25 January 2007

The Coming Victory of Open Access

In this blog, I've emphasised the parallels between open source and open access. We know that as Microsoft has become more and more threatened by the former, it has resorted to more and more desperate attempts to sow FUD. Now comes this tremendous story from Nature that the traditional scientific publishing houses are contemplating doing the same to attack open access:

Nature has learned, a group of big scientific publishers has hired the pit bull to take on the free-information movement, which campaigns for scientific results to be made freely available. Some traditional journals, which depend on subscription charges, say that open-access journals and public databases of scientific papers such as the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) PubMed Central, threaten their livelihoods.

The "pit bull" is Eric Dezenhall:

his firm, Dezenhall Resources, was also reported by Business Week to have used money from oil giant ExxonMobil to criticize the environmental group Greenpeace.

These are some of the tactics being considered:

Dezenhall also recommended joining forces with groups that may be ideologically opposed to government-mandated projects such as PubMed Central, including organizations that have angered scientists. One suggestion was the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank based in Washington DC, which has used oil-industry money to promote sceptical views on climate change. Dezenhall estimated his fee for the campaign at $300,000–500,000.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, you may recall, are the people behind the risible "Carbon dioxide: they call it pollution, we call it life" campaign of misinformation about global warming.

This is a clear sign that we're in the end-game for open access's victory.


Bill said...

Peter Suber has a nice roundup of commentary, most of which agrees with you (as do I) that this signals the beginning of the end for traditional publishing.

glyn moody said...

Thanks - I saw that about five minutes after posting....

Amazing, though, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I can't speak for CEI but I recently discussed open acess with their pres, Fred Smith, and he was all for it. Give taxpayers a return on their investment and all that.

For the record, CEI is right about climate change.

David Wojick

glyn moody said...

Well, I think a couple of thousand climate scientists beg to differ on the last point....

Anonymous said...

Your "couple thousand climate scientists" reference is a familiar, albeit bogus, nod to the IPCC. The report they just released was written by about 30 scientists, plus 130 political appointees. The 1600 page report due in May is by several hundred scientists, including a few skeptics, but mostly active supporters of the theory of human induced warming. The common 2,500 number includes all reviewers, including many skeptics like me, who are of course ignored.

In contrast, Google Scholar returns about 500,000 articles on atmospheric radiation, 500,000 on solar variability or variation, etc. The US alone spends almost $2 billion a year on climate research. So there are maybe 50,000 climate scientists. A significant percentage, maybe even 50%, do not buy the "we did it" theory. This is a major scientific controversy.

To return to the point, open access activists would do well not to align themselves with global warming activists. Many conservatives support open access but you will lose us if you make open access a liberal cause. In fact one reason I like open access because it makes it harder for the IPCC to do advocacy science. I use this argument with fellow conservatives.

David Wojick

glyn moody said...

OK, a few hundred, if you prefer. Add to that the overwhelming majority of papers analysed by Science a little while back. Here's what I wrote in a previous posting:

all the papers on climate change that could be found in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003 were analysed for their views on the role of greenhouse gases on global warming. The result was clear:

"The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position."

Now, I may not be a climate scientist, but I do have a PhD in applied maths/physics, so I think I can just about cope with reading papers on the subject. From what I have read - and because of the importance of the subject I do try to read as much as my time allows - I've not seen any convincing arguments against studies which seem to indicate anthropogenic global warming (plus/minus the usual uncertainties - and given that there are uncertainties, I know which side I prefer to err on.)

However, I do agree that everyone should support open access, regardless of their political leanings, because it allows the facts to come out - something we should all strive for.

Anonymous said...

The number of papers related to climate change is in the tens of thousands per year, not 928 in ten years. That study searched the ISI database of abstracts for the term climate change. Very few papers are about climate change per se, they are all about specific research results.

What the study found is that no single paper claimed to have falsified the theory that humans affect climate, and indeed none does, for there is no single result that could possibly do so. Nor does any study claim to prove that natural variability plays no role, for the same reason. The results are irrelevant, because the controversy consists of hundreds of arguments about specific scientific points. Nothing is settled.

I run a debate at http://www.climatechangedebate.org if you want to try your hand. I did not come here to debate the science, fun as that is.

David Wojick

glyn moody said...

Thanks for the link.

I suppose one of the problems I have is that even if climate change weren't anthropogenic, and we couldn't do anything about it, what is the harm in taking the measures that people typically suggest to combat it?

Would it be so terrible to use less oil (hint: fewer wars in certain parts of the world, perhaps)? Would it be so terrible if people walked more instead of using cars (you know, less heart disease, less obesity, etc.)?

So what's the downside? That Shell's profits would only be mildly obscene instead of totally obscene? Hmmmm.....