The Association of American Publishers are a bunch of complete and total fu*kheads

It didn’t take long following the introduction of the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act of 2013 (FASTR) for Dr. Evil The Association of American Publishers to respond.

As if trying to outdo themselves, this latest anti-open access screed contains more misleading statements and outright lies than their previous efforts to undermine public access legislation.

Here is the text with my comments in red.


Thursday, 14 February 2013 | Andi Sporkin

“Different Name, Same Boondoggle”

A boondoggle is, according to Wikipedia, a “project that is considered a useless waste of both time and money, yet is often continued due to extraneous policy motivations.” If there is any aspect of science today that should be considered a boondoggle, it is the existence of subscription-based publishers, who steal receive billions of dollars in public money, much of which they pocket as profit, while failing to provide access to the material they publish to the taxpayers who funded the work and to many of scientists, students and teachers worldwide.

Washington, DC; February 14, 2013 — Calling it “different name, same boondoggle,” the Association of American Publishers said today that the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act is unnecessary and a waste of federal resources.

The bill revives the majority of the terms set out in the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), which was introduced without further action in each of the last three Congresses. It would require federal agencies to undertake extensive, open-ended work already being performed successfully by the private sector.

This is a boldface lie. First, the purpose of the bill is explicitly to provide access to federally funded research to all Americans. This is something that publishers are, inarguably, NOT doing today. If the private sector were actually providing this service, then the bill would be superfluous. 

It would add significant, unspecified, ongoing costs to those agencies’ budgets in the midst of ongoing federal deficit reduction efforts.

Again, this is completely laughable. The publishing industry is, by far, the biggest waste of money in  science spending today. If we eliminated them entirely, we could save billions of dollars a year, while providing unlimited free access to the results of research. If publishers want to save taxpayers money, they should go out of business. 

Finally, it would undermine publishers’ efforts to provide access to high-quality peer-review research publications in a sustainable way, while ignoring progress made by agencies collaborating with publishers to improve funding transparency.

The science publishing industry – with skyrocketing costs and ever decreasing services – is the textbook example of an unsustainable business. Ask any library across the country to tell you about the efforts of publishers to create a sustainable publishing model, and they will laugh heartily at this claim. And I have no idea what they’re talking about as far as funding transparency goes. 

“This bill would waste so much taxpayers’ money at a time of budgetary crisis, squander federal employees’ time with busywork and require the creation and maintenance of otherwise-unneeded technology,” said Allan Adler, General Counsel and Vice President, Government Affairs, AAP, “all the while ignoring the fact that its demands are already being performed successfully by the private sector.”

Sorry, Allan Adler, but you are completely full of shit. The publishing industry has had nearly two decades to respond to the opportunity created by the internet and make the scientific literature freely available to the public. They have failed. The waste of taxpayer money is continuing to funnel billions of dollars to these ungrateful and almost completely useless businesses. And, I almost fell out of my chair laughing when I read the thing about “busywork”. Anybody who has spent their time interacting with scientific journals where know why. 

AAP also noted:

The bill ignores crucial distinctions among federal agencies and scientific disciplines and would attempt to shoehorn every group into a one-size-fits-all mandate on publication methods and embargo periods.

It is not a one-size-fits-all mandate. It’s a simple statement. The taxpayers funded it, they get to read it. If the AAP has a better model for how to accomplish this, we’re all ears. But if they don’t, they should just shut up.

FASTR disregards what is being accomplished through public-private partnerships and agency collaborations such as the CrossRef “FundRef” pilot to standardize funding source information for scholarly publications

Huh? What does this do to provide access to anyone? NOTHING. 

The bill would require agencies to undertake extensive new duties and reporting requirements while also requiring them to invest in new taxpayer-funded technology resources and systems. FASTR would demand that federal agencies’ staffs develop and implement processes to collect materials, create and permanently maintain redundant digital repositories — resources that are currently in place — and fulfill new government requirements for studies and analyses.

Adler added, “Such systems and protocols are already in place, functioning effectively. Researchers should not be required to duplicate what’s available to them and taxpayers shouldn’t be stuck footing the bill for it too.”

Again, this is a total misdirect. None of the systems in place from publishers accomplish the clear objective of this legislation – to provide the American public with access to the research they fund. If the AAP wants to devote their resources to doing this – great. But to pretend that they are doing it, and then criticizing government efforts to accomplish what the publishers have failed to do, is disgraceful. 

There are many publishers who are members of the AAP who, I suspect, do not agree with their repulsive stance on FASTR. It is time for these groups to speak up and repudiate the AAP’s stance.

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