Reactions to the AAP’s FUD: the danger of alienation

A few days ago, I finally posted my belated reaction to the AAP’s position on a possible government mandate to make all articles published from publicly funded research freely available to the general public. I was not aware at the time but some reactions to the AAP’s position had already been published when I wrote my post. I was informed of that fact by a post on Slashdot. Of note is the open letter by Rockefeller University Press. They are a member organization of the AAP but they clearly distance themselves from the FUD being spread by the AAP. (This is a good example of the general caution we should apply in interpreting the pronouncements of umbrella associations that purport to speak for their members. Such associations can go rogue and misrepresent what their members really want. Or, and this is probably the case here, they represent the views only of their most powerful members.)

Of note also is the Issue Brief produced by the Association of Research Libraries. Their arguments overlap with some of mine but they also make great points in addition to those that I made in my post. People who care about this issue should certainly read the brief.

What strikes me in those reactions is that the AAP is alienating some of its potential supporters. After my previous post on this topic, my wife presciently pointed out to me that I had overlooked that the AAP’s position could potentially backfire by alienating those who would otherwise support it. She was right. Rockefeller University Press is a member of the AAP and yet does not support the AAP’s current campaign against open access. How many other members of the AAP are at odds with the AAP’s position on open access? Could the AAP’s position cause a schism in its member base? The Association of Research Libraries on the other hand speaks for the very people who buy the services and goods sold by the members of the AAP. (I write this while keeping in mind, as noted above, that the extent to which an association speaks for its members varies.) Again, those are people who could potentially support the AAP.

In both cases, the AAP’s deficient logic is alienating groups that would otherwise probably be on AAP’s side. There’s a real danger that the AAP will paint itself into a corner with its dubious rhetoric and find itself being relevant only to the dinosaurs who are trying to protect their ancient business model.

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