Reply to Timo Hannay.

Timo Hannay on Nascent, branching off from a discussion of intemperate responses to PRISM:

A case in point is the criticism that my NPG colleague, Maxine Clarke, faced when talking about “open access” projects at NPG. Not everyone shared her definition of open access and she was accused by some bloggers of using the term as a marketing slogan. (Peter Murray-Rust, who made the original point, later recanted when he understood that Maxine was being genuine, so I don’t take issue with him.)

Mr Hannay does, presumably, take issue with me. I will apply Hanlon’s Razor and assume Mr Hannay did not bother to read beyond the post he linked, since the very next is this one:

In the entry below, I was not sufficiently careful to avoid Nature-bashing, or the implication that Maxine Clarke was morphing, werewolf-like, into some kind of publisher pitbull. Thanks to Pedro, bdf and RPM for responses which made this clear.
Let me finish, though, by pointing out that I do not wish to paint NPG as one of the unscrupulous publishers whose intentions worry me, nor Maxine Clarke as their sneaky shill. If NPG uses the term “open access” differently from me, I take that as a good-faith disagreement, and if Maxine uses the term in her employers’ sense that is hardly “marketing”. Specifically, I apologize for the phrase “if [Maxine] is going to start abusing [the term “OA”] as marketing for Nature”, which contains an uncalled-for implication that I hope this entry will dispel.

The elision there includes the list of NPG’s OA-related activities that Mr Hannay goes on to point out. The next post on my blog is this one in which I quote Peters Suber and Murray-Rust some more regarding OA definitions and conclude, in what I am happy to have readers interpret as a further step back:

I take Peter S to be saying that it’s inevitable that “Open Access” will come to mean, in general use, more things to more people than strict BOAI, and we will not achieve anything by making arseholes of ourselves over it. (Even if that’s not quite the way Peter S would put it, that’s the way I’ve come to look at the situation.) There’s no point in picking quarrels we don’t have to have. It’s enough to be more careful in our own usage, for which purposes suffixes a la Peter MR should prove very useful when we need extra precision. I don’t think we need invent terms (“fuzzy”) just yet — “OA (specific licence, with hyperlink if writing online)” and “OA (free to read)” should cover most cases.
If we can get to the point where the average consumer — basically, any researcher — responds to an OA claim or label by asking “which licence?”, we will have done an end-run around the problem of term dilution.

It seems to me entirely unfair and misleading to link to the first of my posts without also linking the next two.
I think Mr Hannay is also in error in describing this post from Jean-Claude as a “followup” to the posts above; I think that Jean-Claude was referring to much more recent and clear-cut abuses outlined by Peter Murray-Rust.
Mr Hannay also goes on to say that

Some people are just too quick to assume base motives, and employ words like “boycott” as if they were punctuation marks.

I do not know who that is aimed at, but as for my own reference to a boycott, I do not think it unreasonable or precipitous to consider such action against publishers who do not distance themselves from PRISM and similar efforts. Why should it be up to me to determine who is and is not part of PRISM? The AAPThe PRISM organizers would certainly like me to assume that all their AAP members are PRISM supporters. As Mr Hannay himself makes clear, publishers need scientists more than the other way around. If you want my manuscripts, you had better demonstrate to me that you are not part of the pack of corporate bloodsuckers and soulless spin doctors that is pushing the palpably dishonest, profit-driven PRISM agenda. (Not that I would, given a free choice, publish in Nature anyway, even after Mr Hannay made it clear NPG does not support PRISM and even if they’d have me — because they’re not OA.)

Update: Peter Murray-Rust did a better job than me of responding to the Nascent post: he rightly led with the important part, which is that Nature is not endorsing PRISM. That’s no surprise, but I think it important to be explicit and public about who is and who is not backing PRISM.
Also, now I feel bad about the snotty “Mr Hannay” stuff. I use people’s first names here as a rule, even when I’ve never met them, because a blog is an informal conversation and because I think it fosters a sense of civil fucking discourse. I know perfectly well that Timo is on the side of the angels (viz, on the side of science!) when it comes to scientific communication, and it follows that his comments — and criticisms — on this issue are made in good faith. So, er, *shuffles feet*, sorry Timo.

One thought on “Reply to Timo Hannay.

  1. I’m all in favour of a bit of decorum — it cannot do any harm.
    When I write on my personal blog (nothing to do with Nature or science, but rather a lot to do with detective novels), I am never very sure whether to refer to people in a post by their first names or as “Mr” or “Ms” X if I am on “first name emailing terms” with them. Before reading your post, I assumed it was some strange Englishness that I had absorbed. Whatever the reason, I’m not ashamed of an instinct to be polite, and I’m sure Timo appreciates it too.
    I’ll refrain from commenting further on the PRISM affair as I am reluctant to set myself up again, but just to let you know that the News in Brief from last issue of Nature is up on Nautilus, with a clarification of Nature’s position, if you are interested to read it.
    Best wishes

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