Offline: Scientific publishing—trust and tribulations – The Lancet

“Signatories [to the AAP letter to Donald Trump] wrote about their role “fostering the American leadership in science that drives our economy and global competitiveness”. They suggested that an open access mandate “would significantly harm the system of peer-reviewed scholarly communication that fuels America’s leadership in research and innovation”. They urged the president to oppose this proposal. Many who signed the letter were indeed US-based organisations (such as the American Medical Association and American College of Physicians). But others would probably consider their missions to go beyond “fostering…American leadership in science”. They would almost certainly claim they had a global remit, not one narrowly confined to advancing “American competitiveness”. The letter was signed, for example, by the New England Journal of Medicine, Wiley, Wolters Kluwer, and The Lancet’s publisher, Elsevier. At last week’s Academic Publishing in Europe annual meeting, held in Berlin, Professor Günter Ziegler (President of the Free University of Berlin) mocked the catastrophist language used by publishers in this letter. “There is no such thing as American science or American publishing”, he said. Science is a truly global enterprise. His reprimand showed how far apart the values of science and science publishing have drifted in recent years….

Publishers are understandably nervous. Coalition S, a consortium of research funders that includes the Wellcome Trust, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and WHO, has called for the research they pay for to “be published in Open Access Journals, on Open Access Platforms, or made immediately available through Open Access Repositories without embargo”. Their policy will be implemented in 2021. Publishers have held decisive power in shaping the dissemination of science for over 300 years. That power is now being challenged. It is an uncomfortable reset. But from the funder’s perspective it is entirely reasonable they have a voice in the way the science they support is reported. The result of this accelerating shift in power has been an escalating conflict between traditional scientific publishers and funding bodies. Yet, despite the anomaly of that ill-judged letter to President Trump, there were signs in Berlin that both sides were seeking an accommodation….

Scientific publishers as we know them today remain a threatened species. They will have to do more to prove their added value to science and society. Unless they do so, they may not deserve to survive.”

Message from the APS Board of Directors – Association for Psychological Science – APS

“On Friday, December 13, 2019, Research!America confirmed to the broader scientific community that the US White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) would soon issue an Executive Order (EO) requiring open access immediately for all scientific publications resulting from research supported by US federal grants. Such an immediate change would inject chaos into the current means of disseminating research findings and potentially cause serious financial challenges for many scientific societies.

Over the ensuing weekend, two public letters were drafted to the US presidential administration and other American politicians. One letter was led by the American Chemical Society (which focused on the impact of the EO on scientific societies) and the other letter was led by the Association of American Publishers (that focused on the economic impact of the EO). The goal was to insist that the US administration reconsider any impulsive action so journals and societies could evaluate and adapt to the proposed change in an orderly way. There was no opportunity for APS to offer edits….”

To APS Members From the Board of Directors – Association for Psychological Science – APS

“Today, January 24, 2020, the APS Board sent a letter to the Trump Administration, expressing regret for having signed a letter, led by the Association of American Publishers, in protest of an impending executive order from the Trump Administration to mandate immediate open access for all publications reporting on US federally-funded research. This letter is to you, our members, and to the wider scientific community. It builds on our statement of December 23, 2019 and represents our current thoughts on the situation….”

The Mess That Is Science Publishing — The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal

“Researchers have been grumbling about the state of scientific publishing for years. Now, rumor has it that the Trump administration (yes, those science-haters!) may be trying to fix at least one problem: access to reports of government-funded research.

The rumored proposal will require free, immediate access to all reports of government-funded scientific research. The rumor is credible enough that an association of 210 academic and research libraries has written to the president in support of the idea. The research-publication system is a mess, and open access would be one small step toward a fix….”

[Open letter from U.S. PIRG to Donald Trump]

“Ensuring immediate access to the latest, cutting-edge research provides critical knowledge that we as students should be able to learn while and school and continue to access throughout our careers. Our education should be based on the latest, groundbreaking information and we should get access right away, not just when our campus can afford a journal subscription or after an embargo period expires. Making federally-funded research openly available to everyone—along with the data needed to validate the conclusions and any corresponding computer code—will significantly expand our access to the resources necessary for a complete, up-to-date education….”

We support Zero Embargo Taxpayer Access

“We the undersigned American scientists, publishers, funders, patient advocates, librarians and members of the public endorse a national policy that would ensure that Americans are no longer denied access to the results of research their tax dollars paid for. We have read recent media reports that the executive branch is considering a zero embargo taxpayer access policy, and we are writing to express our strong support for such a move….”

COAPI Letter to the White House in Response to Zero-Embargo OA Policy – Google Docs

“The Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions (COAPI), a group of colleges, universities, and research institutions committed to making the results of their researchers accessible to the world, supports providing American taxpayers immediate, free access to the results of scientific research that is publicly funded and supported by Federal agencies. We strongly endorse updating existing U.S. policy to eliminate the current 12-month embargo period on articles that report on publicly funded research, as instituted by the Obama administration, and to ensure that they are made immediately available to the public….”

PLOS Joins Other Publishers and Societies in Support of the Proposed White House Policy Regarding Federally Funded Research

Note: PLOS and other prominent organizations delivered the following letter to the Trump Administration on January 17, 2020. We encourage all publishing organizations and scholarly societies who would like to join us in support of OA in the USA to reach out to us at — we can prepare an expanded letter with more signatories as necessary. Please also consider voicing your support on social media with the hashtag #OAintheUSA.

Learned societies turn against scholarship

“In a recent letter to the White House, a group of corporate publishers and scholarly organizations implore the president to leave intact the current arrangements between publicly funded researchers and the publishing industry. Their letter is the latest move in a decades-long struggle between researchers and publishers over who controls the fruits of the researchers’ labor….

At least one learned society is already reconsidering the issue. The Association for Computing Machinery released a statement on January 9, saying that it regretted signing onto the publishers’ letter and reiterating its commitment to open access. We hope that readers of this essay will contact the leaders of their own learned societies to express their support for open science and their opposition to continuing the current publishing model. In order to solve the challenges the world now faces, the public needs reliable, affordable science. Producing it will require scientific institutions — including systems of scientific publishing — that serve science instead of holding it for ransom.”

UC Response to Publisher Letter Opposing Immediate Open Access to Federally Funded Research – Office of Scholarly Communication

“The University of California believes the public should have access to publicly-funded research, freely and immediately upon publication. We are deeply disappointed in the decision by these societies and publishers to sign this letter, which opposes progress in that direction.

The letter also includes misleading statements such as:

The publishers write: “Under a legacy regulation that is still in force today, proprietary journal articles that report on federally funded research must be made available for free within 12 months of publication.” Characterizing journal articles as the “proprietary” intellectual property of publishers obscures the fact that they represent the work of individual researchers, which is often funded, at taxpayer expense, by government research grants. 

Moreover, current policy only requires free access to the pre-publication, author-owned manuscript within 12 months. There is no requirement to make publisher-owned versions freely available, ever.
The publishers also write: “In the coming years, this cost shift would place billions of dollars of new and additional burden on taxpayers.” The truth is that most current subscription payments to publishers already come from taxpayer funds that universities receive to cover their research infrastructure. Changing publishing, as proposed by UC, so that these institutions pay for publication services rather than for subscriptions does not increase taxpayer expenditure; it just repurposes those taxpayer dollars to pay for publishing in a way that allows the public to freely read the results, too….”