See, this is why publishers irritate me so much

May 17, 2012

I just read this in a Times Higher Eduction report on David Willetts’s recent speech:

Graham Taylor, director of academic publishing at the Publishers Association, said … that publishers would be content with a “leveraged acceleration” of moves towards author-pays open access (the “gold” model) – provided that funding to pay the associated article fees was in place.

What publishers would not accept, Mr Taylor made clear, was Research Councils UK’s suggestion, in its draft new open-access policy, that authors could choose instead to deposit their papers in open-access repositories within an “overly short” embargo period of six months after publication.

Oh, so publishers “will not accept” Green OA?

Where the hell do they get the arrogance to assume that a funding body needs their permission to say how their money is going to be spent?  If the government gives me £300 to build a shed and stipulates that it has to be made from renewable wood, the timber yard does not get to say say it “will not accept” that condition.

It’s none of the publishers’ damned business what conditions funding bodies impose on recipients.  None.  None of their business.  At all.  Until the publishers start being funders they have no say in the funder-recipient relationship.  None.

Am I repeating myself?  Very well; I contain singularities.

Here’s how it works, publishers.  The funding body supplies the money, which means it lays down the rules.  If the funder says “author must deposit final accepted manuscript in public repository six months after publication” (or indeed “immediately on acceptance”), then those are the rules; in accepting a grant, recipients are agreeing to abide by them.  You, the publishers, then have a simple choice.  You may accept authors’ articles on that basis; or you may decline to publish them.  That’s your prerogative: when I submit my manuscript to your journal, you are at liberty to tell me “the conditions imposed by your funding body make it unattractive for us to publish your work, so we decline your submission”.  And then I will go and find another publisher — one that’s not stuck in 1970s.

But that is the only say you have. Funders set the rules.  Take it or leave it.

Just because you’ve been living on funding bodies’ money for decades does not mean you get a say in their policy.  Tapeworms don’t get to dictate their host’s actions, either.  You either provide a service that is acceptable to funders, or you will be bypassed.

That is all.

14 Responses to “See, this is why publishers irritate me so much”

  1. Mike Taylor Says:

    Oh, by the way: Graham Taylor of Publishers Association, whose quote inspired this article, was the author of the Guardian article Branding academic publishers ‘enemies of science’ is offensive and wrong, in response to my own earlier article Academic publishers have become the enemies of science. See, Graham, this kind of crap is why we see you as an enemy. Stop being one, we’ll stop calling you one. Everyone wins.

  2. bill Says:

    Nothing to add, just *applause*.

  3. Annoyed Says:

    One of the things that has really pissed me off about the publication process is not getting free access to my own papers (final version). Some journals do it, but others don’t. It really takes the piss when you write it, sign over the copyright and then they expect you to pay for the privilege of having a copy of the final PDF of your own paper. It has happened to me on two occasions when I can’t get online access to my own papers via my institution, so I have to email friends to send me a copy of my own paper.
    Rant over.

  4. Mike Taylor Says:

    Dear “Annoyed”,

    Please contact me offlist to discuss your experiences of not being able to get copies of your own papers. You can email me on

  5. +1, and again I say +1 (though not on Google+ anymore).

  6. […] on from yesterday’s rant, I’m moved to write this one by Stephen Curry’s report on the latest Finch Committee […]

  7. […] See, this is why publishers irritate me so much and Publishers versus everyone by Mike Taylor […]

  8. Josephine Says:

    A more biological interpretation is that the line between symbiosis and parasitism can be very thin ;)

  9. Am I the only one imagining a confusing he-said-he-said with two Mr. Taylors at both ends of the conversation?

  10. […] be a new question: I posed it in rather more confrontational terms on this very blog, in See, this is why publishers irritate me so much, and then included it in a milder form in my most recent Guardian article. But to the best of my […]

  11. […] This isn’t an idle speculation:  the report itself contains various places where is suddenly says something odd, something that doesn’t quite fit, or is in conflict with the general message. It’s hard not to imagine these as having been forced into the report by the publishers at the table (according to the membership list, Bob Campbell, senior publisher at Wiley Blackwell; Steve Hall, managing director of IoP Publishing; and Wim van del Stelt, executive VP of corporate strategy at Springer). And I just don’t understand why the publishers were given a seat at the table. […]

  12. […] See, this is why publishers irritate me so much ( […]

  13. […] learned and we will continue to actively engage with the academic and publishing sectors” as though the publishing sector has any right to a say. I would much rather RCUK had shown the balls to stick with the leadership they initially provided, […]

  14. […] simple question: why do we tolerate the obvious conflict of interest in allowing publishers to have any say at all in deciding how our government spends public money on publication […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: