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

From: Peter Banks <pbanks_at_BANKSPUB.COM>
Date: Sun, 28 Jan 2007 09:33:52 -0500

I am not sure the significance of your first statistic. No one questions
that a large percentage of research is funded publicly. The issue is the
investment in disseminating it.

I do not question peer review is conducted by uncompensated reviewers.
However, there seems the rather na´ve assumption that with, say, an Excel
spreadsheet and an e-mail account, a group of scientists could conduct peer
review without any publisher-furnished infrastructure. The reality is that
for a journal publishing any significant number of manuscripts, running such
a system takes people and dollars. Yearly investments of $100,000 or
$200,000 or more are common in medical journals just for the software
systems alone.

If a group of scientists wishes to use open-source software and spend the
nights and weekends to keep such a system working, they are certainly free
to do so. That no journal of any size in medicine at least does this says
something--notably, that the precious time of scientists and physicians is
best spent in research itself, not the mechanics of publishing.

As for citing Brazil, China, and India as examples of publishers' failure to
serve needy markets with information, you are surely aware that these
countries have quite robust and rapidly growing economies. Recent
projections from Goldman Sachs suggests that by 2050 China, India, and
Brazil will rank 1, 3, an 5 in GNP among the world's countries. Why would
publishers create welfare programs for counties that are the world's
emerging economic powerhouses, and markets?

Yes, countries could tack on a bit to research budgets to fund
dissemination. If that added, say, 1% to costs, this would amount to $250
million (assuming your $25 billion is correct)--or about what NIH now spends
in Parkinson's disease research (see You don't have to be
Michael J. Fox to decide that the money would be better spent in
laboratories than in providing universal free access when there is not a
shred of evidence that access to information is limiting research
progress--and plenty of evidence that lack of support for research is.

Peter Banks
Banks Publishing
Publications Consulting and Services
10332 Main Street #158
Fairfax, VA 22030
(703) 591-6544
CELL (703) 254-8862
FAX (703) 383-0765

On 1/27/07 6:24 PM, "Donat Agosti" <agosti_at_AMNH.ORG> wrote:

> Peter
> 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
> generated.
> 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.
Received on Mon Jan 29 2007 - 03:46:38 GMT

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