Open Access Advocates, Welcome to Liberalville

Because you too get to experience the awesomeness of sweeping incrementalism!

By now, you might have heard about the White House’s new policy to make most federally funded research publications publicly available 12 months after publication. This is an improvement, in that some agencies have no requirements. But like so much proposed by this administration, it basically protects a bad actor–the for-profit publishers, who provide very little value for the costs they charge. Michael Eisen explains (boldface mine):

The White House chose this path even though there is now ample evidence that this concession is unnecessary. PLoS, BioMed Central and many other open access publishers have proven that publishers can create healthy businesses that provide all the services people value without ever restricting access to the papers they publish.

That the White House chose to ignore the rise of open access publishing and allow 12 month embargoes to persist shows that they care more about industries with well payed lobbyists than they do about the public good….

Clearly the publishers got what they wanted out of the White House. And do you really think it’s going to stop there? They have established their ability to corrupt policy making, and will continue to exploit it. I predict that as these policies are implemented in different agencies, that they will be heavily tilted towards what the publishers want. There will be no central archives – just links out to publishers websites. And there will be pressure to increase – not decrease – embargo periods. The publishers are already laying the groundwork for this….

Had the White House actually looked at the landscape of scientific publishing with an eye towards maximizing public access, they would have realized that embargoes are completely unnecessary….

Instead, once again, our government let us down, allowing a dying, useless industry to dictate policy that serves to line their pockets at the expense of the public good.

By the way, any similarities to the healthcare debate are purely coincidental. No common motif at all.

As anyone who follows public policy closely might expect, well-meaning advocates are calling this a good start and an important step, even though they lost. The public is still effectively embargoed from research they supported. University libraries will still have to pay out the ass to get timely access to research, even though their own faculty write the articles, review and edit the articles, often pay for publication (page charges), and then have their institutions have to pay to read those very same articles.

This is effectively a rout.

But, as has been said repeatedly by ‘progressive’ apologists on other issues, it was the best Obama could do given political constraints, yada, yada, yada. And yes, there are minor improvements. But it’s still not good enough.

Sure the fix was in: there was a bipartisan consensus to protect the publishing industry because very few people care (or know) about this issue, so it’s an easy way to pick up some quick campaign donation cash, good policy and the public interest be damned.

Welcome to Liberalville.

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1 Response to Open Access Advocates, Welcome to Liberalville

  1. Interesting post. I have some some questions about open-access publication that probably pertain more to my field, chemistry, than others, but they’re still valid for the entire process.
    How is peer review handled?
    How do editors and management staff get paid?
    How are citations kept track of?

    I actually posted a blog about it today. http://www.practicingscience.wordpress.com

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