SPARC letter to members on the PRISM anti-open access effort
Date: September 6, 2007
Dear SPARC Members,
I’m writing to bring to your attention the recent launch of an anti-open access lobbying effort. The initiative, called “PRISM – the Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine” ( http://www.prismcoalition.org), was launched with development support from the Association of American Publishers and specifically targets efforts to expand public access to federally funded research results – including the National Institute of Health’s Public Access Policy.
The messaging on the PRISM Web site, which is aimed at key policy makers, directly corresponds to the PR campaign reportedly undertaken by the AAP earlier this year. As Nature reported in January, AAP publishers met with PR “pit bull” Eric Dezenhall to develop a campaign against the “free-information movement” that focuses on simple messages, such as “public access equals government censorship,” and suggested that “the publishers should attempt to equate traditional publishing models with peer review” ( http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070122/full/445347a.html ). News of this proposed campaign met with immediate and heavy criticism in the academic community. See http://www.taxpayeraccess.org/media/blogs.html.
The new PRISM Web site closely tracks with the recommended PR strategy, highlighting messages that include:
• Public access/open access will destroy the peer review system
This campaign is clearly focused on the preservation of the status quo in scholarly publishing, (along with the attendant revenues), and not on ensuring that scientific research results are distributed and used as widely as possible. The launch of this initiative provides a timely opportunity for engaging faculty members, researchers, students and administrators in dialogue on important issues in scholarly communications.
To assist in this conversation, the Association of Research Libraries has prepared a series of talking points that explicitly address each of the PRISM messages listed above. These very useful talking points can be found at http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/issue-brief-aap-pr-prism.pdf.
The reaction to the launch of PRISM by the academic research community has been immediate and quite strong. Of particular note are reactions by these important constituencies:
1) Some publishers have called for the AAP to post a disclaimer on the PRISM Web site, indicating that PRISM does *not* represent their views on the issues of open access and public access. (See open letter from Mike Rossner, Executive Director of Rockefeller University Press at https://mx2.arl.org/Lists/SPARC-OAForum/Message/3941.html).
2) Some journal editors have also expressed displeasure with the initiative. For example, Tom Wilson, Editor (and Founder) of the International Journal of Information Management, resigned from that editorial board in protest of Elsevier's involvement with PRISM. (See http://www.free-conversant.com/irweblog/879).
Others, including Peter Murray Rust of the University of Cambridge (UK), have written to publishers with which they are affiliated as author or editor and asked them to take action to publicly disassociate themselves with PRISM. (See http://wwmm.ch.cam.ac.uk/blogs/murrayrust/?p=525).
3) Researchers are also questioning how their choices may result in unwanted association with PRISM. Some are calling for colleagues to register displeasure over publishers’ involvement with PRISM by reconsidering submitting work, reviewing, or editing for publishers who support the coalition (See http://network.nature.com/blogs/user/smount/2007/08/29/prism-distorts-our-view-of-the-open-access-debate). Others are going even further, calling for a boycott of those publishers ( http://phylogenomics.blogspot.com/2007/08/calling-for-boycott-of-of-aap.html ).
PRISM developments will be of interest to many on campus – including those who follow open access and anyone who is involved with PRISM publishers as an author, editor, or subscriber. Please feel free to share this information. To stay abreast of related news, visit the SPARC Web site ( http://www.arl.org/sparc ) or Peter Suber’s Open Access News blog ( http://www.earlham.edu/%7Epeters/fos/fosblog.html ).
If you have any comments or questions about this discussion, please don’t hesitate to contact me through (202) 296-2296 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.