Re: Open Letter about OA to the Royal Society by Fellows of the Royal Society

From: Matthew Cockerill <matt_at_BIOMEDCENTRAL.COM>
Date: Fri, 9 Dec 2005 17:26:11 -0000


BioMed Central (and others, including but not limited to PLoS) helped signatories of the letter with practicalities, such as domain name registration and web page updating. This fact was not hidden, but nor is it relevant - the letter was not a letter from BioMed Central (or PLoS, or anyone else), but was a letter from FRSs.

The FRSs who were initially involved with the letter certainly knew that BioMed Central and PLoS were helping with the practicalities.
These FRSs then forwarded the letter on, and encouraged others to sign the letter. If they did not mention BioMed Central or PLoS when doing so, then I presume that is because they (understandably) did not feel it to be remotely relevant.

As for those FRS's whom BioMed Central (and our colleagues) contacted directly about the open letter, I'll simply quote verbatim, one of the emails we received in reply:

"Many thanks for your email. I was delighted to get it because I had
noticed the RS statement with which I strongly disagreed and wondered
what to do about it. So I will certainly add my signature and forward
the details of the open letter to a few colleagues."

It would perhaps be more helpful if the Royal Society focused its efforts on addressing the concerns of its Fellows, rather than on developing conspiracy theories!

Matt Cockerill
Matthew Cockerill, Ph.D.
BioMed Central ( )
34-42, Cleveland Street

Tel: 020 7631 9127
Fax: 020 7631 9926


> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Scientist Open Access Forum
> Behalf Of Ward, Bob
> Sent: 09 December 2005 08:50
> Subject: Re: Open Letter about OA to the Royal Society by
> Fellows of the
> Royal Society
> Dear Stevan,
> If this was "a rather disinterested contribution of BMC
> toward OA", why
> was its involvement not openly declared in the letter, or in the
> prominent piece that BioMed Central devoted to the letter on the home
> page of its website? My understanding is that some of the signatories
> did not even know about BMC's involvement when they signed.
> I think it would be best for contributors to the debate on open access
> to openly declare their interests. The Royal Society has openly
> acknowledged that, as a registered charity, it uses its
> surplus from the
> publication of its journals to fund meetings, lectures and other
> activities for the benefit of the science, engineering and technology
> communities, and for the public.
> So how about everybody else declaring their interests? After
> all, it is
> now standard practice for authors to declare any potential
> conflicts of
> interest when they submit papers to journals. So perhaps you
> could start
> a trend, Stevan, by declaring your interests.
> Best wishes,
> Bob
> Bob Ward
> Senior Manager
> Policy Communication
> Royal Society
> 6-9 Carlton House Terrace
> London
> SW1Y 5AG
> Tel: +44 (0) 20 7451 2516
> Fax: +44 (0) 20 7451 2615
> Mobile: +44 (0) 7811 320346
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Stevan Harnad []
> Sent: Thursday, December 08, 2005 21:28
> To: AmSci Forum
> Subject: Re: Open Letter about OA to the Royal Society by
> Fellows of the
> Royal Society
> Re: "Science academy defends open access policy"
> Donald MacLeod, Guardian: Education
> Thursday December 8, 2005
> 8,00.html
> On Thu, 8 Dec 2005 wrote:
> > Dear Stevan
> > Royal Society response to my website piece
> >
> 661107,00.
> html
> > is this true?
> > best wishes Donald
> Dear Donald,
> You ask whether BMC coordinated the Open Letter from Fellows of the
> Royal Society dissenting from the Royal Society statement.
> The answer is
> yes, in part (and PLoS too).
> My understanding is that the negative reaction to the Royal Society
> statement occurred, in part, among FRSs who were either editors or on
> the editorial board of some BMC (and probably PLoS) journals. This
> formed a point of focus for a collective action, which BMC helped
> coordinate -- which is a very good thing, because otherwise
> it may have
> taken longer to reach critical mass. (It would almost certainly have
> happened anyway.)
> But before you make too much of the spin that the RS's publicist, Bob
> Ward, is trying to put on it ("potential vested commercial interest"),
> please note the following two facts:
> (1) There are far more signatories than the small initial
> seed-population of BMC Editors
> and
> (2) This was a rather disinterested contribution of BMC toward OA,
> because it is not OA publishing that the RCUK is proposing to
> require,
> but OA self-archiving -- of articles published in *non-OA*
> journals.
> This means that BMC (and PLoS) helped for the sake of OA, not for the
> sake of BMC journals, which, from the financial point of view, are
> actually in a kind of *competition* with OA self-archiving. For BMC's
> and PLoS's primary appeal to authors is that they should
> publish in BMC
> or PLoS in order to make their research OA. But the RCUK mandate will
> make all RCUK-funded articles OA through self-archiving, making it
> *unnecessary* to publish in an OA journal in order to make an article
> OA.
> So Bob Ward sees a "potential vested commercial interest" only because
> he and the RS continue to see this all (rather jadedly) as a
> competition
> for money (in this case: money via subscription-charges vs.
> BMC's money
> via author-charges). In reality, it is not about money or
> competition at
> all: it is about OA.
> I will be responding publicly to the "RS"'s response (I have not yet
> read
> it) and particularly to whatever they imply publicly about BMC's very
> welcome and commendable help in rousing the growing FRS response. I
> myself am drawing it to the attention of FRSs I know too,
> including Tim
> Berners-Lee, who (I still hope) might agree to sign Friday.
> You might also note that BMC (unlike those who drafted the
> Royal Society
> statement, which looks to have been largely the RS's
> publishing wing) at
> least had the courtesy to actually inform and contact the FRSs about
> what is going on! (This rather nullifies Bob Ward's plaint that the
> signers of the Open Letter "did not offer the Society a chance to
> respond." This sort of clumsy self-servingness will not wash well in
> public. And I'll bet this is not really the voice of the RS
> at all: It's
> just the pub-ops tail wagging the regal pooch...)
> Cheers, Stevan
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Received on Fri Dec 09 2005 - 17:44:59 GMT

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