The key passage in the Association of American Publishers letter to Trump:
As noted above, we have learned that the Administration may be preparing to step into the private marketplace and force the immediate free distribution of journal articles financed and published by organizations in the private sector, including many non-profits. This would effectively nationalize the valuable American intellectual property that we produce and force us to give it away to the rest of the world for free.
This is re-heated Koch brothers-libertarianism, served with an Orwellian side. And a dash of Trump-baiting nationalism. Yet dozens of scholarly societies signed on to the letter—arguably against their own members’ interests and their missions to advance knowledge.
From SPARC’s rejoinder:
Like others, we have heard rumors about a possible new Administration Open Access Policy. As a coalition of more than 200 academic and research libraries on college and university campuses across the country, SPARC has long advocated for a federal policy that would make the results of taxpayer-funded research immediately available for the public to freely access and fully use. We wholeheartedly endorse updating current policy and eliminating the unnecessary 12-month waiting period for the public to gain access to the outputs of taxpayer-funded scientific research, including data, articles, and the supporting computer code.
Sociologists are calling out their association’s betrayal. There are likely other efforts underway and in the works.
Wittingly or not, the nonprofit scholarly societies (and univeristy presses like Chicago) are providing legitimacy camouflage for Elsevier and Springer. Of course there are major challenges for learned societies, around existing tolled-access revenue. Yes, there’s no silver bullet, though a number of societies are piloting OA models and otherwise committing to the transition. But the point is to serve members and the mission, not to preserve a legacy publishing model.
The AAP letter is depressing proof of the tail wagging the dog at many scholarly associations—revenue-hoarding at the expense (really the betrayal) of their own academic missions. Worse still, the signatories have applied a nonprofit lacquer to what is, at base, a naked profit-protection scheme by the 37 percenters. This is society-washing.