By now, I imagine that most, if not all, readers of the Scholarly Kitchen have heard about Plan S, a program of Science Europe, a consortium of public research funding organizations. Under this program, funded researchers will be required to make their work available immediately upon publication (that is, without embargo) on an open access (OA) basis, using the definition of OA found in the Berlin Declaration:

Open access contributions must satisfy two conditions: The author(s) and right holder(s) of such contributions grant(s) to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide, right of access to, and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship (community standards, will continue to provide the mechanism for enforcement of proper attribution and responsible use of the published work, as they do now), as well as the right to make small numbers of printed copies for their personal use.

A complete version of the work and all supplemental materials, including a copy of the permission as stated above, in an appropriate standard electronic format is deposited (and thus published) in at least one online repository using suitable technical standards (such as the Open Archive definitions) that is supported and maintained by an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or other well-established organization that seeks to enable open access, unrestricted distribution, inter operability, and long-term archiving.

Currently, fourteen European funders, including the Wellcome Trust, are members of Plan S, and in the U.S. the Gates Foundation has also agreed to adopt its terms.

man yelling at woman

A vigorous debate as to the pros and cons of this plan has been going on for a couple of months now, and I won’t try to summarize it here (those interested can find expressions of both support and concern—sometimes both simultaneously—here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, among other places). Instead, I would like to focus on the backlash we have seen in response to those who have raised concerns about Plan S, and especially in response to one particular expression of that concern: an open letter that was organized by Swedish biochemist Lynn Kamerlin. As of this writing, the letter has been signed by nearly 1,400 researchers, including two Nobel laureates. The issues addressed in this letter include:

  • The prohibition on publishing in non-OA and hybrid journals will make more than 80% of journals off-limits to funded researchers.*
  • Its “one-size-fits-all” approach fails to recognize different needs across disciplines.
  • It undermines academic freedom, particularly as that concept is formally understood in the U.S., Sweden, and Germany.
  • It will create serious complications for research published by teams consisting only partially of researchers funded by Plan S members.

The letter was made public earlier this month. Two predictable things then happened: first, the number of signatories more than doubled. Second, a Twitter mob formed and deployed immediately. And while some of its members limited themselves to addressing the actual content of the letter, others took the conversation in decidedly darker directions. One tweeter called for surveillance of the letter’s signatories: “We should start monitoring papers accepted in [N]ature, [S]cience, and other actual majors from the researchers attacking #Plan_S,” he said. (Kamerlin’s excellent response: she said “here you go” and provided a link to a website from which she links to all of her publications and research data sets — all of which are freely available online, and have always been, because Kamerlin has long been a strong supporter of OA.)

One commentator called for surveillance of those who signed the open letter about Plan S.

The theme of conspiracy emerged even more explicitly among other tweeters: “Do they have shares in the publishing companies?” asks one (the original in Spanish), while another wants to know “which vested interests” are behind the letter, and another accuses the letter writers of “collusion.” Still another tweeter charges Kamerlin with “doing precisely the dirt job Elsevier can’t do openly.”

Others suggested that any objection to Plan S must be an attempt to protect the signatories’ positions of privilege: “All of this just reeks of being afraid to loose [sic] perks and privilege… it all seems very shady to me”, says one tweeter (“all of this” apparently referring to “expressing any objection to Plan S”), while another wants to “see things like academic affiliation, status, grant funding, and other elements of privilege that might contribute into this” (“this,” again, being “harboring any objections to Plan S”). Given that roughly 20% of the letter’s signatories are young researchers in the earliest stages of their careers, one has to wonder how their “privilege” stacks up against that of the people attacking them online. One also might wonder whether “elements of privilege” would include, say, being Director-General of DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission, or being the President of Science Europe, or controlling $8.8 billion in research funding.

Or simply being a white male — a characteristic shared by virtually all of those who have been attacking Kamerlin online. In the case of some of the creepier and more personal attacks on Kamerlin herself, there’s more than a whiff of sexism in the air. “The lady in the picture see[m]s serene and unmoved. Is she a publisher?”, asks one tweeter, while another simply reproduces her picture and says “I hate this lady lol.”

Apart from the creepiness, the gendered condescension, the ad hominem attacks, the conspiracy theories, the calls for surveillance, and the insinuations of bad faith, the substantive content of these attacks on Kamerlin and the letter’s signatories has been depressingly consistent: if you object to Plan S, it can’t be because you have critically evaluated the pros and cons and come to an informed conclusion. It must be because you’re in the pay of Big Publishing, or because Plan S threatens your personal privilege, or because you’re secretly acting on behalf of — I’m not making this up — a conspiracy of editors. (You’ve heard of the International Editorial Conspiracy, haven’t you? No? Psssh. Wake up, sheeple.) Honest and principled disagreement? No, sorry — that would imply that intelligent and well-informed people could conceivably hold a range of opinions about the advisability of mandatory OA. That proposition is not acceptable. Instead, there must be something shady — nay, “very shady” — going on. And if you raise the suggestion that Plan S poses troubling implications for the academic freedom of funded authors, then you’re a hypocrite for bringing it up, and besides academic freedom doesn’t exist anyway.

The freedom to choose how to publish isn’t for everyone; it’s only for those who agree with Plan S.

Unfortunately, defending Plan S is a goal that apparently justifies any behavior, no matter how misleading, personally nasty, or even counterfactual it has to be. We’ve even seen instances of out-and-out gaslighting. In a recent exchange on the LIBLICENSE mailing list, noted OA advocate (and Berlin Declaration signatory) Jean-Claude Guédon asserted that “Plan S does not say anything about where people should publish.” This is a pretty surprising statement in light of the actual language of Plan S, which includes the provision that “after 1 January 2020 scientific publications on the results from research funded by public grants provided by national and European research councils and funding bodies, must be published in compliant Open Access Journals or on compliant Open Access Platforms.” In other words, Plan S not only says “something” about where people should publish; it says where (and how) people must publish.

Ultimately, though, what is most concerning about Plan S is not the behavior of those hell-bent on defending it by any means necessary. That’s just par for the course. More important is the way in which researchers themselves — the people whose work and whose freedom to choose will be directly affected by its implementation — seem to have been excluded from the process of formulating it. This shouldn’t be surprising, I guess, given the disdain in which authors and researchers are apparently held by Plan S’s creators. After all, as Science Europe’s Robert-Jan Smits puts it: “Why do we need Plan S? Because researchers are irresponsible.”

There you have it. The freedom to choose how to publish isn’t for everyone; it’s only for those who are “responsible” — which is to say, those who agree with Plan S.


* It may turn out that Plan S’s prohibition on publication in hybrid journals is softer than what the current language of its Ten Principles indicates. Today or tomorrow there will be an announcement about the Plan S implementation, and in a private communication with one of its architects I’ve been told that this announcement will include clarifying language that indicates funded research may actually be funded in a hybrid journal — but that in that case, grant funds may not be used to pay the APC.

Rick Anderson

Rick Anderson

Rick Anderson is University Librarian at Brigham Young University. He has worked previously as a bibliographer for YBP, Inc., as Head Acquisitions Librarian for the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, as Director of Resource Acquisition at the University of Nevada, Reno, and as Associate Dean for Collections & Scholarly Communication at the University of Utah.


110 Thoughts on "Do You Have Concerns about Plan S? Then You Must be an Irresponsible, Privileged, Conspiratorial Hypocrite"

and today the New Scientist editorial on why academic publisher “stronghold” should be broken. What amuses me, and also disappoints, is that neither side of any debate talks about massive job losses such initiatives would incur. Don’t we count? Should we lose our jobs and become a burden on the same taxpayer who wants our jobs gone? What is the alternative to thousands of publishing colleagues when the companies give-in to all these demands and do the obvious – consolidation/downsizing/firing.
Perhaps voicing these concerns will also be held wrong because they don’t conform to the popular narrative.

I don’t think that jobs for jobs’ sake should ever be an argument for continuing to do things the way that they have always been done. I am not a supporter of Plan S because I believe that the curation being done by Societies and Editorial Offices adds important value to science. But if there are 100 people employed in a job that only takes 10 people to complete, the other 90 should go find another way to be productive.

Blacksmiths were out of work when cars became the preferred mode of transportation. Ferry operators were out of work when bridges were built. How many scribes lost their jobs due to the printing press? In 2006, Western Union ceased telegram service. I admit I was nostalgic about telegrams but I got over it. Regrettably, phones with cords are a thing of the past. I long for the days when the phone never, ever got lost.

Please stop using the “heart-strings” defense. It’s illogical and if that kind of thinking were universal, there would be no indoor plumbing.

But each of the jobs you mention had new technologies/inventions that replaced their functionality (cars, bridges, printing presses, phones). Here, we’re proposing throwing out the functionality of the editor without any replacement for it, other than hopes and wishes that somehow the crowd will randomly cover those activities.

