Gavia Libraria

Calling out nonsense

If the Loon has one overriding hope for this shiny new year in scholarly communication, it’s this: that it become common for individuals and organizations that promulgate myths and lies about scholarly communication to be publicly made accountable (shamed, where appropriate) for it.

We’re part of the way there, but not all the way. Myths and lies in commentable online venues reliably receive excellent refutations in comments these days, which is a great step forward. Still, the AHA’s nonsense (and ongoing struggles with AAA, APA, ACS, and other scholarly societies) proves quite conclusively that people and groups with certain kinds of professional insulation can still issue self-serving misrepresentations with impunity.

It’s time that stopped.

Dan Cohen’s jeremiad about the AHA’s September statement is a reasonable example of the sort of thing the Loon is hoping for. So is Martin Paul Eve’s more strongly-worded denunciation of UK history-journal editors who recently put out a related set of untruths.

Mark well, the Loon is emphatically not advocating indiscriminate bully-pulpitism. Open access already has one or two zealots who adopt that tactic, and they do vastly more harm than good. She is advocating a very specific intervention: those who do not tell the entire truth should be clearly called on it, for malice or unnecessary ignorance or both. It can be done, and it should be.

Librarians: if we wish to be heroes, this is one kind of intervention we need to be prepared for. California did it with Nature Publishing Group. Jenica Rogers did it with the ACS. It’s not beyond us.

The next step beyond that is making individuals and groups accountable for decisions that damage access to scholarship. We’re a long way from that yet, as the doxing threat the Loon received privately last year for her series on Elsevier’s LIS-journal boards attests. Making public wrongness a thing of shame is an important move toward it, however.