Kudos to Nature for reporting that the American Association of Publishers have hired a media "pit bull" to coordinate anti-open access messages, at a fee of $300,000 - $500,000. For an excerpt and thoughtful comments, see Open Access News.
Leaving aside the questionable ethics of this tactic, and the sheer folly of attempting to consolidate one's position as the guardian of quality and integrity in academic communications through a campaign of deliberate misinterpretation - what might the publishing industry accomplish simply by redirecting funds from fighting open access - to implementing open access.
By my reckoning, this one expenditure alone would be sufficient for hosting and support services for a year for 785 open access journals. If Elsevier were to redirect funds from their U.S. lobbying efforts alone to open access publishing, this would be enough for hosting and support for over 3,000 open access journals - more than Elsevier currently publishes! Hosting and support is not the only expense in open access publishing, of course - but then, the U.S. is not the only country where Elsevier is involved in lobbying...
Let's assume the mid-point of this one expenditure by the AAP - $400,000 U.S. for the media pitbull. This is enough to purchase hosting and support services, using Open Journal Systems , for 785 journals! [disclosure: I work for SFU Library, one of the partners in the PKP project which produces OJS]. (The figure of 785 journals is based on SFU Library's quoted $600 Cdn per journal for more than 10 titles, converted to $509 U.S.). Please note that Open Journal Systems (OJS) is free, open source software; this fee reflects cost-recovery for hosting and support.
This particular expenditure on the part of AAP may sound like a substantial sum - but is it really, or is it only a drop in the bucket when it comes to spending on anti-open access lobbying?
As reported on Open Access News a year ago, Elsevier spent $12.5 million on lobbying in the US since 1998, the fourth largest amount of any UK company. Assuming an 8-year time period for the expenditure of $12.5 million, this is a sum of more than $1.5 million spent annually on lobbying - in the U.S. alone.
If Elsevier were to redirect funds from U.S. lobbying to journal support - this would be enough to cover 3,070 journals using OJS per year! Currently, Elsevier only publishes about 2,000 journals. What might they do with the surplus? What might be accomplished through re-directed lobbying funds not only from the U.S., but from other countries, too?
This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access Series
If you'd like to know more about Open Journal Systems and the Public Knowledge Project, join us in Vancouver next summer for the First International PKP Scholarly Publishing Conference. [Disclosure: I am an on the PKP conference planning committee].
This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.