Friday, January 26, 2007

On the opposition to open access

The following message was posted to a number of listservs in Canada. OA Librarians in other countries might wish to alert local librarians about the issue of media slant. Please feel free to use portions of this message and customize for the local situation if you would like; e.g., you might want to replace the Canadian LIS OA journals with ones that your own colleagues will be familiar with.

An article in Nature on Wednesday, January 24, by Jim Giles, PR's "pit bull" takes on open access, reveals that the American Association of Publishers hired the "pit bull of public relations", Eric Dezenhall, as a consultant on strategies to oppose the open access movement.

According to Nature, "The consultant advised them to focus on simple messages, such as "Public access equals government censorship". He hinted that the publishers should attempt to equate traditional publishing models with peer review...."

When assessing arguments against open access, it is important to consider where the messages are coming from. Dezenhall's previous clients include the former Enron chief and, according to Business Week, Exxonmobile (to criticize the environmental group Greenpeace).

Equating public access with government censorship is absurd. There are many open access publishers (including CACUL, with their Occasional Papers Series, and Evidence Based Librarianship, which members of CLA's own EBL Interest Group are very much involved in) who perform peer review. The Directory of Open Access Journals currently lists over 2,500 fully open access, peer-reviewed journals, and the numbers are growing rapidly.

In addition to fully open access journals, there are many journals which allow authors to retain copyright so that they can self-archive their works for open access, and also many which have hybrid open access models.

For those who do not have access to Nature, there is an excerpt on Open Access News, at:

Open Access News also details follow-up articles (in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Washington Post), as well as comments from bloggers.

My own comment, Stop fighting the inevitable - and free funds for OA!
focuses on the substantial funds spent by publishers to lobby against open access ($300,000 - $500,000 for this one consultation alone; Elsevier's lobbying budget in the U.S. alone is in the millions annually).

Heather Morrison

This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.

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