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 19:00:35 +0100

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.

-> the issue of science funding is to build a sound basis to create the
wealth of nations and solve emerging problems. This includes the provisions
of access (so far through libraries, not the Internet) and dissemination of
the data. This is the right perspective, not isolating dissemination
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.

-> Having different ideas does not mean they must be na´ve. Aren't there
alternatives, such as the "Open Journal Service". Clearly, publishing needs
investment - the questions are what's needed. Obviously, the Internet allows
immediate dissemination and thus questions current models.
I see there many similarities of the commercial publishers with the agro
business which has an extreme strong lobby to maintain the old subsidy
system, even to a point that for the first time the World Trade Organization
negotiations broke down, which is certainly not to the advantage of most of
the other trade rich nations.

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.

-> what if our government or funding agencies set money a side to run
journals professionally? This seems to be a logic consequence of what NIH is
planning, Wellcome Trust does and an increasing number of signatars of the
Berlin Declaration could decide.

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.
-> but aren't we having in science already libraries, funded through science
funding? These are highly important people to help to provide access to
scientific information to the scientists, similarily, there are an
increasing number of IT and computer scientists moving into biomedial

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?
-> If the publishers would be open and not misuse the "serving the poor"
label, they would mention, that they would be clear in their announcement
that they only serve the small countries which are anyway of no importance
commercially. That would be open PR and not at least a pretty questionable

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.

-> I disagree - I am sure, that if we add the 1% to generate an open
distribution system we would have a much bigger effect than continuing
feeding into well fragmented societies. Even at rich institutions like the
American Museum of Natural History, access to all the journals can be
afforded to live up to a science with a potential global outreach. Having
access is one of the key reasons why the US congress pushes the NIH to make
self archiving mandatory.

Finally, it is the content that needs be disseminated. Self archive (green
would be enough). If that would be 100%, little could be done to fight
commercial publishers other than provide a more successful business model,
such as OA gold.


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
> 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
> 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
> so little detail in their announcement of this well-intended initiative.
> Furthermore, Peter Banks lists peer review as the domain of the
> which is clearly not. Peer review (at least in my domain biology) is part
> 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
> 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
> into the systematics publications, allowing in this case the retrieval of
> the descriptions of the world species, desperately needed to understand
> current changes in the distribution and decline of global biodiversity.
> There is also another view of this debate. If I would be politician I
> just take the stance, if the current publishing system does not live up to
> the current potential of almost instantaneously dissemination of
> information, I would subsume those costs into the science budget and make
> happen. I do not have proper figure on how big the scientific and
> publication market is, but lets assume, its USD25billion. This is not a
> amount respective the entire science research budget, and could be
> as the Wellcome Trust has shown.
> By doing that, the costs for libraries could be lowered, or they could
> 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
> Berlin declaration, and scientific institutions requiring open access.
Received on Mon Jan 29 2007 - 04:05:59 GMT

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