#evoscidebate @ccess Evolution of scholpub (Oxford meeting)

This is a brief personal account of my recollections of the 2 hours at Oxford discussing the future of scholpub. http://duraspace.org/scientific-evolution-open-science-and-future-publishing . It’s a useful milestone if not a Huxley-Wilberforce confrontation. Please let me know if there are errors,

It was extremely well run by Simon Benjamin ably assisted by Victoria Watson. Simon chaired the session very well making sure that all the key points were covered. There was a packed audience ?300. I don’t think anyone was turned away. I benefited as much from the post-event discussions including with Victor Henning (Mendeley) on the train back.

Hopefully everything has been recorded (though the acoustics at Rhodes House seem variable and I doubt that everything will be picked up – we shall see). The speakers had 6-7 mins each. In simple terms:

  • Robert Kiley (Wellcome) Gave an excellent and compelling account of why Openness was essential. Only someone with misaligned motivations could fail to agree with him. He wasn’t challenged. But this was a fairly polite meeting.
  • Alicia Wise (Elsevier, Universal Access) and Alison Mitchell (Nature PG) said that the publishers were working hard to create new products for the benefit of everyone (?all subscribers), that they all believed in Open Access, and that if we trust them and let them take us forward everything will be fine. At least that is the essence of the message – there were no facts or announcements that I could discern.
  • Robert Winston said that Open Access wasn’t a remedy, that papers were badly written, that it was potential very harmful for the public to have access to medical information and that (I think) there was no need to make a fuss or change anything. Things were OK for him.
  • Cameron Neylon dissected the publishing model, showed it to be very seriously wanting and proposed that we should pay publishers only for the added value and that we could choose not to add value if we didn’t want.
  • Victor Henning showed how Mendeley was effectively providing the disruptive technology in scholpub, that they already had zillions of PDFs and were going to be doing exciting things. This is very much a space to watch and if I were a publisher I would adjust to the new reality.
  • Tim Gowers said that the boycott still existed. He was actively developing new mathematical communities of practice and changing the way that maths was created and communicated. Great stuff.

If anyone disagrees factually let me know.

In the discussion I was invited to ask the first question. Since Robert Kiley had already covered what I was going to ask I said:

  • 99% of people, even in rich countries, #scholarlypoor do not have access to the results of public science. This was not challenged.
  • That in @ccess we are hearing stories of total dissatisfaction with the current position – anger, frustration, lost opportunities, failure to get medical information.
  • Examples of a dinosaur artist who wanted full papers to get the anatomy right. PMR’s doctor who subscribed to BMJ and NICE and couldn’t read the literature (Winston: get another doctor)
  • So did the panel feel this was totally unacceptable?

Answer Yes, and errrm, yes, we all want open access.

The Bodleian Library Oxford (one of the three deposit libraries in England – others are BL and Cambridge) was cancelling subscriptions because of price. This sent shocks through the twittersphere.

Yes – Oxford cannot afford to do its job properly.

Text-mining was discussed. The publisher position (e.g. Wiley Blackwell) is that we should ask them for permission. PMR said that we have an absolute right.


In the post-discussion I spent a useful time (in the presence of witnesses) talking to Alicia Wise (Elsevier) about my requirements and rights for text-mining. I am not going to put words in her mouth. I am going to formalise my position (next blog) and ask for her formal response within a tight time limit as I shall be collating publisher positions for our response to Hargreaves.

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One Response to #evoscidebate @ccess Evolution of scholpub (Oxford meeting)

  1. Hi Peter — thanks for the write up! The good news is that the video is now up. There’s a copy on youtube (you can search “open science and the future of publishing”) however the best version is on iTunes U:
    I’m sorry that some seats in the audience were not great acoustically but hopefully the audio in the video is very clear.

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