-friendly licenses? Will it waive fees in cases of economic hardship? Will it force authors to pay the fee if they want to comply with a prior funding contract mandating deposit in an OA repository? Will it lay page charges on top of the new AuthorChoice fee?

(3) The ACS has been a bitter opponent of OA through PubChem and FRPAA. But I don’t believe it ever opposed the very idea of charging author-side fees to support the costs of a peer-reviewed journal, as some other hybrid journal publishers did before adopting the hybrid model.

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This is a style I strive to emulate. PeterS has a position of advocacy (Open Access through various models) but reports accurately and without ad hominem arguments.

In the present case it is clear that the devil is in the details. Whether I welcome or criticize the ACS hybrid policy depends on whether it enhances the free use of data. It sounds dubious from PeterS’s report, but hopefully there will be more clarity from all parties.

In the case of control of published data – my fundamental position is that scientific data belongs to the commons and that there is good legal and moral precedent for this. The stronger this basis, the stronger the case. Open Access is complex and, I believe, changing so that entrenched positions are not always helpful. Although I wish for total Open Access I am prepared to work with publishers operating different models. My engagement is dedicated to trying to make scientific data Open.

I have frequently been asked to speak at the ACS meetings and have accepted. My advocacy for Open Data is robust but hopefully not personal. People and organisations are flexible. Thus, for example, I gave a talk at ACS last year in the Open Access session. There were presentations for and against Open Access and (in my opinion) the Open ones were better presented and more compelling. But I still listened carefully to all arguments. My own presentation was a demonstration of the power of data and the value of Opening it. As a result Pieter Borman invited me to talk at the annual meeting of the STM publishers in Frankfurt. I went with some doubt as to whether my arguments would be taken on board – but I had a good audience – and I heard (though I can’t find details) that STM publishers have recommended that scientific data should be copyright free (confirmation is welcomed).

So I don’t take entrenched positions about people and organisations, but about issues. The Firefox/downloading episode is a problem – I have highlighted it – and hope that the factual analysis makes a useful contribution. It might not change policy directly but it should help to avoid misunderstandings.

Finally therefore I shall directly accept all non-spam comments, but reserve the right to issue moderatorials if I feel the comments might ignite flames.


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