Re: Not a Proud Day in the Annals of the Royal Society

From: Steve Hitchcock <>
Date: Thu, 24 Nov 2005 16:01:44 +0000

At 12:38 24/11/2005, adam hodgkin wrote:
>I have read it again and on re-reading it still strikes me as an
>extraordinarily tendentious press release.
>This paragraph is particularly unfortunate:
>...However, the Society believes that the approach of some organisations
>to the 'open access debate' is threatening to hinder rather than promote
>the exchange of knowledge between researchers. This is partly because some
>participants in the debate appear to be trying to pursue another aim,
>namely to stop commercial publishers from making profits from the
>publication of research that has been funded from the public purse. While
>some companies do appear to be making excessive profits from the
>publication of researchers' papers, this should not be the primary factor
>guiding future developments in the exchange of knowledge between researchers.
>I do wonder what fair-minded and open-minded Fellows of the Royal Society
>think of this representation of the argument of the proponents of Open
>Access? I know of no proponent of OA who thinks that the primary factor
>driving the OA movement is a concern to rectify a situation in which some
>publishers are making excessive profits (if this is true, and whatever it
>If the Royal Society is open-minded on OA it should make a fair
>representation of the case on both sides. If it is against OA it should
>explain why, and with less appeal to prevarication, uncertainty and muddle.
Quite. The Royal Society statement does not adhere to the long established
practices of the constituency it represents, which is to:

(1) specify the problem
(2) engage in rigorous investigation
(3) present a clear and balanced explanation of the findings.

The statement does not even get to grips with (1). It starts by saying that
one of the RS's founding purposes is 'exchange of knowledge'. In which
case, it cannot be hindered by OA, by definition. The statement nowhere
specifies what OA is, however, so rendering it unable to comment
authoritatively on what is supposed to be its core subject. Later it
transpires that the problem being addressed is instead something to do with
publishing models.

That the statement cannot cite any evidence for OA, for which there is
plenty as has been addressed by Stevan Harnad's response, and plenty of
worldwide support as shown by Barbara Kirsop, is a denial of (2), and in
the RS's terms obviates (3).

What might its Fellows think, indeed. It's a classic case of the marketing
dept., not the Fellows, at the wheel here.

Steve Hitchcock
IAM Group, School of Electronics and Computer Science
University of Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK
Tel: +44 (0)23 8059 3256 Fax: +44 (0)23 8059 2865
Received on Thu Nov 24 2005 - 19:18:39 GMT

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