Re: PR's 'pit bull' takes on open access: excerpts from article in Nature Magazine

From: Donat Agosti <agosti_at_AMNH.ORG>
Date: Sun, 28 Jan 2007 00:24:24 +0100


Within the OECD, the organization of the industrialized countries, they list
in their Outlook 2006 for 2005 USD770billion spent on research, of which
USD265Billion is from the public sector. This is clearly not peanuts, and
dwarfs whatever the publishers contribute to disseminate this knowledge

It seems also, that the distribution of scientific information is treated by
the consortium of large publishers as a commodity, even if they pretend
otherwise. In the announcement of their OARE initiative supporting the
developing world with a GNP of less than USD1,000, they exclude for
commercial reasons the huge markets Brazil, China and India including most
likely more than 50% of the potential costumers, without mentioning this not
so little detail in their announcement of this well-intended initiative.

Furthermore, Peter Banks lists peer review as the domain of the publishers,
which is clearly not. Peer review (at least in my domain biology) is part of
the science quality maintenance mechanisms, done by scientists not paid by
the publishers.

There is nothing to be complained about, that publishers do whatever they
want - as long as the content is accessible. If they would be interested in
the dissemination they continue and expand the right for selfarchiving,
could follow PLOS One and release an xml version of their publications, so
the content can be harvested and mined.

In practice, to show their real interest in the dissemination, they could
adopt such fledgling efforts as they happe in the biodiversity community
(, and add domain specific xml markup
into the systematics publications, allowing in this case the retrieval of
the descriptions of the world species, desperately needed to understand the
current changes in the distribution and decline of global biodiversity.

There is also another view of this debate. If I would be politician I would
just take the stance, if the current publishing system does not live up to
the current potential of almost instantaneously dissemination of scientific
information, I would subsume those costs into the science budget and make it
happen. I do not have proper figure on how big the scientific and technical
publication market is, but lets assume, its USD25billion. This is not a big
amount respective the entire science research budget, and could be included,
as the Wellcome Trust has shown.
By doing that, the costs for libraries could be lowered, or they could dive
into new knowledgmanagement issues; there are many international treaties
requiring access and exchange of information, and thus they could be
fulfilled contributing to a real boost for the developing world.
That this is not real wishful thinking is the increase in signatories of the
Berlin declaration, and scientific institutions requiring open access.

Donat Agosti
Received on Sun Jan 28 2007 - 04:43:50 GMT

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