Saturday, August 25, 2007

PRISM - Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine - Seems like a spoof but it is real, and sad

I just came across this web site for something called the "Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine." I looked through it an thought - this must be a spoof. A good April 1 joke about the dinosaurs of the publishing industry. The reason it seems like a joke is well, the stuff there is so incredibly inane as to make one laugh. In essence the whole site is an anti Open Access site. They are against Open Access to publications it seems because Open Access does things like

  • "undermines the peer review process." Yes that's right. If an article is freely available for all to read, that must mean that peer review has been compromised. Nevermind that openness in other areas (e.g., politics, law, etc) is well established to promote critical review (anyone heard of freedom of the press). But apparently in science, openness is bad.
  • "opens the door to scientific censorship". Yup. Making publications freely available apparently means that you will stifle communication. Again, the logic here is completely silly - how on earth is openness connected to censorship?
  • "undermining the reasonable protections of copyright holders." Yup, the publishers of scientific articles, who do not deserve the copyright to articles in the first place, are now saying that because they have stolen the copyright from many scientists, now we should defend them because they have the copyright. Kind of like saying that someone who steals some money should not give it back because of finders keepers rules.
I could go on and on about the silly stuff there ... but lets just say that everything on the site seems like a spoof. But alas, it is not. PRISM is for real. It is the last gasp of a dying breed - publishers who refuse to do what is the right thing for science and society. Yes, I understand there are some issues with Open Access that still need to be solved. But this McCarthy like tone of PRISM - basically equating openness with evil and godlessness is ridiculous. I think this is a sad day for the people behind PRISM - the AAP (Association of American Publishers). I am sure they have done some good things over the years. This is certainly not one of them and a good sign that anyone out there with any common sense who might be involved in AAP should get out or fight for change within the institution.

For more on Prism see


  1. Isn't it odd how much of the FUD directed against Open Access is pretty much identical to the complaints of Microsoft and other against Open Source?

  2. Good catch, JE - PRISM is something we're all too familiar with here in Washington (as JE knows all too well, having grown up here): a lobbying group. Like many lobbying groups, their message is deceptive - they dress up their statement of purpose with a bunch of principles that no one objects to, but when you get to the bottom of the list you find out what they really want: protection for publishers, which is who they are. Suber's comments point out that they are following "PR consultant Eric Dezenhall, who advised the AAP “to equate traditional publishing models with peer review.”

    There was quite a bit of controversy when it came out that AAP had hired Dezenhall, who is known for his deceptive and often hardball tactics. Even Nature reported on this with the headline "PR's 'pit bull' takes on open access" (see

    So we're seeing some of the first results of the PR effort by publishers to attack open access - by pretending that they are "protecting" peer review and scientific freedom.

    Let's make sure we don't let them get away with it.

  3. I should have remembered Dezenhall's connection as I wrote about this a while ago when Nature ran that article

  4. I analogize this to the Shotgun Wedding industry attacking prostitution, free love, and elopement.

    -- Prof. Jonathan Vos Post

  5. I visited the PRISM web site and I have to say that it made me very angry, less because of the open access issue than because they are injecting so much venom into the debate.

    I ended up blogging on this myself, writing in part:

    "What should we do? Scientific publishers cannot survive without scientists. Scientists can defend research integrity by thinking twice before entrusting their work to any AAP publisher, or before agreeing to serve as a scientific editor or reviewer for an AAP publisher. Scientists can make sure that their professional organizations do not support the AAP in any way."

  6. For Steve's post go here . It is worth reading.

  7. Interesting to note that when the PRISM site launched it failed to follow its own guidelines about respecting rights of authorship and infringed all homepage images from Getty Images.
    After the blogosphere attacked the images were paid for, however.

  8. Anyone know if Nature belongs to PRISM...? seems odd that they would be reporting on it if they were a member.

  9. Nice observation, thanks. I don’t visit your blog every day, but when I
    visit your blog I enjoy browsing through your old posts and try to catch up
    what I have missed since my last visit.

  10. Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.


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