Europe: “Let’s make everything better!” / STM Publishers: “No, let’s not.”

June 3, 2016

Good news!

Probably by now everyone’s heard about the European Union’s conclusions on the transition towards an Open Science system. This is progressive and positive, pretty much from start to finish. It’s so good that you should really read the whole thing — but here are some edited highlights:

The Council of the European Union […] STRESSES that open science entails amongst others open access to scientific publications and optimal reuse of research data, citizens science, and research integrity; TAKES NOTE that open access to scientific publications and optimal reuse of research data are of utmost importance for the development of open science.
AGREES that the results of publicly funded research should be made available in an as open as possible manner and ACKNOWLEDGES that unnecessary legal, organisational and financial barriers to access results of publicly funded research should be removed as much as possible and appropriate in order to attain optimal knowledge sharing, taking into account when necessary the need for exploitation of results,
CONSIDERS that assessing scientific quality should be based on the work itself and be broadened to include an assessment of the impact of science on society at large, while the current focus is on indicators based on impact of journals and publication citation counts.
STRESSES that incentive mechanisms need to be put in place to reward researchers (and research stakeholders) for sharing the results of their research for reuse;
STRESSES the need to continue the support by the Commission and Member States to allow all bodies and organisations, including citizens, scientists and businesses and SMEs, to mine results of publicly funded research they already have legal access to.
BELIEVES that optimal access and reuse of the results of scientific work can be enhanced if researchers or their employers retain the copyright on their scientific works; INVITES the Commission and the Member States to explore legal possibilities for measures in this respect and promote the use of licensing models, such as Creative Commons, for scientific publications and research data sets.
WELCOMES open access to scientific publications14 as the option by default for publishing the results of publicly funded research; RECOGNISES that the full scale transition towards open access should be based on common principles such as transparency, research integrity, sustainability, fair pricing and economic viability; and CALLS on Member States, the Commission and stakeholders to remove financial and legal barriers, and to take the necessary steps for successful implementation in all scientific domains, including specific measures for disciplines where obstacles hinder its progress.
AGREES to further promote the mainstreaming of open access to scientific publications by continuing to support a transition to immediate open access as the default by 2020, using the various models possible and in a cost-effective way, without embargoes or with as short as possible embargoes, and without financial and legal barriers.
WELCOMES the intention of the Commission to make research data produced by the Horizon 2020 programme open by default17, whilst recognising the right of opting out on grounds based on Intellectual Property Rights, personal data protection and confidentiality, security concerns, and other legitimate interests.

Well, the good news just keeps coming. This is good for us all, of course: for researchers, for funders, for doctors, for patients, for schoolteachers, for university lecturers, for legislators, for local government officials.

Who could possibly oppose such a thing?

Bad news!

Suprise! The International Association of STM Publishers — which is pleased to call itself “the global voice of scholarly publishing” — released this statement in response to the EU conclusions:

We note with concern, suggested embargo periods which do not take into account the long-term sustainability of continued quality content generation.

(Let me translate this, for anyone not familiar with STM-speak: “we note with concern” means “we will fight tooth and nail against”; “sustainability” means continuing the current levels of profitability; “quality content generation” means accepting the donations of manuscripts from researchers.)

But wait — there’s more!

[We note with concern] proposed extensions to commercial text and data mining (TDM) which pre-empt the current work of the EU Commission on impact assessments.

Yes — the STM Association is against text-mining as well as immediate open access.

And this, folks, is the kind of thing I’m on about when I say that legacy publishers are not our friends. I reiterate once more that I’m not saying they are evil; just that their interests are the opposite of ours; and by “ours” I mean basically everyone — all the doctors and teachers and suchlike that I mentioned above.

Those who want to dig into this will be interested in SPARC’s dissection of the STM response, but I don’t need to go on. What I want to say here is that, while we don’t need to demonise the STM Association, we do need to do all we can to make sure they’re unable to prevent the progress that the EU is pushing for here.


By the way, who is this STM Association? Is it just a rogue group of a few luddite publishers who got left behind in the 1900s when everyone else had moved on? Sadly not. As their own press release reminds us, “STM is an international association of over 120 scientific, technical, medical and scholarly publishers, collectively responsible for more than 60% of the global annual output of research articles.” When they write these regressive things, they are not speaking for a lunatic fringe of legacy publishers; they are the mainstream.

Those of you who work for more progressive publishers who support the European Union’s proposals: are you satisfied to have STM speaking for you? If not, what can you do to change their position? And if you can’t do anything to make this body actually represent you, do you really want to be members?

Update (the next morning)

See also: Chris Hartgerink’s satirical rewrite of the STM response! Thanks to Jon Tennant for drawing my attention to this.


5 Responses to “Europe: “Let’s make everything better!” / STM Publishers: “No, let’s not.””

  1. Mark C. Wilson Says:

    It would be useful to have a list of publishers that are of good quality but don’t share the beliefs of STM. I noticed that Ubiquity Press, Math Sciences Press (Berkeley) and Scholastica are not STM members.

  2. Marcin Says:

    I am relieved. SCielo are not there.

  3. Nima Says:

    You have to at least commend them on their unmitigated audacity lol. “The global voice of scholarly publishing” is their slogan. Any time someone claims to be the “global voice” of anything, i.e. a global monopoly, is time to run as fast as possible in the other direction.

    Also get a load of how Elsevier and Wiley have all their umpteen regional publishing divisions listed out in full on the STM member list, just to puff up the size of the roster. As if we weren’t all aware that they have branches on every continent, island, and peninsula.

  4. Nima Says:

    Wait, I didn’t realize Oxford University Press is a member of STM… and the Royal Society too?!

    Now I really feel like jumping off a cliff lol.

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