Is de Gruyter’s lobby-by-proxy not lobbyism?In: science politics
Sven Fund, CEO of the German publishing house de Gruyter was recently interviewed by Richard Poynder in his widely read interview series on open access. In the interview, he first avoided answering the question if de Gruyter had ever lobbied against open access. However, in a later correspondence with Richard Poynder, he made unambiguously clear:
“Just for the record: No, De Gruyter has never lobbied against OA.”
Now, this statement seems somewhat surprising, as de Gruyter is a member of the “Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels”, the trade organization of publishers in Germany. This organization states itself that it “accompanies the recent legislative reforms with intense lobbying” (own translation). In other words, de Gruyter may not have a “Vice President of Government Relations” as Elsevier has in Angelika Lex, but it is a paying member of the one organization that does the lobbying. The kind of changes the German publishers would like to see in this legislation is quite obvious: “a right to second publication [i.e., in green open access repositories] carries no benefits and will cost the tax-payer money that is dearly needed in research and elsewhere” (my loose translation).
So, has de Gruyter not obviously paid their own trade organization to lobby against open access? Does Mr. Fund think we cannot enter [börsenverein “open access”] into a search engine and just click on the first two links that come up? This is a prime example of the raised middle finger publishers have been prominently presenting towards academia at large for the last decade. Why should anyone ever deal with organizations like this again?
In a few weeks, on October 10, I’ll be on a panel with Mr. Fund at the Frankfurt Book Fair. We’ll see if these obscene gestures of publishers towards academics become a topic of the discussion.
UPDATE: Since I commented on the interview, Mr. Fund has replied. However, he does not apologize for an oversight when he forgot that his company was a member of an organization (perhaps also other organizations) that actively and intensely lobby against open access. Nor does he indicate that he considers canceling the membership with this organization, nor is there apparently any public record that he even disagrees with the anti-OA lobbying efforts of the Börsenverein. Instead, he writes that we should ask the management of the Börsenverein, whether he disagrees with them or not. Thank you, Mr. Fund for proving my point. I rest my case.
UPDATE 2: Not only does the Börsenverein lobby intensely against open access, on occasion of these lobbying efforts on November 15, 2004, the corporate counsel of the Börsenverein, Christian Sprang, was recorded as saying: “scientists are our natural enemies”. So Fund’s company supports an organization that sees scientists as their enemies.