Friday, September 14, 2007

Open access update

A couple of weeks ago I posted a piece called "The Publishing Industry Strikes Back," in which I advocated for more open-access publishing in the humanities. There I also talked about a PR front called Prism, whose goal is to undermine open-access journal publishing in medicine and the sciences. Well, as it turns out, this week's Chronicle of Higher Education included a couple of really interesting reports, both from the front-lines of open-access journal publishing. I figured D&R readers might appreciate an update.

The first of these stories spotlights James D. Jordan, President and Director of Columbia University Press. Last month, he courageously resigned from the Executive Council of the Association of American Publisher's Professional and Scholarly Publishing division. He did so, notably, because he opposed Prism and its efforts to restrict open-access to publicly funded scientific and medical research. If you're a Chronicle subscriber (unfortunately, the publication's not open-access), you can read the whole story here.

The second story ups the ante even more. Other university press officials and the Association for Research Libraries are speaking out publicly about how Prism misrepresents its constituency and makes erroneous claims about the nature of open-access journals. The story also recounts how some open-access supporters are beginning to resign from the editorial boards of journals whose publishers support Prism. Here's an excerpt:
Reactions to Prism have been widespread and vigorous, with some commentators calling for a boycott of the association. The news provoked one university-press director, Mike Rossner of Rockefeller University Press, to make a public request that a disclaimer be placed on the Prism Web site "indicating that the views presented on the site do not necessarily represent those of all members of the AAP." Mr. Rossner continued, "We at the Rockefeller University Press strongly disagree with the spin that has been placed on the issue of open access by Prism."

The Association of Research Libraries sent its members a talking-points memo, dated September 4, that deals with some of the arguments made on the Prism site. The librarians' group wrote that Prism "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."

One of those commentators, Tom Wilson, took his own advice that "academics should resign from editorial boards of journals published by the supporters of Prism": He posted an open letter on the Information Research Weblog announcing his resignation from the editorial board of the International Journal of Information Management. Mr. Wilson, a professor emeritus of information technology at the University of Sheffield, in England, was founding editor of that journal. He is also publisher and editor in chief of Information Research, an online, open-access scholarly journal.

There's much more to the story, of course. In any case, I hope you can see just how much momentum the effort to resist Prism seems to be gaining. What's especially encouraging, as I think I mentioned last time, is the fact that individuals and groups from across a whole range of fields and professions are joining together to support the cause.

The decisive battle has yet to be won on Capitol Hill, of course, and so the fight's long from over. But it's precisely this mobilization of pointed counter-arguments, coupled with a refusal to support publishers who actively oppose open-access, that must persist in the short term.

P.S. I have to give a shout-out once again to my friend Julie Bobay, the Director for Scholarly Communication Initiatives at the IU Libraries, for passing links to these stories on to me.

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