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Trying to keep closed access

by PhilipJ on 30 January 2007

The backlash to the open access movement has started, and it looks ugly. From Open Access News, closed access publishers have hired a PR firm to try and reverse the momentum gained by open access initiatives and journals.

[Eric Dezenhall, head of Dezenhall Resources, a PR firm that specializes in “high stakes communications and marketplace defense”, says] 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.” ...

This is of course a complete fabrication. The open access movement is a near opposite of censorship, and rigorous peer reviewing standards are upheld in open access journals. The only true statement in the entire paragraph above is that the open access movement does have a better message of free information.

That for-profit publishers might stoop to this level isn’t necessarily surprising, but I found this news particularly frightening:

[T]he ACS [American Chemical Society] paid lobbying firm Hicks Partners LLC at least $100,000 in 2005 to try to persuade congressional members, NIH, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that a “PubChem Project” would be a bad idea, according to public lobbying disclosures….

I’m not a member of the ACS, but if I were, I would have a hard time justifying renewing my membership until these practices are abandoned. APS, consider yourself warned! For more reaction to this news, see Alex’s comments, including more reaction links.

The good news, however, is that we can fight back. Mark Patterson, Director of Publishing at PLoS has written with this news:

In the wake of the publication of the report from the “EU Study on the Economic and Technical Evolution of the Scientific Publication Markets of Europe” a consortium of organisations working in the scholarly communication arena is sponsoring a petition to the European Commission to demonstrate support for Open Access and for the recommendations in the report. Signatures may be added on behalf of individuals or institutions.

Please register your support for Open Access in this way. To sign the petition, please go to

While this is an EU initiative, anyone can (and everyone should!) sign the petition.

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