Re: The July 6-7 NYAM "Freedom of Information" Meeting

From: Pieter Bolman <pbolman_at_ACAD.COM>
Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2000 08:57:23 -0700


I think you did not quite get the point I was trying to make. Just to set the
record straight for those who did not attend:

1. I made it very clear in the beginning of my talk that I was speaking 'a titre
personnel', and not on behalf of any organisation.

2. My main point in comparing CrossRef and PubMedCentral was in terms of how to
reach the, what I believe(d) to be, common objectives of both intiatives: a.
"Every research worker should have access to the refereed scientific (journal)
literature of his/her choice/level' b. "All facilities of the Internet should be
available to him/her, so as to ensure maximal efficiency and effectiveness of
his/her research efforts".

My argument was (and is), that it will be a long time (if ever) before the PMC
initiative reaches a critical size of , say, 20% of the biomedical articles
published. Until that time, research workers are deprived of even the most
elementary 'facilities of the Internet' (such as reference linking) for a
critical part of their literature. Meanwhile, the CrossRef initiative, which
assumes that publishers keep their articles on their own Websites and only
requires them to make available their articles' metadata in a 'central
facility', has quickly reached more than such a critical size, thus allowing
reasearch workers access to a large (virtual) file within the next few months.

All CrossRef does is lead the end users to the Website of the article of their
choice: it is up to the publisher of the journal in which that article is
contained to determined the terms of access, i.e., for free or for fee. As the
core (biomedical) literature gets subscribed to (or licensed) by practically all
academic libraries, access is for free for most academic end users. Those
biomedical publishers who choose to make their journal files available for
free, and who, as a result, would typically participate in the PubMedCentral
initiative, can do so within CrossRef as well. Moreover, their articles do not
only remain interlinked with those that are not free for all, they will, in
future, also be linked with the non-primary literature (such as textbooks,
(major) reference works, (numerical) databases etc.), a part of the literature
that nobody has (yet) suggested should be given away for free.

The conclusion is, therefore, that the PubMedCentral solution (i.e. hosting the
journals centrally) for reaching the above mentioned objectives IS CONTAINED IN
the CrossRef solution, thus making PMC superfluous. As an added thought (not
expressed at the meeting): PMC seems to competing more with Highwire than anyone
else - a number of the PMC journals are on Highwire - why have them both places?

Pieter Bolman
President, Academic Press

Mark Doyle <> on 07/09/2000 06:29:32 PM

Please respond to

cc: (bcc: Pieter Bolman/AP/SD/HARCOURT)

Subject: Re: The July 6-7 NYAM "Freedom of Information" Meeting


I too was at the meeting (the first day only unfortunately it seems).

On Sat, 8 Jul 2000, Michael Jacobson wrote:

> A few other, personal, observations about the meeting.
> The PubMedCentral people were strangely muted and gave very little
> information about their actual plans. In one of the first talks,
> PubMedCentral was stridently attacked by Pieter Bolman of Academic Press who
> seems also to be a spokesman for the CrossRef project. CrossRef is
> basically a way to make it easier to access on-line articles, without in any
> way tampering with the S/L/P system, and seems to be the publisher's answer
> to PubMedCentral. The PubMedCentral folks had little to say in reply. I
> had the feeling that they are still licking their wounds from their initial
> foray into the field, which resulted in a vehement counterattack from
> biomedical publishers and a quick retreat to a more "acceptable" position.

You may remember my brief response then. Bolman's talk was the worst
mischaracterization of CrossRef and PubMedCental that I have ever heard.
CrossRef has no aspirations are far as I can tell to compete with
PubMedCentral, though its formation may have been pushed ahead by the
impending advent of PubMedCentral. At this point CrossRef is only a way to
look up citations and get a DOI for creating a robust link to the article.
It costs money both for submitting data and retrieving data and, while it
solves some problems, it adds friction in linking for everyone, especially
those who are not participating publishers (mostly because of the economic
model that has been chosen for CrossRef querying). To claim, as Bolman
did, that it is any kind of an answer to PubMedCentral is a very big
stretch and I found it quite disingenuous. There is nothing about
publishers making articles freely available or providing a means for
making gray literature available. If anything, CrossRef is closer to the
current PubMed with its centralized way of linking the biomedical
literature (though falls far short of that as it provides no centralized
database for researchers to search and browse abstracts and other
material). It certainly doesn't even begin to create a "single database"
of STM literature as Bolman claimed.

Make no mistake about it - CrossRef is a centralized system ("mainframe
mentality" to use Bolman's aspertion about PubMedCentral). It is largely
premised on the status quo and locking it in (including all of the current
economic interests of the publishers). APS has joined CrossRef because it
will be effective at enabling us to link to other publishers and help them
to link to us. However, we are maintaining our options and keeping our
other linking strategies in place.

In any case, the problem with this conference, at least on the first day,
was that there was absolutely no time for real question/answer debate. I
suspect that if there had been a time for a few more questions, some of
the PubmedCentral team would have taken time to respond. In any case, it
was aslo unfortunate that so much time was allotted to showing off NCBI
technology (which is impressive and is a strong argument for what a
centralized system can do) rather than fostering more debate about the
kinds of issues being discussed here. But maybe the second day was better
in this respect.

> The assessment that made the most sense to me came from an editor belonging
> to the Physics organization AIP (I can't remember his name)

Marc Brodsky (and he's the executive officer of AIP, not an editor of any

> He predicted
> that the major, leading journals will continue to flourish and be able to
> dictate their terms to authors, simply because of the power of their
> prestige. On the other hand, the majority of lesser-status journals, which
> currently exist mainly to enable authors to publish, will fall prey to
> various open-archiving projects and many will simply disappear.

While this may be true, Brodsky is also very concerned about the how his
organization is going to fare in the future. AIP is very vulnerable to the
kinds of things that are happening in way physics communication is
changing. The APS (American Physical Society) publishes some of the most
prestigious journals in physics and we are working our way through the
transition in a way that is in sync with the way our community is moving,
even if it means eventually scrapping the subscription model (unlike AIP's
charter, ours does not have an explicit statement about publishing
journals). The prestige of our journals most certainly doesn't make us
immune to what is happening. APS is a very large part of AIP's business.
If we are vulnerable, then AIP is most certainly vulnerable as well (more
so actually).

Commerical publishers have their own problems with editorial boards
resigning en masse taking their pretige with them.

> The folks you have to feel sorry for are the academic society publishers.
> Their hearts are in the right place, and they're used to being on the
> morally "right" side of things, while making money for their organizations.

The APS made a conscious decision to put a wall between the journals and
the rest of society business about a decade ago. The rise of the stock
market has greatly helped in bringing this to fruition and it has served
us quite well - it has freed us from focusing too much on the fate of the
society should we recast the way the journals are put together.

> Now, their economic viability is threatened by the new environment, and they
> just don't have the real capitalist competitive fire that commercial
> publishers do. Sort of like the not-for-profit hospitals in the US, that
> used to "do well by doing good", and are now struggling to survive in the
> waters of corporate medicine. Not easy.

If the societies are really doing good things for their members and their
community, then I think they will find a way to recast themselves and
survive the transition.


Mark Doyle
Manager, Product Development
The American Physical Society
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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