Open Access to Science Under Attack

A January 26, 2007 Scientific American article Open Access to Science Under Attack:

The battle over public access to scientific literature stretches back to the late 1990s when Nobel Prize winner Harold Varmus began plans for PubMed Central–a repository for all research resulting from National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding–and, a few years later, launched the Public Library of Science (PLoS). These easily accessible journals and repositories have struck fear into the hearts of traditional publishers, who have enlisted the “pit bull” of public relations to fight back, reports news@nature.The Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers hired Eric Dezenhall, head of Dezenhall Resources, a PR firm that specializes in “high stakes communications and marketplace defense,” to address some of its members this past summer and potentially craft a media strategy. …

Specifically, according to Dezenhall’s suggestions in a memo, the publishers should “develop simple messages (e.g., Public access equals government censorship; Scientific journals preserve the quality/pedigree of science; government seeking to nationalize science and be a publisher) for use by Coalition members.” In addition, Dezenhall suggests “bypassing mass ‘consumer’ audiences in favor of reaching a more elite group of decision makers,” including journalists and regulators. This tack is necessary, he writes, because: “it’s hard to fight an adversary that manages to be both elusive and in possession of a better message: Free information.” Finally, Dezenhall suggests joining forces with think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and National Consumers League in an attempt to persuade key players of the potential risks of unfiltered access. “Paint a picture of what the world would look like without peer-reviewed articles,” he adds.

Of course, open access does not mean no peer review. While the NIH is not in the business of peer review, according to Dr. Norka Ruiz Bravo, NIH’s deputy director for extramural research, the entirety of PLoS journals are peer-reviewed. “Open access journals are peer-reviewed to the same standards,” notes Mark Patterson, PLoS’s director of publishing. “We wanted to provide an open access alternative to the best journals to allow the very best work to be made publicly available.”

2 thoughts on “Open Access to Science Under Attack”

  1. For the record, the Resilience Alliance has been publishing the peer-reviewed, open-access journal Ecology & Society since June 1997 (formerly called Conservation Ecology)www.ecologyandsociety.org. PLoS is a true leader in the Open Access movement but there are also many smaller publishers putting out high-quality, open-access science journals.

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