Apotheosis of cynicism and deceit from scholarly publishers
"The Association of American Publishers, who lobby on behalf of most for-profit and society scholarly publishers, have long opposed moves to make the scientific literature more readily available to the public. But, as open access publishing has gained traction and funders increasingly demand free access to the work they fund, the AAP’s defense of the status quo has descended to new depths. Perhaps the most egregious is a letter sent last week to the California Assembly opposing AB609, which would provide the public with access to state funded research. Here are their points: 'State Universities Could be Faced with Open Access Publishing Charges Estimated at More Than $1 Million Annually ...' Do you follow the publishers’ argument here? Any time an author voluntarily chooses to publish in an open access journal, even if they are under no legislative mandate or pressure to do so, the publishers want those costs to count against any legislation that seeks to improve public access. This is pure balderdash. And note how they compute this 'cost'. They cite a quote from former NIH Director Elias Zerhouni who estimated that in 2008 the NIH spent $100 million on page fees and open access charges. But Zerhouni said this in 2008 as the NIH Public Access Policy was being introduced – thus these costs had were not in any way the result of the policy – they arose from authors choosing on their own how to publish their work. And that $100 million includes page fees – charges leveed by subscription publishers on authors in addition to the subscription fees they charge libraries for access to their content. I know the open access industry very well, and revenues in 2008 were nowhere near $100m for the whole industry, let alone from NIH authors. I’d bet, at most, total revenue was $20m, with max $10m from the NIH (and I’m sure this is an overestimate). So the vast majority of charges they are citing were actually payments in page charges to AAP publishers! This is a completely preposterous and deceitful argument – one they undoubtedly know is wrong in both logic and detail – and demonstrates that they are willing to outright lie to achieve their legislative aims ... 'Savings to State Universities from Cancelled Journal Subscriptions Are Unlikely ...' 'CA AB 609 Will Undermine Investments in the Peer Review Process that Ensures the Quality and Integrity of Scientific Research, Potentially Requiring California to Make Those Investments Itself...' So let’s put these two things together. The bill will not save California any money because libraries will not cancel any subscriptions, but will undermine publishers’ ability to carry out peer review because they will lose revenue from canceled subscriptions. Huh? They can not have it both ways. Either publisher revenues will drop OR California will save no money. These can not both be true at the same time. Even if you buy their argument that the cancellation of subscriptions will undermine peer review, in order for this to happen, subscriptions would have to be cut, which would save California money ... 'CA AS 609 Will Negatively Impact California Jobs ...' What a crock of shit. First of all, in order to make it sound like California jobs are at risk, the publishers lump journal publishing together with periodical publishing. I would hasten to bet that virtually all of the 17,000 jobs they cite are in the periodicals industry, and have absolutely nothing to do with scholarly publishing. In fact, there is relatively little activity in scholarly publishing in California – most journals are based in Boston, NY or Washington. And I suspect the biggest employer in the scholarly publishing industry is PLOS – who have >100 people working full time in their San Francisco office, as well as a larger pool of California-based freelancers and other contractors. Plus California is a hotbed for growth in open access publishing – including hot new startups like PeerJ ... 'AB 609 Is Unnecessary Because Publishers Are Devoted to Providing Access to Research and Invest in the Dissemination of Research in a Variety of Ways ...' Yeah, that’s right. The AAP’s members are devoted to providing access to research. They are so devoted to it that they spent the first two pages of this letter arguing that providing access to the public would destroy their industry and take thousands of California jobs with them. The only reason that AAP members have done anything to make the literature available to anyone is that they know that their practices are deeply unpopular with the public, and so they create bogus access initiatives that they think will make them look like they’re trying. But this letter proves otherwise. The only thing the AAP is devoted to is preserving the status quo – and lying to achieve their goal."