Correct. What the above examples indicate is “Creative Destruction” of jobs, which is a negative externality of innovation. However, here we are speaking of jobs getting vulnerable to demands towards a business model. If everything tax funded has to be free, then why doesn’t the same group demand open innovation (what about Patent in the name of the people) or reduction of conference travels which owe only to personal benefit.
On the argument of finding “another way to be productive”, I am sorry but this is not possible for people living and working in Europe, who are in their mid-40s, have a huge tax/social security burden to bear and on top of it the job sector avoids that age group.
Frankly, where should an STM editor with +15 years experience go next? Will the same universities hire them?

Very good summary! Myself, I noticed that some of the most vocal Plan S proponents like Gerard Meijer or Anna Akhmanova or Daniel Lakens (funny, all Dutch…) published just recently in the off-limits society or even Nature/Cell themed journals, and often even behind paywall. None of them gets the irony apparently.
There was also this interesting piece in Dutch, where a MSc student expresses her worries about her future under Plan S.
She was then accused of “elitism” and at attitude of “a right to limitless funding in order to boost personal scientific careers” in this thread:

Finally, while of course everyone skeptical of Plan S is most definitely a corrupt greedy publisher shill, no doubt about that, I received some information from EU Commission on interactions Robert-Jan Smits and Kamila Markram, CEO of Frontiers.

It’s always worth considering how few scholars are on Twitter, and recognizing that the online conversation is not in any way representative of academia and the research community. This study ( suggests that somewhere between 1% and 5% of scholars are active on Twitter. So what you’re seeing is not the opinion of the working scientist or historian, but instead, that of those with an axe to grind or a cause to fight for. When I spend time with scientists, the conversation is never about publishing or open access, instead it’s nearly always about research results, jobs, and/or funding. This has largely skewed the conversation around publishing — news organizations cover the visible, louder voices rather than seeking out representatives of the mainstream and this only amplifies things further.

And as with all things on the internet, frequently the loudest and most persistent voice wins the argument, rather than the person who is actually right.

Thanks for this comment. I bring this up all the time with researchers who are very active on Twitter because they often frame the discussion (whatever it may be; usually related to publishing) as though all scientists have spoken because they saw a lot of people saying something on Twitter.

To be clear: my posting doesn’t say (and never intended to suggest) that this particular Twitter mob represents the views of the larger academic and research communities. In fact, their behavior suggests that what they’re trying to do is silence those communities by making the expression of views with which they disagree as unpleasant an experience as possible.

To be clear: my posting doesn’t say (and never intended to suggest) that this particular Twitter mob represents the views of the larger academic and research communities

Right, and that’s the problem. Because there are some in the community with seemingly unlimited time to spend on social media, they tend to dominate the conversation. Those who spend their time doing their research/science rather than Tweeting tend to not have their views represented. This then gets amplified as lazy journalists and policy makers just look for the readily visible statements rather than seeking out the true responses of the community. We live in an age of filter bubbles now, and it’s important to have the self-awareness to know when you are trapped in one.

So when you say “that’s the problem,” David, do you mean “that’s the problem with a posting like this one,” or “that’s the problem with the way the mass media treat issues like this”? (Or something different?)

I mean that’s the problem with relying on social media channels that are not widely used by a community for gauging the opinions of that community. Scientists who are on Twitter, for example, are such a tiny subset of the community that one cannot draw any conclusions from them about what the community actually cares about. And yet, we see such generalizations all the time. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and the shoutiest on the internet wins the argument.

I used work for a big magazine. One of the things I learned while there was that to really attract attention you need to print things that are: a) outrageous and b) very likely untrue. Has to be both, or it won’t work. This attention-getting-ploy works in the world of popular media, but it works even better on Twitter. The thing is, most serious scholars are not willing to say things (in public, at least) that are outrageous and probably untrue because, well, they are scholars. But there are exceptions. We should recognize they are exceptions, as Rick and David say.

Excellent post, Rick. The bullying from OA advocates is one of the most consistent aspects of the movement, sadly. From the bullying of publishers in the days of E-Biomed (which led to the DC Principles) to the more pointed bullying of a professor who exposed colleagues publishing in predatory journals ( to the bullying of Beall by Frontiers (, one has to wonder if OA is so obviously beneficial and reasonable, why there has to be bullying.

It’s worth remembering what normal collegial behavior would be, and how many other ways there are to answer questions and explore concerns. It’s also not unreasonable to expect transparency of relationships (Frontiers and Plan S do seem a bit too cozy), financial and job loss projections, and cost:benefit analyses.

In effect, a basic socio-economic and ethical impact analysis of the entire debate is missing. Looks like STM Association/ALPSP should commission such an analysis soon.

Ironically, the link about Frontiers going after Beall is paywalled.

First there were OA journals, funded primarily by user fees. Then traditional publishers found several ways to also publish articles under OA principles, stand alone and hybrid, supposedly at a profit. It seems that publishers can adapt, maybe at lower margins. Since Plan S comes from research funds, the only concern seems to be that researchers aim for high impact publications that aren’t currently OA. Thus it seems that where to publish hinges has unspoken issues that transcends availability?

There are people who resort to hyperbole and ad hominem attacks on both sides of the issue, including Rick Anderson. To blame one side for unfair tactics in the debate is disingenuous.

Ah, the good old “both sides” response, was waiting for that one. My bad behavior is acceptable because someone else does something I don’t like (or see Trump, D.J., “there were very fine people on both sides”). I assume shortly we’ll move on to “whataboutisms” (

And for the record, can you please point us to Rick Anderson’s use of hyperbole and ad hominem attacks?

I challenge you to find one over-the-top or misleading comment made by Rick Anderson on this topic.

Challenge accepted. The title of this piece is misleading on 3 counts, alleging that Plan S critics are being specifically characterized as “irresponsible…conspiratorial hypocrites”. This misleading impression is reinforced when those allegations are linked in the body of the text. (The term “privileged” is substantiated by the linked tweet.)

1. The quote for “irresponsible” is explicitly directed towards all researchers, the “science community”. Smits is critiquing the researcher community as a whole, not saying anything about Plan S critics in particular.
2. Anderson implies that Michael Rera speaks about a “conspiracy of editors” when in reality Rera explicitly uses the term “lobby,” which is far more neutral than “conspiracy”.
3.Eileen Joy’s use of “hypocrisy” clearly is not referring to Plan S critics, but rather describing her own immediate reaction to a single line of criticism. Joy is not describing any Plan S critics as hypocrites.

This may strike some people as pedantic, but Anderson has repeatedly objected to critiques of his prior work which build on inferred, implied, or between-the-lines interpretations of his message. If we hold Anderson to the standard he himself has set forth, then I can only conclude he is choosing to mislead readers about the explicit, literal positions expressed by Smits, Rera, and Joy.

Matt —

1. The context in which I provided the Smits quote makes it abundantly clear that I understand Smits to be critiquing the researcher community as a whole, not Plan S critics in particular. For your convenience, here are those sentences again, with relevant emphasis: “This shouldn’t be surprising, I guess, given the disdain in which authors and researchers are apparently held by Plan S’s creators. After all, as Science Europe’s Robert-Jan Smits puts it: ‘Why do we need Plan S? Because researchers are irresponsible.’”

2. As is your wont, you’re proposing a false choice here (“lobby” rather than “conspiracy”). What Michael Rera proposes in the tweet to which I linked is “a lobby of major editors steering these folks” (meaning the signatories of the open letter). In other words, he suggests that a group of powerful editors are acting in concert behind the scenes to guide a public response on the part of others. The fact that he calls them a “lobby” doesn’t mean that he’s not describing a conspiracy. In fact, he’s doing both.

3. Eileen Joy says that “as soon as someone invokes ‘academic freedom’ as an argument against it [i.e. Plan S], all I can think is: hypocrisy.” The people under discussion are the signatories of the open letter, which specifically invokes academic freedom as an issue in the context of Plan S. She is most certainly characterizing their invocation of academic freedom as hypocritical.

1. The title of your piece claims that Plan S critics are being called irresponsible. You admit here that this is not the case, because the “irresponsible” quote was about the research community. Will you change the title?

2. It doesn’t matter what you imagine Rera is describing. Your piece presents him as using a word which he did not use, a word which has significant negative connotations. You are misrepresenting what he actually wrote, and you here state that you are doing so based on your own interpretation of his meaning, not on his actual words. The only choice here is whether you will be accurate or inaccurate in the words you attribute to Rera’s twitter account.

3. My point is that Joy is obviously and literally characterizing the argument as hypocrisy, not the people. She even says “‘academic freedom’ as an argument’ to cue the reader that her following response is about the argument. Similarly, her choice of word is “hypocrisy” not “hypocrite”, another handy cue from the English language that she’s not calling any person a [kind of person]. Again, your depiction of her words does not reflect her explicit written words. Other meanings which you might choose to take from her words are irrelevant here.

In many conversations, you have objected strongly to critiques based on interpretations of your own words. You point people to your explicit statements, insisting that you can and should only be critiqued on what you actually wrote, not on any subtext or other messages we might draw from them. But here, you’re very happy to rely on your own interpretations and expansions of other peoples’ explicit words. It appears that you are trying to have it both ways–evading criticism of your own messages by hiding behind literal meanings, but criticizing others based on what you assume about their intentions. That behavior seems very hypocritical to me, and I hope you have another explanation for how you’re treating Joy, Smits, and Rera.

