Drubbing Peter to Pay Paul

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 12 Nov 2004 04:07:16 +0000

    See also:

On Thu, 11 Nov 2004, alison.macdonald_at_britishlibrary.net wrote:

> I thought readers of the list might be interested to see the response
> (below) by Lord Sainsbury of Turville (UK Minister for Science and
> Innovation) in the Financial Times of 10th November 2004, to the Financial
> Times' editorial comment of 9th November (below Sainsbury letter) on the
> open access question.
> Alison Macdonald
> Digital Archiving Consultancy
> Twickenham, UK
> <<Open access is not only science publishing model
> By David Sainsbury Published: November 10 2004 02:00 | Last updated:
> November 10 2004 02:00 From Lord Sainsbury of Turville.

Is it not obvious even to readers of this list that this is all just
drubbing Peter to pay Paul? The only major recommendation of the UK Select
Committee was to mandate OA self-archiving. Yet no one (MPs, press,
publishers or librarians) can stop going on and on about OA publishing,
which was *not* what was being mandated!

All 3 committee recommendations -- the one major one, to mandate OA
self-archiving, plus the 2 minor ones (to (1) encourage "experimenting"
with OA publishing and to (2) provide some funds for authors who wish to
publish in OA journals) -- were turned down, all on the basis of arguments
against OA publishing. And everyone -- from Lord S. on up and down --
still keeps yammering only about OA publishing!

Let the next parliamentary recommendation be shorter and clearer, make no
mention whatsoever of Paul (OA publishing), and then maybe this time Peter
will stand a better chance!

(Or can we just not *resist* provoking a good fight with publishers
every time, and having a good moan about library budgets, and a royal go at
economic reform? Can we, in other words, not keep in mind that *access*
is what this is all about, and that even affordability would become a minor
matter if only the access needs were fully taken care of -- as they would
be if all articles were made OA through self-archiving?)

    "The UK report, press coverage, and the Green and Gold Roads to Open Access"

Stevan Harnad

> Sir, In your editorial on open-access publishing ("Open access", November
> 9) you seem to misunderstand both the government's position and the nature
> of open-access publishing.
> As was made very clear in our response to the Commons science committee,
> the government is very happy to see users of research in this country
> having a choice between traditional "subscriber pays" publishing and
> open-access publishing. That is why it is making certain that there is a
> level playing-field by encouraging the research councils to support
> scientists wanting to take the open-access route.
> What the government does not think is right to do is to promote one model,
> open-access publishing, in the marketplace. It is not clear that on a
> like-for-like basis open-access publishing will have a lower cost base,
> and as it will transfer some of the payments from industry users to the
> authors, it is likely to lead to higher costs for universities and
> research institutes. Also, because Britain produces 5.3 per cent of
> articles in the world's science journals while accounting for only 3.5 per
> cent of subscriptions, we would also lose out as a country.
> The government believes that providing a level playing-field and giving
> users a choice is the best way to avoid arbitrarily giving either kind of
> publishing an advantage. David Sainsbury, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of
> State for Science and Innovation, Department of Trade and Industry, London
> SW1H 0ET>>
> The FT editorial:
> <<Open access
> Financial Times - Editorial comment
> Published: November 9 2004 02:00 | Last updated: November 9 2004 02:00
> Advocates of "open access" scientific publishing wanted Britain to lead an
> international move from traditional subscription-based journals to a model
> that would make all research findings accessible to anyone with a
> computer. Their hopes were dashed yesterday when the government rejected
> the recommendations of the Commons science committee that it promote the
> new model - also known as "author-pays" - with practical actions such as
> help for universities to make all their researchers' papers available free
> online.
> Although the angry MPs may have gone too far in accusing the Department of
> Trade and Industry of kow-towing to the publishing lobby at the expense of
> British science, the government should not have taken such a negative
> stance. A more measured response would have been to adopt some of the
> committee's suggestions for establishing Britain as a test-bed for open
> access journals, with publishing and peer review costs met ultimately by
> the research funding agencies, while making clear that there would be no
> precipitate move away from the existing system.
> The main reason for considering a change now is that computer and
> communications technology make it possible, for the first time, to
> disseminate research results far beyond the traditional purchasers of
> scientific journals, such as university libraries. There is a powerful
> ideological argument that the public, having funded the research in the
> first place, should not have to pay again to see the results.
> The scientific journal market has been very lucrative in recent years. The
> volume of research is growing and academic success in many countries
> depends increasingly on publications in prestigious journals. Their
> publishers are making large profits selling paper copies to libraries at
> prices that have risen faster than general inflation, while at the same
> time tapping a fast-growing new market through charging for internet
> access.
> The problem facing open access advocates is that, while scientific
> publishing may be dominated by companies such as Reed Elsevier, it also
> includes many learned societies that depend on revenues from their
> journals to support educational and professional activities. A mechanism
> will have to be found to protect the latter from the adverse consequences
> of any significant move away from subscription-based publishing.
> Although the lukewarm attitude of the government will disappoint open
> access activists, the publishing industry must recognise the growing
> international pressure for fundamental change. The Wellcome Trust is
> determined to introduce open access publishing through the 400m a year it
> spends on biomedical research and there are powerful voices for reform in
> the US and elsewhere in Europe. A fair compromise might be to give
> journals six months exclusivity and then guarantee free public access.>>
> ###
Received on Fri Nov 12 2004 - 04:07:16 GMT

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