ARL on PRISM and suggestions for action

Peter Suber has blogged Association of Research Libraries on PRISM. The actual document (AAP PR Campaign against Open Access and Public Access to Federally Funded Research: Update re the PRISM Coalition) is relatively small and worth looking at.
My immediate comments are that it’s fine as far as it goes but we need to go further and shine more daylight on the PRISM.

AAP PR Campaign against Open Access and Public Access to Federally
Funded Research: Update re the PRISM Coalition
September 4, 2007
PRISM (Partnership for Research Integrity in Science & Medicine), a new coalition, is attracting substantial criticism from a broad spectrum of researchers. The PRISM message corresponds directly to plans described in internal publisher documents leaked to reporters to “develop simple messages (e.g., public access equals government censorship)” that are aimed at key decision makers.

PMR: ARL has been among the foremost supporters of Open Access and change, including setting up SPARC and the the Open Access mailing list and (in response to me) one on Open Data.

As news of this initiative evolves, it presents an opportunity to engage in conversations with members of your campus community concerning the changes to the scholarly communication system and how this may affect scholarly journal publishing. This memo provides talking points to assist you and your staff in working with members of your campus community with regards to the recently disclosed publishers public relations campaign against open/public access initiatives and legislation concerning access to federally funded research.

PMR: This is the main point of the Brief – making sure that campuses have correct information on the issue. They point out the incoherencies, lies and distortions of PRISM:

“government interference in scientific and scholarly publishing.”
… In describing the consequences, the initiative repeatedly conflates policies regarding access to federally funded research with hypothesized dire consequences ultimately resulting in the loss of any effective system of scholarly publishing. Many commentators agree that inaccuracies abound in the initiative’s rhetoric….

PMR: Carefully put – not an incitement to the barricades.

Below are some of the “simple messages” proposed for the publishers’ campaign against open access/public access to federally funded research and some responses to use when engaging members of your campus community. Where appropriate, quotes from PRISM statements are included as well with the caveat that PRISM is honing its messages on an ongoing basis. Even within a few days of its launch, the site’s messages have been regularly reconfigured.

[… detailed discussion of deficiencies in PRISM’s message snipped…]
Next steps
Important questions face researchers, their funding bodies, research institutions, libraries, and publishers. Where these questions are discussed honestly on the basis of their own merits, there is the best opportunity to develop systems and strategies that fully leverage society’s investments in advancing knowledge and researchers’ efforts to create and apply new knowledge. Focusing on real risks and needed changes rather than defending established interests in the wake of change opens the path to meaningful dialog.
For more information contact:
Prue Adler, Associate Executive Director, Federal Relations and Information Policy, ARL,
Karla Hahn, Director, Office of Scholarly Communication, ARL,

PMR: A useful start but more needs to be done – and ARL seems the best place to me. Here are some suggestions:

  • FIND OUT WHO PRISM ARE. I have been doing this on an ad hoc basis. I think ARL should write to PRISM and ask for their membership. Give us daily updates on their response, including silence.
  • Mobilise senior faculty to do the same. The junior faculty is aroused, at least in part, but where are the messages we saw from the top institutions in the PubChem/ACS affair? OK, it’s early days but regents, deans and provosts should be writing.
  • Put individual publishers on the spot. Do they, or do they not, belong to PRISM? It’s simple – write to them in public. Or get a letter for them to sign.
  • Document the PRISM web site. I am not surprised that it’s changing. As far as I can see this is the only public utterance made by PRISM (presumably the rest is in the lobbies). What do the changes mean? Let’s see them on a daily basis.
  • Gives links to reputable pro-active discussions such as Peter Suber’s blog. Encourage the public collation of information.

No, I’m not going to do it … I have code to write.

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4 Responses to ARL on PRISM and suggestions for action

  1. Peter
    Twice this week I have used the PRISM contact form to ask for a member list of the PRISM ‘coalition’. So far, no response.

  2. pm286 says:

    (1) Excellent, David. (David is Director of SPARC – The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition …
    It is important to try this sort of thing even if we do not always expect an answer.
    Who should we write to next?

  3. Peter
    Well, if I get no reply by the end of the week then I will write directly to Patricia Schroeder, president and CEO of AAP and Brian Crawford, chairman of the executive council of AAP’s Professional & Scholarly Publishing Division as they are named on the PRISM press release.
    (I’m actually with SPARC Europe, by the way.)

  4. I have now had a response from PRISM and it appears that they are not currently in a position to release a membership list, but that one will come at some point in the future.

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