Some initial thoughts on the Brussels Declaration on STM publishing

From: Leslie Carr <lac_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 14 Feb 2007 22:06:02 +0000

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The recently-released "Brussels Declaration on STM publishing" (see
http://www.stm-assoc.org/home/publishers-launch-brussels-
declaration.html) is a welcome clarification of the position that the
publishing industry would like to adopt on the future of Scholarly
Communications. Although it does not mention "Open Access"
explicitly, it does use the term "Open deposit" when it clearly means
Green OA; it may also be that Gold OA is the intended referent of the
description of being "beset by propositions and manifestos on the
practice of scholarly publishing".

The following points are lifted in their entirety from the
declaration; I have tried to comment from the perspective of a
researcher who publishes his research in papers and also engages in
open access dissemination of those papers. The following comments
therefore try to establish a clearer balance between the respective
roles of publisher and researcher in Scholarly Communication - I
would like to avoid the errors of two frequent doctrinal positions:
(a) the Glories of Scholarly Publication are Achieved by Publishers
Alone and (b) Researchers Do It All Themselves.

> 1. The mission of publishers is to maximise the dissemination of
> knowledge through economically self-sustaining business models. We
> are committed to change and innovation that will make science more
> effective. We support academic freedom: authors should be free to
> choose where they publish in a healthy, undistorted free market
While we can all agree that scientific and scholarly dissemination is
crucially important, the key role of publishing companies is NOT
dissemination (see #2 and #3 below). For a decade, the simple
"dissemination of knowledge" has ceased to be a difficult, high-cost,
high-value activity in a research environment that is globally
connected by the Internet. It is this ability to easily disseminate
research without investment in a complex business infrastructure that
the Budapest Open Access Initiative recognised in 2001 as an
"unprecedented public good".

> 2. Publishers organise, manage and financially support the peer
> review processes of
> STM journals. The imprimatur that peer-reviewed journals give to
> accepted articles
> (registration, certification, dissemination and editorial
> improvement) is irreplaceable and
> fundamental to scholarship
This is the heart of what publishers provide - they organise the peer
review processes and business processes of journals. The imprimatur
(mark of approval or distinction) is distinct from the publishers
role - it comes from the editorial board and the peer reviews that
the scientists and scholars themselves perform and that the
publishers help to administer.

> 3. Publishers launch, sustain, promote and develop journals for the
> benefit of the
> scholarly community
Publishers provide the investment to create and market new journals;
the new journals are proposed, formed and run by researchers in their
guises of editors, editorial boards, reviewers, authors, readers and
subscribers.

Points #1, #2 and #3 from the declaration, when read in isolation,
make researchers sound like passive recipients of scientific
knowledge that comes through processes that are entirely the
responsibility of publishers. Researchers compose the editorial
boards and reviewing panels of the journal; they write the articles,
review and make improvements to articles, they freely donate the
finished articles and their copyright to the journal and then they
buy copies back. We should agree that researchers and publishers are
partners in scholarly communication; researchers provide the
intellectual input and publishers provide administration, management
and business services. What publishing companies lack is any
scientific/scholarly content of their own or any mechanisms for
judging the scientific quality of any material that is submitted to
them; what researchers lack is organisation, administration and
business sense (or at least the time to exhibit these qualities).
Please let us put a stop to the endlessly-implied-but-never-quite-
stated claims (see #2 as an exemplar) that peer review would die a
death without the current economic status quo being maintained; such
a position over-emphasises the importance of publishers-as-support-
industry and ignores the role of the researcher-as-quality-assurer.

> 4. Current publisher licensing models are delivering massive rises
> in scholarly access
> to research outputs. Publishers have invested heavily to meet the
> challenges of
> digitisation and the annual 3% volume growth of the international
> scholarly literature, yet
> less than 1% of total R&D is spent on journals
This is an issue of publishing models and business costs on which I
withhold comment in deference to Gold OA publishers and library
economists.

> 5. Copyright protects the investment of both authors and
> publishers. Respect for
> copyright encourages the flow of information and rewards creators
> and entrepreneurs
Exactly how is the acquisition of authors copyright encouraging
information flow? How do subscription barriers encourage information
flow? This is the core position of the Open Access argument -
information flow is harmed by subscription barriers. Publishers who
insist on acquiring authors' copyright DO NOT HELP AUTHORS in any
significant way (apart from, allegedly, the easier prosecution of
plagiarism).

> 6. Publishers support the creation of rights-protected archives
> that preserve scholarship in perpetuity
Invisible archives that act as backups against future disaster are
good news. One day we will be glad of them, but they aren't helping
researchers today. (Except for preservation researchers, of which I
am one!)

> 7. Raw research data should be made freely available to all
> researchers. Publishers
> encourage the public posting of the raw data outputs of research.
> Sets or sub-sets of data
> that are submitted with a paper to a journal should wherever
> possible be made freely
> accessible to other scholars
It is good that publishers are happy for researchers to freely make
arrangements for their own data, as some research colleagues have
expressed worries that publishers are claiming rights over their data.

> 8. Publishing in all media has associated costs. Electronic
> publishing has costs not found
> in print publishing. The costs to deliver both are higher than
> print or electronic only.
> Publishing costs are the same whether funded by supply-side or
> demand-side models. If
> readers or their agents (libraries) don't fund publishing, then
> someone else (e.g. funding
> bodies, government) must
This is an issue of publishing models and business costs on which I
withhold comment in deference to Gold OA publishers and library
economists.

> 9. Open deposit of accepted manuscripts risks destabilising
> subscription revenues
> and undermining peer review. Articles have economic value for a
> considerable time after
> publication which embargo periods must reflect. At 12 months, on
> average, electronic
> articles still have 40-50% of their lifetime downloads to come.
> Free availability of significant
> proportions of a journal^“s content may result in its cancellation
> and therefore destroy the
> peer review system upon which researchers and society depend.
There are various factors that are recorded as actually causing
subscription cancellations; self archiving has not been credited as
one of those factors in its 15 year history. Notice how hypothetical
journal cancellations that may occur as a result of self archiving
will "destroy the peer review system upon which researchers and
society depend"; however actual journal cancellations that already
occur (librarians can fill in their favorite issues here) are
presumably just collateral damage.

> 10. ^”One size fits all^‘ solutions will not work. Download profiles
> of individual journals vary
> significantly across subject areas, and from journal to journal
Researchers and their institutions develop the dissemination
practices that are appropriate for them; Green Open Access
methodologies take place in parallel with the publishing industry's
products and services to increase the effectiveness of the whole
research system.
--
Les Carr
Received on Thu Feb 15 2007 - 05:39:52 GMT

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