The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) this week issued a statement criticizing a new initiative in what it called an “ongoing PR campaign” against public access legislation, supported by the Association of American Publishers (AAP). ARL officials said the latest effort, dubbed PRISM (Partnership for Research Integrity in Science & Medicine), “frequently distorts the nature of ongoing and substantive discussions about open access and public access to federally funded research.”
The PRISM web site argues that public access efforts will undermine peer review and harm journal publishers; will open the door to “scientific censorship in the form of selective additions to or omissions from the scientific record”; subject the scientific record to “the uncertainty that comes with changing federal budget priorities and bureaucratic meddling”; and will introduce “duplication and inefficiencies that will divert resources that would otherwise be dedicated to research.”
ARL officials noted that the PRISM arguments closely follow the advice of PR “pit bull” Eric Dezenhall, whom publishers consulted in the last year to develop a strategy for fighting public access legislation. Nature first reported publishers’ plans to launch their PR campaign in January of 2007. ARL officials said the PR campaign offers libraries and researchers an opportunity to engage the campus community “concerning the changes to the scholarly communication” and provides a memo with talking points it hopes will help guide that discussion.
OA public access supporters have already hit the blogs, both dissecting PRISM’s arguments and expressing their displeasure over the coalition’s tactics. Alma Swan, a researcher and consultant specializing in scholarly communication wrote that the PRISM initiative made her feel sad and disappointed. Swan wrote on her blog that “the level of dishonesty and distortion in PRISM’s language,” suggested that “the partners in this ‘coalition’ are just not doing what I had hoped they would eventually do, which is to see clearly and act well.
Library Journal Academic Newswire, Sep 7, 2007
Issue Brief from the Association of Research Libraries
AAP PR Campaign against Open Access and Public Access to Federally
Funded Research: Update re the PRISM Coalition
September 4, 2007
A new initiative has been announced in an ongoing public relations campaign sponsored by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) against initiatives concerning access to federally funded research (public access) and open access generally. 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.
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….
[N]either public access policies to federally funded research or open access journals alter the traditional practice of peer review.
* Peer review is already built into open access journals and to policies concerning access to federally funded research thus showing the fallacy of the predicted demise of peer review.
* The peer review system, based almost completely on the voluntary free labor of the research community, is independent of a particular mode of publishing, or business model.
* Publishers’ own studies have found that open access journals are peer reviewed as frequently as comparable subscription journals.
* The existing National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy and legislation concerning access to federally funded research called for submissions from only peer-reviewed journals and “includes all modifications from the publishing peer review process.”
* Finally, journal publishers do not create the content they publish, nor do they generally pay authors for that content or compensate reviewers for the time they spend ensuring the quality of published research through their contributions to the peer review process. The academy supports and provides the peer review.
* Public access to federally funded research policies proposed to date have all incorporated embargo periods to protect publishers from any rapid shifts in subscription revenues….
PRISM doesn’t speak for Rockefeller University Press
Mike Rossner, Executive Director of Rockefeller University Press, sent the following letter to the Association of American Publishers (AAP):
To the Association of American Publishers:
I am writing to request that a disclaimer be placed on the PRISM website 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 website 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 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, 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.
Mike Rossner, Ph.D.
The Rockefeller University Press