Truthiness in Publishing

Nature is reporting that the Association of American Publishers arranged for a “pit bull” public relations specialist to help big science publishers (including Wiley, Elsevier, and the American Chemical Society) defend themselves from the open access movement.

The consultant advised them to focus on simple messages, such as “Public access equals government censorship”. He hinted that the publishers should attempt to equate traditional publishing models with peer review, and “paint a picture of what the world would look like without peer-reviewed articles”. . .

In an enthusiastic e-mail sent to colleagues after the meeting, Susan Spilka, Wiley’s director of corporate communications, said Dezenhall explained that publishers had acted too defensively on the free-information issue and worried too much about making precise statements. Dezenhall noted that if the other side is on the defensive, it doesn’t matter if they can discredit your statements, she added: “Media messaging is not the same as intellectual debate”.

Nor is it the same, apparently, as telling the truth. But what seems almost stranger to me is the statement to Nature by Brian Crawford of the ACS. He believes that when a government agency insists the results of its publicly funded research be made public, it’s engaging in censorship.

“When any government or funding agency houses and disseminates for public consumption only the work it itself funds, that constitutes a form of selection and self-promotion of that entity’s interests.”

What?! Dude, those are MY interests. I PAID for them.

Posted by Barbara Fister

Author: Barbara Fister

I'm an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Like all librarians at our small, liberal arts institution I am involved in reference, collection development, and shared management of the library. My area of specialization is instruction, with research interests also in media literacy, popular literacy, publishing, and assessment.

8 thoughts on “Truthiness in Publishing”

  1. That last statement also struck me as the oddest thing about the entire article. Could this be a reason to make ALL research openly accessible so that there is no “form of selection and self-promotion?”

  2. The American Chemical Society looks more and more every day like a large corporation. I recently watched a PBS documentary about them firing one of their journalists who was reporting on global warming.

    You can watch the episode online. It’s titled “Science Fiction.”

  3. Of course, the idea is not how illogical they are, they’re supposed to cue anxiety attacks. They seem to have forgotten that they’re dealing with fairly smart people, though.

    What’s funny about the “censorship” argument is that, in a back-handed way, it contains an argument for open access. That which is available will be read. The fact that the NIH wants researchers who got funds from them to make the results available doesn’t stop anyone else from make their results available – and as Robin says, the best way to avoid being left out is to join in.

    The real issue is that these publishers have a particular way of funding what they do. They’re worried about having to find totally new models.

    I’m not sure why the American Physical Society has no problem with their authors posting articles before publication to arXiv and the ACS makes authors either wait 12 months before they can share a .pdf of their article with colleagues or pay up front for the option to share copies. (Comfortingly, the ACS website says it’s okay if the author’s employer wants to pay for it.)

    What does the APS know that the ACS doesn’t? Why isn’t the APS running scared?

  4. The APS has been innovating for decades. They’ve got some of the smartest people in the business. (If you ever have a chance to listen to Bob Kelly, DO IT.)

    Differences vis-a-vis the ACS left as an exercise for the librarian.

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