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Last week, Phil Davis published a post criticizing a paper reviewing the evidence around the purported “citation advantage” of open access (OA). Two OA proponents contacted SSP leadership to complain about the Scholarly Kitchen, urging the SSP to repudiate the post and censure the author.

Taken in isolation, it wasn’t a big deal. But this has been a trend. In fact, the only times we’ve had interactions like this is when we’ve written about open access.

This post is dedicated to those few among us who won’t engage in an open dialog when people are skeptical or critical of their ideas and evidence, and who instead resort to unseemly tactics in attempts to get their way.

At the same time, I want to make it clear that we welcome open debate.

SSP’s leadership has been, and continues to be, uniformly supportive of our independence to work as individuals on this blog as members of SSP. After all, the SSP is an organization of individuals, not an advocacy organization. And the Scholarly Kitchen — which has emerged as a popular and respected venue for good discussions — encourages individuals to contribute openly to discourse on a wide variety of relevant topics.

The Scholarly Kitchen consists of opinions from a group of clearly identified individuals. We often don’t agree with each other, and we don’t represent any official point of view of the SSP. We work independently. (As evidence, today’s post by Joe Esposito showed up unbidden in my mailbox last night. I had no idea it was being written, or any inkling about his feelings on the topic.)

But back to the attempts to subvert open dialog. On any given occasion, the accusations or insinuations from OA proponents haven’t bothered me — they revolved around minor points once you peeled away the rhetoric.

What bothers me is the repeated attempts to intimidate people, insinuate an agenda, and squelch critical thinking.

It’s ironic, isn’t it? The topic is open access, which holds as a fundamental tenet that open access to information is vital to progress, yet these few proponents of open access apparently won’t engage in open dialog.

It’s tempting to respond with: “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the Kitchen.”

But we want the dialog here, for all to see.

Behind-the-scenes calls seeking to create pressure to censure our authors or have them repudiate posts aren’t appropriate ways to disagree, especially when it involves a freely accessible blog that clearly promotes commentary from all quarters. People with differing opinions who attempt political end-runs are effectively sneaking around behind the backs of the readers of the Scholarly Kitchen.

To me, it’s wrong for a few people to try to appropriate the debate. Instead, they should participate in it.

If you have ideas and opinions, there is nothing about the Scholarly Kitchen or how it’s run that will stop you from being heard.

This blog is meant to shed light on topics and ideas about which reasonable people might disagree, while providing enough analysis and opinion to inform superior debate among a very sophisticated community. It started with the goal of familiarizing people with new research and trends in publishing, and prompting them to discuss it. To that end, I think it’s succeeding. Comments outnumber posts many times over.

I believe we should have any differences of opinion in the open, as professionals pursuing similar and admirable goals.

If you disagree with us, there is no excuse for you not to do so openly. You have all you need to participate in one of the most sophisticated discussion groups in STM publishing, and at no cost.

But if you can’t stand the heat . . .

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Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.


4 Thoughts on "If You Can’t Stand the Heat: Open Dialog and Open Access"


(1) In case anyone is wondering, I have nothing to do with any behind-the-scenes attempts to get Phil Davis to shut up (this is the first I hear of them).

(2) I’m actually trying to get Phil to open up more, by responding substantively to the substantive open commentary I have repeatedly made on his widely publicized but deeply flawed study of 2008.

(3) It is Phil who has now several times declined to post my critiques and my responses to his critiques, on the grounds (alternatively) that they were also multiply posted elsewhere (as his too were!) or that they were off-topic (because I was criticizing his work, not just responding to his always-welcome substantive criticisms of my own work).

(4) Hence I no longer try to respond on Phil’s sector of the SSP blog whose openness you are here extolling.

(5) There is, however, a rather obvious difference between my postings and Phil’s: Mine are substantive and on-topic (the topic being OA and methodology in OA studies, both Phil’s and mine), whereas many of Phil’s postings are stunningly shrill, rude and ad-hominem; some are useful and welcome, when making substantive critical points about my work, but they are evasive when the points are about his work, and largely abusive when they concern me, personally, which is quite often!

(6) Your own postings, Ken, though I think you truly believe you are being objective and even-handed, are just as stunningly blind to this obvious disparity between ad hominem name-calling and on-topic substance (in a word: between heat and light).

(7) I expect that some of this blindness to the tone of Phil’s postings is a result of the partisan support it always evinces from the background chorus of thumbs up that (amazingly) continues to arise whenever something negative (substantive or ad hominem) is said about me or my work in Phil’s corner of the Scholarly Kitchen, and the chorus of thumbs down when a response appears there (regardless of how temperate and substantive it may be) that seems to tend in the other direction.

(8) You have replied to me that the Scholarly Kitchen is diversified and open, as evidenced by the fact that you disagree amongst yourselves: You’re still missing the obvious here.

(9) By the way, the commentfrom Gene Glass is not evidence that the Scholarly Kitchen is indeed a diversified, representative venue: Gene would never have known about the erroneous points Phil was making, unchallenged, about meta-analysis, had I not drawn Gene’s attention to it. (What I had not known, but learned to my surprise and delight, was that Gene was not only a distinguished expert on meta-analysis but a longstanding advocate of OA!)

(10) I would have provided hyperlinks to document all this, but the SSP spam filter unfortunately tends to block my postings when they have too many links, even when they are not being blocked intentionally by Phil!

I’m glad to have your comment here. Others can judge its value for themselves.

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