Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A murky PRISM

This post isn't about free software, but about open access to scientific knowledge (oops, sorry, one and the same thing). Anyway. A new coalition called PRISM is here, and apparently its not so happy about the kinds of things our friends at Open Access are trying to accomplish. I checked out their website, which is horribly vague about who they are. But I did find a couple of (vague) gems. Here is what PRISM Is worried about:
the unintended consequences of unfunded government mandates and mandatory one-size-fits-all policies that underestimate the complexities and differing needs of the scientific community and scientific journals.

They are also worried about
Government mandates that ignore the need for sufficient and sustainable financial support for peer-reviewed journals -- whether the source of support is from users, authors, or sponsors
because these,
risk undermining the very fabric of the system of independent, formal peer-reviewed publication, a system that is of crucial importance for scholarly communication and the preservation of scientific knowledge.

Clearly the worry is about "government mandates" (I don't know what the "unfunded" in the first bit is referring to). What could such a "mandate" be? Could it be the requirement that all (or some) publicly-funded research be made available to all and sundry i.e., that it be Open Access? Now, that sounds like an onerous requirement to me. But PRISM is seriously creepy. Check out this piece by Bruce Byfield at if you feel like getting a bit more creeped out.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The issue is about researchers being forced to put material in a public access bin at risk of losing their grant funding (see current policy inserted in dark smoke-filled room during the last mark-up of NIH appropriation (FY2008). What that means in practice is that many journals are charging the authors (scientists) an extra $2000 to $3000 per article to open up the copyright); further, it means journals will migrate to a business model in which the authors have to pay the entire cost of the process of getting a manuscript from submission, through peer review, and into "print". Who's going to bother to pay for subscriptions if they can get the information for free? [exhibit A" the travails of the print media these days]. At present, most not-for-profit professional societies are already putting their content into 'freely available all' status 6-12 mo after publication, which is fine for Congress and the public's needs.

7:13 PM  

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