Please note that I am explicitly referring to the behavior as appearing hypocritical–I am not calling you a hypocrite. Please do not present my words as anything other than they are.

1. No, I’m not going to change the title at this point, but I will freely admit that whereas the title of my piece suggests that Smits’ contempt for researchers is limited to those who object to Plan S, you’re correct in pointing out that he has in fact expressed contempt for all researchers. I appreciate the chance to clarify that point.

2. This isn’t me playing fast and loose with interpretation: what Rera suggests in his tweet is the existence of a conspiracy. The fact that he doesn’t use the word “conspiracy” doesn’t mean that he hasn’t described one. If I say “a bunch of people ganged up on Lynn Kamerlin and subjected her to unfair and often sexist abuse for daring to question Plan S,” it would be completely fair to characterize what I said as a description of mobbing behavior, even if I didn’t use the word “mob” in my description.

3. You’re quoting Eileen way too selectively here. What she actually said is “as soon as _someone invokes academic freedom as an argument_ against it [i.e. Plan S], all I can think is: hypocrisy.” She’s characterizing actions by people (not just abstract concepts) as hypocritical.

I don’t object to critiques based on interpretations of my own words, unless those interpretations are incorrect (in which case I try to clarify my meaning), or when they seem to me to be deliberately designed to misrepresent what I’m saying. (I can think of circumstances, for example, when I’ve objected to people informing me that what I really meant was in fact the opposite of what I said.)

I am certainly not saying that bad behavior is acceptable because someone else does it. What I’m saying is that its really more important to discuss the pros and cons of Plan S than to complain about people losing their tempers over a contentious and complicated issue. I have personally been called names on this site by Rick.

I think the point of this post is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to discuss the pros and cons of something like Plan S when those who raise any sort of criticisms, no matter how mild, are attacked and shouted down by an angry mob, questioning their motives and suggesting that they are part of secret conspiracies. This is not an atmosphere in which open, reasoned dialogue can thrive.

And again, still waiting for concrete examples of Rick Anderson’s hyperbole, ad hominem attacks, and now name-calling.

“Shouting” is quite an exaggeration, given that this is all happening online. The scholarly kitchen can be an insular place, dominated by people whose interest is in continued profit for publishers. I think it is valuable and important that those who support Plan S get to express themselves, just as much as the dissenters to Plan S get to. Just because a group of people disagrees with you, doesn’t mean they are attacking you or make them a “mob”. It is vital that motives are questioned when important decisions are made. Motives are the heart of the issue. These people are bringing dialogue instead of monologue to the scholarly kitchen. If I have to get called “arrogant” in the process, bring it on.

But no one is stopping those who support Plan S from expressing themselves, unlike what we see happening for the dissenters (I’ve yet to see anyone demand that we “monitor” the behavior of Plan S supporters, for example).

Your initial comment made apparent false claims against Rick Anderson. What was your motive (at the heart of the issue) for such personal attacks?

Hi, Sarah —

First of all, I certainly hope that I’ve never called you (or anyone else) names either here in the Kitchen or anywhere else. If I have, please point to an example so I can own it and apologize. (And if you can’t find an example, I would hope that you’d be willing to retract your public accusation.)

You and I agree completely that disagreeing with someone–even in a large group–doesn’t constitute an attack or make that group a “mob.” What constitute an attack are things like sexist trolling and unsupported accusations of conspiracy and bad faith. What starts to turn a group of people into a mob is when they do things like call on each other to surveil the person with whom they disagree.

By all means, let’s air our disagreements; I think that’s a big part of what the open letter has helped to do. And by all means, let’s deal with our disagreements in a professional, adult, and rational manner–rather than responding by accusing each other of conspiracy, collusion, and irresponsibility.

Since you don’t use your full name, I don’t know who you are and cannot comment on you in any respect. But your last comment reveals willful ignorance of what is going on. Ignorance is not the same thing as arrogance. If you think the comments of Jean-Claude Guedon bring “dialogue instead of monologue,” this conversation can go nowhere. In any event, the Kitchen is hardly a safe haven for publishers of any stripe. Read more slowly. I stand by Rick.

I will chime in to support Sarah, with an example that may not be ad hominem exactly, but certainly is ad hominem adjacent.

When as a newly-minted scholarly communications librarian, I posted my first question to the ALA scholcomm listserv, my very first response was a private message from Rick where he alleged that “The SCHOLCOMM list is dominated by folks who, if the answer to your question is ³yes,² will not want that answer to be promulgated because if true, it would tend to make authors less eager to embrace OA.” (January 29, 2015)

I’m no expert in rhetoric, but that sure feels like an awfully ad hominem characterization of other people as untrustworthy and duplicitous, rather than any sort of critique of their potential future statements (because nobody else had made any sort of statement).

Matt, here’s a good definition of an ad hominem argument: “A fallacious objection to an argument or factual claim by appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim; an attempt to argue against an opponent’s idea by discrediting the opponent himself.”

Here’s the complete message that I sent to you privately in 2015, in response to a question you posed on the SCHOLCOMM list: “Matt, just between us: you may already be doing this, but I’d recommend asking this question in some other discussion forums as well. The SCHOLCOMM list is dominated by folks who, if the answer to your question is ‘yes,’ will not want that answer to be promulgated because if true, it would tend to make authors less eager to embrace OA. That’s not to say that it’s not a good idea to ask it here — I think the perspectives you get here will be useful — but I’d be wary of accepting what you hear on this particular list (or probably any individual list) as a good indication of the whole picture.”

In our private conversation, I did indeed attribute particular motivations to some (unnamed) members of a large group with which I had become very familiar over the years. However, that’s not an ad hominem argument; an ad hominem would consist in trying to discredit their claims based on those motivations, and in no way did I suggest they were “untrustworthy” or “duplicitous.” Instead, I suggested that their beliefs (as I understood them) were not necessarily typical of those prevalent in the scholarly-communication community as a whole.

Although I stand by the content of that message (as of the time it was written), I have to say that I’m both surprised and disappointed that you’ve chosen to share that private communication (which I clearly indicated was intended to be private) in this forum.

Apparently I can’t reply to Rick’s reply to my example.

Yes, you also have the full text of the email. Congratulations. Thank you also for that full definition of an ad hominem argument. As the full text indicates, you were preemptively objecting to factual claims or arguments presented by others on the list serv, “by appealing to a characteristic”:
1. preemptively making an “objection to an argument or factual claim” — “I’d be wary of accepting what you hear on this particular list (or probably any individual list) as a good indication of the whole picture.”

2. You did this by “appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim” — “folks who, if the answer to your question is yes, will not want that answer to be promulgated because if true, it would tend to make authors less eager to embrace OA.” That’s pretty clear. You are not merely suggesting that perspectives or experiences differ; you explicitly claim that the list is “dominated” by actors who would not want a true or factual answer to be shared, because it might threaten their agenda.

3. You offered no substantive engagement with the (presumed) argument others might present. Your email is entirely constructed to “discredit the opponent”, by encouraging me to not trust others on the list. You provide absolutely no evidence in support of your characterization, nor did you even wait for other people to express claims before offering a counterargument.

4. As bonus evidence of the ad hominem nature of your message, you sent it privately. If you had any desire to engage substantively or provide any counter evidence, it would have been easy to respond to one of the subsequent posts. Instead, you rushed to respond privately. I find it *fascinating* that you chose a method which would prevent the rest of the list from seeing what you wrote, since you claim your intentions were so generous and considerate.

As for privacy, yeah. You did want it kept private. Understandably so, because it undercuts your public persona and might reflect negatively on you. I’ve refrained from sharing it in other contexts, but I guess today I finally got fed up with your posturing. Frankly, I would never have thought to dig up this email today if you & others weren’t teaming up to tear apart Sarah’s comments & to defend your (public) virtue.

(Matt, the reason it doesn’t look like you can respond is because we’ve reached the nesting limit imposed by our WordPress template.)

“Appealing to a characteristic” isn’t an ad hominem attack. Saying that someone’s argument is wrong because of a personal characteristic is an ad hominem attack. In this case, I was saying that the opinions you’re likely to get on SCHOLCOMM are not likely to be representative of those in the larger population of scholcomm workers. Not only is that not saying they’re wrong, it’s not even really criticizing them; it’s just saying that a particular point of view is more prevalent on that list than it is in the larger population. By no means did I encourage you to “distrust” the members of the SCHOLCOMM list. On the contrary, I explicitly encouraged you to ask the list, because “I think the perspectives you get [there] will be useful.” (That’s from a part of the email that you didn’t quote.)

If you feel that my private message to you reflects poorly on me, that’s fine. Obviously, you’re entitled to that view. Although I didn’t intend for it to go public, as I said, I stand by that assessment of the SCHOLCOMM list (ca. 2015) and I’m not particularly embarrassed by it. Maybe that’s because my own assessment of my virtue is less generous than yours. 🙂

I guess there is no point in continuing this conversation after I’ve already explained what was said to me you persist in telling me I made a “false claim”.

I’ve asked you to point out where this happened. Also, calling someone “arrogant” (as you claim) is not the same thing as an ad hominem attack, nor hyperbolic, as you’ve also claimed.

I guess we disagree about that.

It seems like the search function on Scholarly Kitchen searches posts, not comments, so I can’t find the post I’m referring to. It doesn’t matter, since I’m perfectly willing to be a voice of dissent on this site and to accept the consequences of that.

And more to the point, I don’t think anyone (including me) has called you “arrogant,” Sarah. I would still very much appreciate being pointed to any instances of statements I’ve made here in the Kitchen (or anywhere else) that are hyperbolic, or ad hominem. And again, if I’ve ever called you names, please let me know where and when that happened so that I can correct myself and apologize.

And reading what he said, he criticized your position, not you personally:

With respect, Sarah, your position on these issues comes across as remarkably arrogant. Do you honestly believe that the only reason faculty might do something you disagree with is because they’re “lazy”? Do you really believe that when faculty make publishing choices you disagree with, it can’t be because they disagree with you in principle, but has to be because they’re “overwhelmed by so many demands on their time” that they’ve failed to understand things exactly the way you do?

Do you consider the above to be an “ad hominem” attack (attacking the character of the person making the argument rather than the argument itself) or hyperbolic in any way?

I think it was intentionally insulting rather than instructive and ignored the points I was making. I guess insults are in the eye of the beholder and perhaps neither Rick nor the people he feels are attacking Plan S dissenters mean their comments as insults despite both being taken as insults.

Hi, Sarah —

My response wasn’t intentionally insulting; I did point out that the position you had outlined came across as arrogant. I stand by that characterization of your comments. There’s a big and important difference between saying “you are arrogant” and saying “the thing you just said comes across as arrogant.” The former is an ad hominem attack and can reasonably be characterized as name-calling; the latter isn’t and can’t.

There’s also a big and important difference between saying “I disagree, and here are the reasons why” and saying (as the people I’ve cited in my piece did) “you must be in collusion with Elsevier” or “you’re irresponsible” or “bringing up your concern is hypocritical” or “you’re just defending your position of privilege.”

There’s a difference between “your position is arrogant” and “your wording was arrogant”. One denies the validity of a set of values.

Its important to know whether those who are writing in opposition to open access have a financial motive for doing so. That’s not an irrelevant question. I think its a valid assertion that not making work green open access when possible is an ethical question.

You could easily have said the rest of the paragraph without calling my position arrogant. You were heated. That’s fine. Other people get heated too.

Saying “your position on these issues comes across as remarkably arrogant” doesn’t deny the validity of a set of values. It characterizes the way you presented your position. Please note that I then followed up that characterization by asking a set of clarifying questions, with the express purpose of allowing you to clarify the nature of the position you had put forward. I don’t think my response was heated, but I guess that’s in the eye of the beholder. To be very clear: at no point did I call you names. I responded to the content of your argument.

I feel that it is never professional to use the word “arrogant’ to a colleague. Regardless of whether you are referring to them personally or their point of view. There are better ways to make an argument.

Fair enough. I would add that it’s never professional to falsely and publicly accuse a colleague of employing hyperbole and ad hominem attacks, particularly when one is not prepared to support the accusations. There are better ways to express disagreement.

If this is your position, then why, in this article, do you deliberately mischaracterize Eileen Joy’s comment about “hypocrisy” as a description of individuals, rather than as the critique of an argument? It clearly is the latter in context, but even without context, a good-faith interpretation would surely interpret her statement as the former, rather than depict her position as “you’re a hypocrite for bringing it up”.

I don’t believe that I mischaracterized Eileen’s comment. Here’s the full text of the tweet to which I linked:

“To sum up my own perspective, I don’t think #Plan_S is perfect & there needs to be further debate and dialogue vis-a-vis its implementation, monitoring, etc. but as soon as someone invokes ‘academic freedom’ as an argument against it, all I can think is: hypocrisy.”

When one characterizes as “hypocrisy” the act of presenting a particular argument, is one not accusing the person presenting it of being hypocritical?

Again I apparently can’t respond to your reply, so here goes:

You write >>>When one characterizes as “hypocrisy” the act of presenting a particular argument, is one not accusing the person presenting it of being hypocritical? <<<

Please allow me to answer your question with a question: when one characterizes as ["remarkably arrogant"] the act of presenting a particular [position], is one not accusing the person presenting it of being [remarkably arrogant]?

You seem to believe that the answer to the first question is "yes" while the answer to the second question is "no". That sure seems like a hypocrite's approach: one set of rules for Rick, another set of rules for Eileen.

when one characterizes as [“remarkably arrogant”] the act of presenting a particular [position], is one not accusing the person presenting it of being [remarkably arrogant]?

Yes, I think one would be. But that’s not actually what I said. What I said was that the position Sarah had presented “came across as remarkably arrogant.” Then, knowing that she may not have meant for it to come across that way, I asked her questions designed to give her the opportunity to clarify whether she had intended it to come across that way. See the difference?

I don’t recognize that as what I did. I felt that it you had made a personal attack against me and I expressed that and supported it. You disagree.

“There are people who resort to hyperbole and ad hominem attacks on both sides of the issue, including Rick Anderson.”

It has been my experience on this site that people often equate OA generally with APC OA, in order to discredit it. That is hyperbole.

Calling a colleague’s point of view arrogant is an ad hominem attack. Rick has explained that he feels he was not criticizing me, but my perspective about scholarly publishing. I’m willing to accept that was his intent although it isn’t how I understood it at the time.

I’m not sure “hyperbole” is the right word — “Exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.” ( Equating perhaps the most prominent form of OA with OA as a whole is less exaggeration than it is either sloppiness or ignorance, nor do I think that author-pays OA discredits OA as a whole (it is merely one potential route). Nor do I think statements that conflate all OA with author-pays Gold OA are limited to this site. OA means many things to many people, and I can vouch from personal experience working with editorial boards, researchers, and research societies that the definition of “open access” remains a source of confusion to much of the research community (I can’t tell you how often I hear statements from scientists that OA = predatory publishing).

In fact, Rick wrote a really good piece on how many different ways different people define “open access” —

Sorry, but I have to correct the record here. I didn’t actually even criticize your “perspective about scholarly publishing.” I said that your position on the issues under discussion in that particular instance “(came) across as remarkably arrogant.” The fact that I was reserving judgment on your actual position is illustrated by the clarifying questions I then asked you. That is very different from making an ad hominem attack.

As for “people” on this site “often” equating OA with APC OA, “in order to discredit it,” I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t think I’ve ever been guilty of that. Again, if that’s what you’re accusing me of, please provide some support (or retract the accusation).

Ignorance is certainly part of the discussion around OA here and undoubtedly elsewhere. I think deliberate inaccuracy is also part of it.

I don’t know of literature which would back up the claim that gold OA is the most common form of OA. I’ll agree that the most common misunderstanding of OA is that it is identical with Gold OA or predatory publishing.

I don’t know of any post on the Kitchen that equates Gold OA with OA overall. I can’t speak to the many comments. Can you cite an instance where Gold OA is said to be the entire world of OA? I would like to be enlightened here. As it stands, it really does seem to me that you are attacking the Kitchen for problems that lie elsewhere.

This is from 2015 and the numbers are likely out of date, but the concept still holds as far as I know:

Of course if your definition of “open access” includes Green OA routes where the article is freely available but remains under full copyright protection (e.g. PubMed Central for NIH-funded articles) or Bronze OA (whatever that is), then your percentages may vary:

Rick, I am not accusing you personally of misrepresenting OA. My point is not to discredit you, but to speak up for people with good intentions on the side of Plan S. I recognize that the conversation on both sides is not completely civil and that Plan S does have drawbacks.

Thanks for clarifying that, Sarah. For what it’s worth, by no means do I deny that there are people with good intentions on the side of Plan S — in fact, I strongly suspect that the great majority of people on the side of Plan S have good intentions. This piece isn’t about people who support Plan S; it’s about people who respond to the raising of concerns about Plan S with mobbing behavior and personal attacks.

Open access includes Green OA routes. I realize that the Kitchen is not the only place or even the primary place where misunderstandings about OA happen. I also recognize that the posters are not responsible for all the comments.

But many Green routes do not conform to the Berlin, Budapest or Bethesda definitions, and many feel that those are the key ways that OA must be defined. If the manuscript for a published paper is deposited in PubMed Central, but is not available for reuse because it remains under full copyright, then is that “open access”? The US government, in their OSTP policy, carefully used the term “public access” to avoid such misunderstandings (though many US agencies subsequently described their policies as “open access policies” in their own documentation).

But as you note, it can be confusing, and I would suggest that the majority of questionable statements one reads stem from that confusion, rather than always assuming the writer is trying to deceive.

You were criticizing my “expression” about scholarly publishing. That’s a word we would agree on more than “perspective”, I think.

No, I was addressing the position you had expressed on the particular issue that was under discussion in that earlier blog post–not on scholarly publishing in general. (And “perspective” was the word you used in your previous comment, so that’s why I had it in quotes.)

Sooo, I guess no one but me has noticed the irony that this voice of dissent to this blog post (which in part is about a woman being bullied online by men) is that of a woman and the responses to that voice are coming from three men in no less than 21 comments?

There’s a very big difference here, though. The Twitter-mobbing of Lynn Kamerlin has come in response to her coordination of an open letter that expresses concern about Plan S. Sarah is being responded to (for the most part quite civilly, I think) after attacking me personally. The two situations are not parallel. (And of course it’s worth pointing out that one of the “three men” who have been responding to her is the one that she attacked by name.)

Rick – I think this line wasn’t entirely fair:

‘ . . . given the disdain in which authors and researchers are apparently held by Plan S’s creators. After all, as Science Europe’s Robert-Jan Smits puts it: “Why do we need Plan S? Because researchers are irresponsible.”’

The only Plan S creator I have had an opportunity to speak with is David Sweeney. I did not walk away from our conversation believing he holds authors and researchers in disdain. Smits’ comment isn’t enough to make me believe this about David or about the many other people who had a hand in the creation of Plan S.

That’s a fair point, Curtis — I shouldn’t have implied that the contempt for researchers expressed by Robert-Jan Smits is necessarily shared by the other architects of Plan S.

It seems I cannot respond directly to Rick or David, so I’ll reply here. No, I wouldn’t characterize any comments made by Rick, Joseph, or David to Sarah as bullying. Please note that I never said or even implied that they were. However, if I had been observing this conversation in a meeting, I would have come away with the impression that three men were ganging up on a woman, which, as I’ve already mentioned, is rather funny in a sad way given at least one of the main points of this post.

I’ll also note that I very much agree with David’s comment way up above regarding the voices on Twitter when he wrote, “the online conversation is not in any way representative of academia and the research community.” That statement kind of renders this post moot.

I’ll also note that I very much agree with David’s comment way up above regarding the voices on Twitter when he wrote, “the online conversation is not in any way representative of academia and the research community.” That statement kind of renders this post moot.

So we can safely ignore your comments as well (given that they were online)? 🙂

So… the treatment to which Lynn Kamerlin and the 1,400 signers of the open letter have been subjected online only matters if it’s “representative of academia and the research community”? I don’t think I agree with that.

So Gates, the Wellcome Trust and some government bureaucrat is now the arbitrator of where one is to publish. To think it used to be the prince or the king, a religious entity or some wealthy benefactor. I guess what goes around comes around! I wonder when ACS, IEEE, ASM, and other societies/associations will just close shop.

The claim that “Plan S does not say anything about where people should publish” has been used quite a lot, with the spoken or unspoken qualification by Plan S proponents that “the author’s preferred journal just needs to become Open Access”. So there is no constraint – as long as there is compliance. Here is one example from Steven Hill at ALPSP (note the audience reaction):

I would love the voice of research to come through more strongly, to be more represented by those who fund research and talk about the need to gain more from the billions of public money spent. The Open Access business model has I’m sure made some impact to research outcomes improving our world (and it would be great to see data on this, to understand the effect – SK?) but this devotion does tend to puzzle me.

Back to “where authors can publish”. Seems there may be multiple interpretations possible: As long as authors publish their research results in an OA archive and/or OA journal, they seem to be fulfilling the requirements of Plan S funders. Meaning an author could publish in an online OA archive and a non-OA or hybrid journal. There appear to be many choices that still could follow the requirements of the funders. Authors as always will be creative about getting their research out there. You might say publishers of non-OA journals won’t be interested in publishing that work — well that is their choice and they may have to get creative and adaptable as well. Funders can set requirements, authors and publishers can adapt or not. The OA world is not only coming, it’s here.

Editors serve a legitimate purpose of curating content. Doing away with that will hurt science. As to publishers, it costs money to publish content. This is true whether you publish in an Open Access title or in a traditional subscription title. The idea that it won’t, or that APCs actually pay for the true cost, is irresponsible. And the additional work that publishers do (such as copyediting) is actually important, and more so as not all researchers who publish in English have English as their first language. Relying on researchers to do their own copyediting and proofreading is foolishness, even for English-as-a-first-language researchers. Most scientists simply do not write well. Decades as a copyeditor have made this quite clear.

Goodness. I’m not a fan of calling online responses “a Twitter mob.” I think the Nature article (“Radical open-access plan could spell end to journal subscriptions”) gives plenty of reasons to think twice about Plan S, but I’ve thought the conversation around Plan S, especially at librarian conferences, was quite civil and has had nothing to do with white men or conspiracies.

Hi, Scott —

By no means am I suggesting that there has not been any constructive, civil discourse around the pros and cons of Plan S. (I think I linked to examples of some of it in my posting.) But the reactions on Twitter to which I also linked are, I think, good examples of what I would characterize as Twitter mobbing, which looks to me like it was more designed (especially in certain cases) to silence dissent rather than to engage in productive dialogue.

Rick: in the comments here you write: “This piece isn’t about people who support Plan S; it’s about people who respond to the raising of concerns about Plan S with mobbing behavior and personal attacks.” You link twice in the post itself to 2 comments I made on Twitter in what I thought was a very thoughtful and open exchange on Twitter with you, one which actually helped me to think deeper about my own thoughts on “academic freedom” relative to various reservations regarding Plan S. I have stated repeatedly in online forums that Plan S is in need of lots of dialogue, debate, and hopefully further refining, clarification, retooling, etc. I have also made it clear that I think much of the language around support for Plan S, primarily from its architects, is arrogant and tone-deaf with regard to potential criticisms. I also think those same architects have made public comments that truly denigrate researchers as a group, who’s is awful. Obviously I am an advocate for Open Access of a certain bent: preferably non-profit, researcher community-driven & built, and scholar-led. But now I’m also part of a mob who also attacks people (apparently indiscriminately and with what might be called biased prejudice) just because they have concerns about Plan S? Let me assure you that many of us who are OA proponents also have concerns about the implementation of Plan S while we are also generally in favor of initiatives that might help us to move away, in meaningful and equitable fashion, from the privatization of publicly funded research. You are right to be concerned about anyone who might want to shut down dialogue and debate around Plan S in ways that are inimical to the open and respectful exchange of ideas and opinions. But you are also mischaracterizing what might be called the full range of voices (including many researchers) supporting Plan S, or supporting with reservations (which is where I place myself), etc. My concern with arguments against Plan S have simply to do with the ways in which the term “academic freedom” is thrown around — and not very thoughtfully, in my opinion. On Twitter, I shared that in the Humanities (and also in legal studies), we now have quite a long bibliography of scholarship on all of the ways in which academic freedom is deeply misunderstood, misapplied, dematerialized / deactivated by certain forces, unavailable to so many in teaching / research lines, etc. (such that many of us just don’t believe in it or, in my own case, are working on ways to redefine and strengthen it and make it more available to more persons: that’s literally why I founded a learned society, the BABEL Working Group, a journal, postmedieval, and a press, punctum
books — all of which were founded in ways that had zero to do with open access: punctum being open access was literally an afterthought to its initial mission, which had to do with styles of academic writing in HSS and not about access to READ but about access to PUBLISH: as time went on, I started paying a lot more attention to OA as a public-interest cause, and also as a business affair). I care about academic freedom myself quite a bit (in many ways it has been the core of much of my scholarly activity as a learned society leader) and have been writing about it for years in relation to academic life, publishing, etc. long before Plan S and long before I even became active as a publisher. The term is problematic and complex — in theory, in practice, historically, from institution to institution, legally (etc.) — and it cannot be reduced, in my mind, to the freedom to publish wherever one chooses (something I essentially agree with, btw, as in: yes we should have that freedom, but we never have had it, either, partly to do with disciplinary and institutional constraints relative to how one’s career gets “made,” or not, not to mention, as Martin Eve has argued, what about my freedom to actually access research? The bottom line is: these issues are so complex!) — perhaps that could be a component of academic freedom (never to be reducible to one thing only), but my larger concern, NOT as a publisher, but as a researcher, has to do with more radically enlarging academic freedom’s franchise and in desiring those who invoke the term as sacred, important, inviolable (etc.) to please consider all of the ways academic freedom has become, not a universal right for all academics, but a privilege for the very few (and even then, in the US context at least, we have seen faculty lose their positions over their public speech acts). That’s partly why I feel the arguments that Plan S harms
academic freedom ring hollow (for me, personally). Does that mean I am part of a mob that is launching personal attacks against anyone, or any groups of persons, who don’t like Plan S? Um…no. I specifically said on Twitter that I want to see BETTER arguments that tug at the problems inherent in Plan S as it has been articulated thus far by its architects. I want more debate and more dialogue because I want to think more deeply myself about what is both good and also not so good about Plan S in its current formulations. You’ve taken my thinking on this completely out of context. I am not part of a pro-Plan S “mob.” I am someone who cares deeply about academic freedom and I want more sophisticated discussions about what it is and isn’t, what its history is (in differing national and institutional contexts), what its limitations are, who does and doesn’t have it (and why), etc. And I want to see more dialogue and debate around Plan S that is not overly simplistic and doesn’t reduce the complexities of the issues at hand to being about “just one thing,” such as an “academic freedom” assumed to mean particular choices academics can or can’t make in the publishing landscape (as if those choices aren’t already constrained by so many other factors alteady). So, in essence, you’ve mischaracterized my position and lumped me in with persons I do not want to be lumped in with. It’s sad to me that in a blog post where I believe you genuinely wanted to point out the, let’s say, unthinking and ungenerous zealotry of some of the responses to the open letter laying out concerns about Plan S (these do in fact exist!) you yourself are being ungenerous and even vituperative. Why not point to the much more thoughtful and nuanced pieces on the subject by scholars such as Martin Eve, and others? Perhaps this post is mainly intent on providing a sort of screenshot of the unfolding discourse on social media, such as a Twitter, but even there, you’ve offered a somewhat distorted picture. And it depresses me, to be honest, that I thoughtfully engaged with you in a somewhat lengthy Twitter exchange on the subject, and this is how you characterize my stance. I’m also weary of how you and other writers on this blog seem to want to divide people into camps. I am a researcher with a 20+ page cv of scholarly publications, who is also the founder of a learned society, who is also the editor of the journal for that society (published by Palgrave, a commercial
publisher), who is also an OA press director. And my press is based in a university library, which is just to say I see my own allegiances as multi-oriented and hopefully even mutually sustaining. I am not an OA “purist” and never will be. I believe both for-profit and non-profit interests can work together to create a more open and equitable ecosystem for scholarly communications. What I really care about at the end of the day though is: the creative freedom of researchers to publish exactly what they want to publish in the forms and on the platforms that serve their needs best. And one size will never fit “all” for that. If you don’t like the sledgehammers being used against critics of Plan S (I certainly don’t), please don’t use one to bludgeon others.

Hi, Eileen —

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I linked to our Twitter exchange in the context of one particular issue: the issue of accusing people of hypocrisy when they raise the issue of academic freedom in the context of Plan S. You did this repeatedly, and when I repeatedly asked you to explain why you saw the invocation of academic freedom as hypocritical (as distinct from merely wrong) you never provided an answer. Accusing those who disagree with you on this issue of hypocrisy is pretty strong stuff, and it’s particularly concerning when you can’t (or won’t) explain why you are imputing that motivation to the person with whom you disagree. I appreciate you taking the time and effort to expand on your position here in the Kitchen.

With all due respect, it’s not true I “never provided an answer.” I tried, repeatedly, and also included links to publications. Twitter has its limitations, but for anyone with a little time on their hands, it isn’t difficult to locate my many writings on Twitter and elsewhere that reveal my nuanced positions. Maybe we’re just not really listening to each other (I can be guilty of that, too), something I’ve also written about at length —

We need to take more (and slower) time to really understand multiple viewpoints. That’s precisely why I dialogued with you on Twitter because I actually cared about the exchange, even though I knew we differed on things. Not because I want to change your mind, per se, but because it’s so helpful for all of us to help each other refine our thinking. Think of all the different ways you could have written this post. I would not want you to have NOT written it because there are some valid points here. You could have resisted name-calling and characterizing scholars as mob-like, while still drawing a picture of what you believe are unfair and hasty characterizations of the open letter, while also displaying an understanding of the complex issues at stake in different ways for different constituencies, and maybe even thinking a bit deeper about some of the passions on display as well. In other words, for everyone, something is “at stake” vis a vis whatever Plan S is or isn’t. Unintentionally, your post accomplishes what you accuse others of: it’s hyperbolic and does not present an accurate picture of what’s at stake for all of the actors involved. But it isn’t just you. To one varying degree or another, the public discussions around OA right now, and more pointedly Plan S, just feel like everyone is yelling at everyone without anyone really trying to view the whole landscape both from above (global, non-partisan view) and below (on the ground, partisan views: always plural). As researchers and also as librarians, we’re supposed to dig deeper.

Hi, Eileen —

Here’s the Twitter thread in which we (along with Dale Askey and a couple of others) discussed the issue of hypocrisy and the open letter.

I genuinely can’t see where either you or he answered the question “Why is it hypocritical to invoke academic freedom in this context?” Could I ask you to restate your answer here? Sincere apologies if I’m being dense.

Hi Rick: I think my best answer is in what I initially have written here in response to your post. The thread you link to above is separate from the thread on which we initially engaged, which is here:

But even that is not my best, most full response, partly because other duties pulled me away from the conversation. And that also partly compelled me to respond more fully here. I think what likely rattled you most was my invocation of “hypocrisy,” which I would not now completely back down from, partly to do with everything I explain above, and more simply put: when I hear any researcher, or group of researchers, claiming something has harmed their academic freedom, I will admit I roll my eyes a little because these invocations often arise out of contexts in which academic freedom is too narrowly-defined and also because in my career as a faculty-researcher in the Humanities in the US context, I have seen precious few researchers take direct actions that have actually provided or helped to enable academic freedom for others, and because through their participation on tenure & promotion committees (and other bodies of professional oversight), many researchers have actually constrained academic freedom and also have punished others for trying to exercise it. It’s not fair to link to a thread that popped up *after* I left the conversation and to which I did not return (mainly because I was packing for a trip out of the country). But it’s also fair to say that in the thread I link to here, that you’re still not satisfied with my responses. Fair enough. But does that make me a hysteric zealot, then? I *did* engage with you, thoughtfully and respectfully, and even thanked you for the dialogue, and and then I get tagged as part of a zealous “mob” (etc.). Surely, you can see this isn’t fair play at all. I would blame Twitter, but I know we can all do better, and I value Twitter for the ways in which it opens up dialogue across vast geographies and disciplinary & ideological attachments in real time.

I can’t really comment on whether invoking academic freedom in other contexts is hypocritical or not; I suppose it may well be in some cases, and may not be in others. But your comment on Twitter was very clearly made in the context of our discussion of Plan S and was clearly intended to characterize the signatories of the open letter. Here it is again:

“To sum up my own perspective, I don’t think #Plan_S is perfect & there needs to be further debate and dialogue vis-a-vis its implementation, monitoring, etc. but as soon as someone invokes ‘academic freedom’ as an argument against it, all I can think is: hypocrisy.”

I can’t think of a way to interpret that comment except as “bringing up academic freedom as an argument against Plan S is an act of hypocrisy,” which clearly means that those who do invoke that argument are being hypocritical. Is there another way to read it? If you really are saying that objecting to Plan S on the basis of academic freedom is hypocritical, then it seems like I accurately represented your position in my posting. (Which is not to say that I characterized you, either explicitly or implicitly, as a “hysteric zealot.” I did not, and I would not. Nor did I say you failed to engage with me. I only said you didn’t answer the question “Why is is hypocritical to bring up academic freedom in the context of Plan S?”)

If, however, you don’t believe that it’s hypocritical to bring up academic freedom in the context of objecting to Plan S, then please feel free to clarify that here.

Rick: in all honesty, I think you have summed up my stance fairly well, which has been well-earned, in my opinion, in almost 30 years of life as an academic researcher and also as someone who helped serve in administrative and leadership roles when I was still attached to an academic department. And I am perfectly okay if we disagree about this, but it would be nice to think that my arguments have some validity, as do yours in response! That’s why I really believe you and others can help me refine my thinking on this, even if we continue to disagree on all sorts of things. I think the characterization of my stance in the initial blog post here is uncharitable, at the least, and also simply doesn’t do justice to the complexity of my thinking (which isn’t really your fault so much as the fault of the medium and my own ability to be responsive enough, or not). I would like to think that I could have the opportunity to illustrate some of the ways in which, yes, as you put it, “[I] really [am] saying that objecting to Plan S on the basis of academic freedom is hypocritical,” without being painted as being part of an hysterical, zealous, paranoid mob. As I shared above, in my career in the Academy (writ large across institutions, learned societies, and the like), I have mainly witnessed researchers constraining each other’s freedom of expression. The examples are legion and it would be exhausting to list all of them here. It begins in graduate school and never ends, and that is part of the reason I gave up my tenured position, so I could be free of those constraints and pursue exactly the work I want to pursue and to also help others pursue the work they want to pursue. I’m trying here to share with you what my experience has been (and I’m not alone, by a long shot, and so many articles and books have been written on this…so many…id est, about the ethical bankruptcy of academic freedom within the Academy) and why that would lead me to say that if someone (anyone, any group of someones, etc.) invokes academic freedom as something that Plan S could harm, I’m actually okay with calling that out as hypocrisy, and I believe all of my comments so far on this post (I hope) make clear why I feel that way. In no way would I want to launch any sort of ad hominem attack against the writers and signatories of the open letter, by the way; more so, I’m saying something to the authors/signers like: hang on a minute: when was the last time you really, really cared about academic freedom and even risked something professionally for someone else’s academic freedom? Does your definition of academic freedom extend beyond simply your so-called right to publish wherever you choose, and if so, what else does it cover, and what direct actions have you taken in your career to ensure that others can exercise this freedom. I suspect some of them have done some good things in that regard, but at the same time, many if not all of them have wittingly or unwittingly participated in protocols of professional oversight where another scholar’s freedoms have been curtailed, denied, suppressed, etc. It’s really a philosophical and practical matter for me, simultaneously. These are not silly or uncaring or unfairly mean-spirited questions. This doesn’t make me part of a mob that is supposedly unthinkingly lobbing grenades at the writers and signatories of the open letter. We are also all hypocrites in one way or another — it’s just human nature, because we’re contradictory beings. I have passionate feelings on this subject of academic freedom, having spent close to 30 years thinking about it (seriously). I don’t take the term or its invocation lightly. The bottom line is: because of my experience in academic life, no one is going to get me to be against Plan S because of its supposed threats to academic freedom. I have yet to see most academics actually care enough about academic freedom that they brought about a transformation of institutional life that actually brought more freedom and also job security (upon which that freedom depends) to more persons, and thus the academic freedom argument against Plan S doesn’t move me, rings hollows, an even makes me depressed about the future of scholarly communications. I don’t see how any of that makes me part of a zealous, unthinking mob.

So would it be fair to summarize your position this way?: “It’s hypocritical to invoke academic freedom as an argument against Plan S unless one has worked to preserve the academic freedom of others than oneself.”

In “Democratising Knowledge: a report on the scholarly publisher, Elsevier,” the recommended “strategic approaches” in regards to academic freedom include “criteria for career advancement that recognise Open Access and open scholarship at a national and institutional level.” In the Chronicle article “Great Shame of Our Profession” the recommended action to help academic freedom is to lessen adjunct professor jobs. Deciding on whether Plan S will help or hinder academic freedom depends on these funders and how they choose what researchers to fund.
Rick, in retrospect, I’d like to see you go back to talking about Plan S in a rigorous way and let the tweets speak for themselves.

Yes, kind of. Or something like, it’s hypocritical to be against Plan S on the grounds that it limits academic freedom if you are also currently participating in or indifferent to institutional and professional protocols that limit academic freedom.

Got it, thanks. So, in this context I think it’s a good idea to remember that when people participate in or are indifferent to “professional protocols that limit academic freedom,” it’s possible that they simply see the issue differently than you do. They may not agree with you that the protocols in question really do limit academic freedom, or that the limitations are significant enough to worry about — or, at least, that those limitations are as significant as, say, a limitation that reduces their available publishing outlets by 85%. In other words, what looks like hypocrisy to you may actually be principled disagreement on the issue. That’s one reason why I think it’s a good idea to try to avoid getting angry when people bring up academic freedom in the context of an issue like Plan S.

The title of this article is misleading and I find it very irresponsible coming from someone in a position such as the author is, as the Associate Dean for Collections & Scholarly Communication in the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah.

The title blatantly puts forward the impression that everyone who disagrees with those who have expressed concerns about Plan S views them as “Irresponsible, Privileged, Conspiratorial Hypocrite(s)”. The body of the article continues this position where Mr. Anderson writes “Unfortunately, defending Plan S is a goal that apparently justifies any behavior, no matter how misleading, personally nasty, or even counterfactual it has to be”.

In fact, Mr. Anderson is only writing about the behaviour of a Twitter mob.

I believe that Mr. Anderson misses the opportunity to write about the nuanced arguments for and against Plan S, instead opting to write this sensationalized piece. I note that he excerpts a single comment from Jean-Claude Guedon regarding Plan S, when Mr. Guedon (along with many other members of the publishing and library communities) has put forward solid arguments for supporting Plan S, including addressing the issue of academic freedom. I have read some of the exchanges between Mr. Anderson and Mr. Guedon and others in some forums, so I believe that Mr. Anderson is aware of the broader arguments and their full context.

As an early career librarian, I am extremely disappointed – for me this is an approach on par with the behaviour of the Twitter trolls who Mr. Anderson quite rightly berates in the article.

Mr. Anderson has written here and elsewhere, such as Inside HigherEd about Plan S and open access mandates, the issues raised for academic freedom, and the spectrum of power over authors from both publishers, institutions and funders. Within this article he states “Ultimately, though, what is most concerning about Plan S is not the behavior of those hell-bent on defending it by any means necessary. That’s just par for the course. More important is the way in which researchers themselves — the people whose work and whose freedom to choose will be directly affected by its implementation — seem to have been excluded from the process of formulating it.”

If Mr. Anderson truly believes that, I wonder why he chose to concentrate on the behaviour of the Twitter mob and indeed to suggest by the title and tone of this article that such behaviour is representative of all defenders of Plan S (a dubious claim), rather than what he characterizes as the more important issue of author representation in framing policy mandates?

Academic freedom, I suppose.

Thanks for your feedback, Willa. I certainly didn’t intend to convey the impression that everyone who disagrees with the open letter shares the views expressed by the Twitter mob whose behavior I documented in this piece. And in fact, I did share numerous examples of people engaging with the objections to Plan S in a reasonable and fact-based way (see the string of links provided in the sentence directly under the photo near the top of my posting).

And of course, the fact that I quoted Jean-Claude Guédon in a moment of what I characterized as “gaslighting” regarding Plan S should not be taken as an indication that such gaslighting represents the entirety of his arguments in favor of Plan S. But by the same token, the fact that he has said some reasonable things about Plan S does not excuse the gaslighting.

Thanks for responding Rick. I acknowledge that the links are there. I’m documenting on the impression the article conveyed to me.

One of the issues I have with publishing whether subscription based or open, is careful consideration on what is put out there, whether it is necessary and productive, and whether it is put out in a productive or destructive manner. Open Access itself has had the consequence, whether intended or not, of replicating and perhaps exacerbating the phenomenon of volume vs value, which already existed in traditional publishing. Perhaps because one of the causes of the problem – the prestige economy of scholarship and the pressure to publish, is not addressed by OA (but that’s a whole other topic.

To get back a bit closer to the issue at hand, frankly, when it comes to open access it’s clear that we (the community) are still figuring it out. However, at times the discussions start to remind me of US politics – ever increasing debate, rhetoric and polarization of positions.

In your response, you say that the fact that Guédon has said some reasonable things about Plan S does not excuse the gaslighting. I’m not going to argue with that statement (although I’m not sure I agree with the characterization of his comment as gaslighting, I think it was too broad a statement and I believe in response to him you put forward how you saw Plan S as dictating where authors can publish.) By the same token though I would ask whether the posting of links to examples of reasonable debate over Plan S, excuses the way that this article characterizes persons who defend Plan S.

I’m new to this. I’m not an expert. I’m barely out of graduate school. Perhaps I’m really not in a position to read an article and ask “was that really necessary?”. However, the reason I ask is that I’m searching for a forum where the people on both sides, who are actually quite intelligent and all have legitimate concerns and contributions to make, work together and try to find a sustainable model for scholarly publishing that meets the needs of all stakeholders, instead of just arguing with each other.

These are really thoughtful and helpful comments, Willa, thank you. And I want to emphasize that I think it’s always appropriate for you to ask questions like “Was that really necessary?” after reading an article, whether by me or anyone else.

I share your desire for calm, rational discourse regarding open access and scholarly communication generally. If you’re interested, I would love to talk further about what a forum for such discussion might look like. Maybe a new listserv organized with an explicit expectation that it will serve as a forum for open and mutually-respectful discussion of these issues? If you’re interested in discussing further, let’s talk.

The only other thing I want to say is that I don’t believe my article paints with a broad brush everyone who defends Plan S. It certainly wasn’t my intention to do so; my concern here was specifically with those who attack anyone who raises concerns. I tried to make that as clear as I could, but one never does that perfectly. (Or I don’t, anyway.)

Thank you for listening Rick. I am always hesitant about posting in online forums for a variety of reasons, so I appreciate you taking the time to engage with me. I am definitely interested in continuing the discussion and I will send you an email.

Dear Rick, thanks for your interesting post, but how exactly did you come to the conclusion that this particular “twitter mob” is nearly 100% white males?

Such racial\sexual profiling does indeed look very strange on a scholarly-themed website, as was mentioned earlier in the thread.

My conclusion was based on information provided by the members of the Twitter mob in their Twitter profiles.Their names and photographs generally make it quite clear that they’re white males, so no racial or sexual profiling was necessary.

So, after all of this dialogue, I’m still part of a Twitter mob, and my response to the open letter’s use of the term “academic freedom” is based in “anger,” something that should (apparently) be avoided. Rick: correct me if I’m wrong, but did you just sum up everything I’ve said here as “anger” that should be “avoided”? Am I still part of a Twitter “mob”? Speaking of which, many of the comments in this thread re: Twitter and researchers on Twitter are so prejudicial and biased, it kind of takes my breath away. For example:

“Because there are some in the community with seemingly unlimited time to spend on social media, they tend to dominate the conversation. Those who spend their time doing their research/science rather than Tweeting tend to not have their views represented.”

This is flat out, 100% inaccurate and misleading. Some of the most prolific tweeters in my own research specialties — premodern studies and cultural studies — are also among the most prolific scholars in those fields. Same goes for Open Science advocates, especially those based in Europe. Martin Eve is on Twitter every day advocating for Open Access, he helped to create and co-manages Open Library of Humanities, builds software like Janeway, and before the age of 30 has produced more articles and books and white papers in multiple fields than anyone I know. There are so many examples I could provide, but I won’t. It’s called being a public intellectual. The majority of this comment thread reeks of smug condescension. Can we do better please?

