Emotion and logic and PRISM

I’ve taken a week off blogging to write code and woken up to find I have nearly missed PRISM. PRISM is a publishers’ alliance which appears to be solely devoted to protecting twentieth century business methods by whatever process is expedient. I’ve come to the sad position that, unless I breathe deeply, I take the default position that publishers are a problem to be overcome, not part of the way forward.
So I breathe deeply. I work with some wonderful people in the publishing industry. The list isn’t exhaustive and I hope they aren’t embarrassed:
  • Timo Hannay from Nature. An early sponsor of our work and champion of innovation
  • David James, Richard Kidd and Colin Batchelor from RSC (and Alan McNaught) who have supportour work for several years. Colin was here on Tuesday involved in developing methods for semantic chemistry
  • David Martinsen from ACS, who has consistently supported new ideas and run the spring ACS meeting on new ideas in publishing
  • Brian McMahon and Peter Strickland from IUCr who have also supported our work and built superb scientific semantics.
PMR: So it’s sad to see the other side – the industry reacting viscerally to threats. Here is Bill Hooker, reporting Peter Suber and adding comments:

From Peter Suber:

The AAP/PSP has launched PRISM (Partnership for Research Integrity in Science & Medicine). I’m quoting today’s press release in its entirety so that I can respond to it at length:

A new initiative was announced today to bring together like minded scholarly societies, publishers, researchers and other professionals in an effort to safeguard the scientific and medical peer-review process and educate the public about the risks of proposed government interference with the scholarly communication process.[much egregious lying]
Anyone who wishes to sign on to the PRISM Principles may do so on the site.

Bill: Fortunately for us all, Peter has already responded; I won’t excerpt his point-by-point rebuttal here, you should go read it all.This is disgusting. This runs counter to everything that science, academia, scholarship (and scholarly publishing!) stand for.
There are no names on the PRISM site yet — but I’m going to find as many as I can and publish them here. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I want to know just who is taking part in this revolting effort to steal from the commons and turn public goods into private profit.
(We can start with the AAP: their members page is essentially one long list of companies and organizations with whom I will assiduously avoid doing business until and unless they dissociate themselves from PRISM, and preferably from the AAP altogether.)
More later. Oh yes indeedy.

PMR: The arguments from the PRISM community are not new – primarily that OA destroys peer review and therefore science/scholarship. This is, of course, completely fallacious. If you wish to see a clinical dismissal of the publishers’ position read PeterS. Otherwise imbibe the raw emotion of Bill.
PMR: To amplify (again reported by PeterS):

Tom Wilson, Publisher panic, Information Research Weblog, August 24, 2007.

The commercial journal publishers are really in a state of panic. Reports from various sources point to their launch of PRISM: The Partnership for Research Integrity in Science & Medicine, a lobby organization to help them try to persuade the US Congress (and presumably Parliament in the UK) to ban Open Access. Of course, they don’t say that: we have the usual weasel-worded statement that lobby organizations in the USA seem to be adept at….
[On the alleged threat to peer review] they are simply lying, and they know it. Free OA, scholarly journals operate the same peer review process as do commercial journals: if they didn’t scholars wouldn’t publish in them, but free, collaboratively supported journals are growing in number and take away submissions from the commercial journals, which will find it harder and harder to maintain quality….
What this recent initiative by the publishers points to is that the only sure way for the scholarly communities to take charge of the scholarly communication process is to rid themselves of their commercial exploiters and promote the publication of free, collaboratively produced and subsidised journals….

PMR: What disappoints me is that few of the conventional publishers have taken a positive view about the future. The future is EXCITING. The publishers are obstructing us getting there. Even the more forward-looking ones.
Part of the problem is that publishing is a cross between a public service and a commercial business. It hasn’t worked out where it stands and where it should stand. It is becoming increasingly clear that if it takes the business route it is will go down the video media route typified by the appalling FACT [1] adverts on DVDs. (These are the ubiquitous adverts telling you what will happen if you copy the DVD you have bought or rented. It really sets the scene for an evening’s watching. Perhaps we should have:
“You wouldn’t steal a car?”
“You wouldn’t steal a TV?”
“If you read a scientific paper you are not entitled to this is THEFT!!!!”
And it should be mandatory to have to read this declaration for 30 seconds before you are allowed to read the paper.
After all I am not just a scientific reader of a paper, I am a potential thief. And I should be told what dire fate awaits me if I dare to read scientific research I haven’t paid for. I shall have more replies from publishers to publish shortly.
Meanwhile back to Java.
[1] ADDED LATER. FACT is the Federation against Copyright Theft – at least in the UK.  Every time you watch a movie – at home or in the cinema – you are treated to an obligatory series of advertisements about the immorality, illegality and cost-ineffectiveness of pirate videos and movies. For many people it spoils the experience of the work. That’s increasingly how I feel about the conventional publishing industry. Having my work described as “junk science” when it is published in Open Access journals is simply an illiterate insult. Having Open Access described as “ethically flawed” is as bad.
Publishers should be enhancing the process and quality of scholarly communication. A  publication should be something in which all can take some pride, not simply a piece of commerce to be defended.
This entry was posted in open issues. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Emotion and logic and PRISM

  1. Bill says:

    For sheer vitriol, Dorothea has me beat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *