Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Beautiful Backfire?

One of the tactics of the latest anti-OA lobbying effort has some interesting implications. With apologies to my fellow open access advocates, let me offer some help to the opposition (they obviously need it!), and point out that this could backfire, badly - or beautifully, depending on your perspective.

The PRISM Coalition, established by The Executive Council of the Professional & Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), claims that is was "established to protect the quality of scientific research, an issue of vital concern to...scientific, medical and other scholarly researchers who advance the cause of knowledge;...and the institutions that encourage and support them...".

PRISM is asking people to send letters to their US representatives fighting open access mandate policies such as the NIH Public Access policy. Here is one of the points from their sample e-mail: "private sector journals spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year managing the peer review process, publishing, distributing, promoting and archiving a wide variety of scientific and medical articles".

Very interesting, PRISM!

Scholarly researchers, who give away their scholarly articles and donate their time to do peer review, might be very interested to learn that hundreds of millions of dollars are going into the publishing process every year.

Similarly, the institutions who support the researchers - and pay the subscription fees that generate these hundreds of millions of dollars - might well be interested in this, too. Would they immediately rally to a lobbying effort to make sure that scholarly publishers continue to receive these sums...or would they muse about whether there might be some potential savings here?

For years, librarians have been working to educate faculty and university administrators about the economics of scholarly publishing. It has not been easy! Researchers who give away their work and who benefit from library subscriptions for which they themselves do not pay have long been shielded from the economics of scholarly publishing. If the publishing industry itself points out to these folks that hundreds of millions of dollars involved, perhaps this will get their attention?

References are from:
The PRISM website
PRISM sample letter for US representatives