Yes we can and we should. Since I adopted the phrase “Twitter mob” in my own response, without taking the time to deconstruct it and understand the nuances of the many persons posting on the issue Twitter, I apologize, and I thank you for your input here.

Rick: correct me if I’m wrong, but did you just sum up everything I’ve said here as “anger” that should be “avoided”?

Not intentionally, Eileen, and I apologize for giving that impression. When I mentioned “avoid(ing) getting angry” I was referring back specifically to this tweet in which you said “Rick: you’re hitting at the crux of what is really angering some of us who are paying close attention to Plan S & all of the conversations around it.” I obviously should have made that reference more explicit.

As for the quote you provided from elsewhere in this comment thread: I can’t respond on behalf of others who have contributed to this conversation, but I hope they will do so.

It was my comment and I’ll largely stand behind it. Because one can name a handful of researcher who are both on Twitter and prolific, out of the millions of active researchers on earth, does not suggest that my statement was wrong. Researchers are increasingly under more and more time pressure as the requirements of their jobs continue to increase. Clearly, if only 1%-5% of them are active on Twitter, it stands to reason that the majority have chosen (or been forced by other pressing needs) to spend their time elsewhere.

And I’m not sure I’d agree that publishing lots of papers is a good measure of the quality of a researcher’s work.


for the sake of time and space, I provided *one* example of a prolific and hard-working researcher who is also prolific on social media (and I pointed more generally to “many” others in my own fields, without naming names). There are many that I could name, especially from my own more narrowly-defined field of medieval studies, but I don’t want to get dragged into these sorts of “my examples” versus “your numbers” sort of argument. What I can say is that I have found so much useful dialogue on social media that has helped me to improve my own thinking on so many subjects and which has led to actual collaborations and new research projects and publications and new conferences, etc. This reminds me so much of the early days of blogging when practically everyone in my own primary research field (again, medieval studies), initially, and especially from the more conservative corners of the field, made these arguments (which turned out, in the main, to be just plain wrong): (1) Writing on blogs is not “real scholarship”; (2) scholars who blog have too much time on their hands that should be devoted to working on “real scholarship” and therefore their scholarship must be weak or non-existent; (3) blogging is just “bloviating” and is a waste of time that would better be devoted to “real scholarship”; and (4) scholars who are successful bloggers are just slickly super-adept at manipulating social media forums, which is a cover for the fact that there is no substance beneath their “blather.” And to your comment re: “publishing lots of papers” is not a “good measure of the quality of a researcher’s work,” especially relative to my example, Martin Eve, I can only say: wow. The most prolific researchers in my most adjacent fields (medieval studies, early modern studies, scholarly communications, cultural studies) produce brilliant research with broad impact in their respective fields. Remember, please, that I work primarily in the Humanities and Scholarly Communications (and I don’t think the viewpoints of humanities researchers are represented here very often or even within broader conversations around Open Access and Scholarly Communications, which tends to be dominated by scientists and social scientists, for good reasons: we humanists lag a bit behind in these conversations, and there are reasons for that with which I think the chefs and audience of SK are pretty familiar). If there are scientists out there producing tons of crap research, I don’t know about them. In the Humanities, I would be hard pressed to identify prolific researchers whose publications are sub-par (I’m sure we could find a handful, but the point is: they are in the minority).

Since you guys love numbers so much, why don’t you provide some numbers relative to the open letter expressing concerns about Plan S, to which I was initially responding on Twitter? Here’s my rudimentary math based on comments on this blog post, but please do correct them, because I honestly don’t know the real figures or where to find them:

1,400+ signatories on the open letter expressing reservations about Plan S

“millions of active researchers on earth”

What percentage of all the researchers in the world do the active researchers represented in open letter represent, then?

To be honest with you, this kind of numbers game doesn’t move me at all. what I hold as a cherished, humanist value: listening to others, regardless of their majority or minority position. Indeed, it is critical to listen to those who may in fact hold a very minority position within any broader discipline or professional association. I don’t really want an answer to this question because it pulls against what I myself have been very well-known for, for years: helping to write open letters (often of a “protest” nature) in medieval studies, some of which have been very effective and some of which were just “statements” that had a certain effect on the discourse but did not necessarily change the situation(s) they were addressing. I always knew that no matter how many signatures any of these letters acquired, they never represented the entire field or even what might be called a super-majority of the field, but they could still be taken seriously as interventions into disciplinary-specific debates and crises, and they always helped to spur further dialogue and debate that was critically useful to the field’s self-definitions, future directions, etc. This is just my way of saying that I myself would never apply this sort of math to the authors and signatories of the open letter as a way of dismissing their concerns. NEVER. I wouldn’t need more than 500 or signatures to take the concerns of the letter seriously, and I do take the concerns of the open letter seriously, or else I would not have responded to it at all. I therefore stand by my criticism that this comment thread’s dismissal of social media discourse — as both dominated by scholars who must not be very good scholars, as well as simply not worth listening to because the scholars on social media represent too small a fraction of their respective fields — to be condescending and strangely unaware of the value of public intellectual discourse, wherever it unfolds, and whichever voices it comprises. That doesn’t mean, of course, that there are never bad actors on social media, or that some voices dominate too much over others (I have complained about this myself), but I am still despairing over the lack of generous thought and dialogue on this blog post and subsequent comment thread. As I wrote in 2013 in a blog essay on “generous reading”:

“…we have some responsibility for the development of each other’s thought, not in order to help shape it in order to align it with our own (in some happy consensus model), but to be willing to enter into the other’s provocations without a desire for being sovereign in the encounter, which, of necessity, will always be difficult.”

I’m listening. Are you? Or is this just about who has the best argument, and the best numbers?

Hi Eileen,

Let me try to clarify a bit.

As someone who spends a lot of time on social media, and who also regularly attends publishing meetings and library meetings throughout the year, I find that one of the most valuable, and most humbling things that I can do is to also schedule significant time with working researchers. And when I do so (and I work with a range of fields, from history to cancer biology), I find that very few (if any) are actively engaged in the sorts of issues that publishers and librarians agonize over, or that are often the subject of great commotion on Twitter. Researchers, in my experience, are largely interested in doing research. Anything outside of the research itself, particularly publication, is a distraction, time spent away from what they really want to be doing, discovering new things. Most give very little thought to the publication process when not actively writing up and submitting a paper. Very few could tell you how the Impact Factor is derived, let alone why it is a flawed metric.

I am not making any claims that conversations on social media are without value (given that I run a blog, this would be — sorry to use a loaded word here — hypocritical). But in my experience trying to recruit authors for this blog, I have found that different media attracts different types of people. Some people love blogging and find it’s an incredibly useful tool for clarifying one’s thoughts and communicating with colleagues. Others find it tedious and a waste of time, or even impossible to write in such a manner. Back in the “every researcher is going to start blogging” days, I argued that those of us who enjoy blogging are few and far between, and over the last decade, have largely been proven right. Twitter requires less time commitment, but it still attracts a small subset of the population for whom it is a desirable medium (326M total users serving what is described as a “narrow niche”

I use Twitter all the time though, and find it an incredibly useful tool for gathering information. But I use it with great skepticism. As I noted in another comment, we live in a world of filter bubbles. Sometimes it can be helpful (and often comforting) to find the company of like-minded folks. But it is also dangerous to assume that what “everybody I talk to says” or “everyone on my feed thinks” is representative of the world outside one’s bubble.

I very much agree with you that the 1,400 signatories of the anti-Plan S letter is not a particularly significant number. It might mean more if all signatories were from the small percentage of researchers covered by Plan S funders, but it appears to be signed by many from non-Plan S countries. It’s much less than Tim Gowers anti-Elsevier open letter, which didn’t really have any real world impact. What I suspect it is indicative of, is that very few researchers are following the story and many are going to be very surprised when the policy goes into effect and they are effectively banned from 85% of the journals in which they are used to publishing.

My concern, going back to my first comment, is that many are not seeing past their own filter bubbles. I do my best regularly to read the writings of those I disagree with and it saddens me to see so many publishing advocates instantaneously dismiss anything written in The Scholarly Kitchen solely because of the source of the material. Being forced to think, and to defend one’s own position against someone who believes the contrary is always a good way to strengthen one’s own argument.

There is a fine line that comes with rigorous online conversation and debate. It is often difficult to separate out the argument from one’s personal feelings. As someone who has authored a decent number of research papers and been a journal editor in chief, this is also a common problem during the peer review process. It’s really hard for most authors to not take criticisms personally. I always advise authors to read their peer reviews, and then to walk away, and not respond to them for at least 24 hours so they have some time to let those initial emotional responses simmer down. But that’s not really the way that instantaneous social media like Twitter or Facebook works. It is designed, in many ways, to inflame and to outrage, because that drives engagement and hence, advertising dollars (I struggle with the long term validity of any medium where what you see is largely controlled by advertising spend).

Given the character limits and the built-in emotional flames of Twitter, I’m not sure I can see it as a useful forum for serious debate. That’s probably why, after all these years I’ve stuck with blogging, as the longer form writing allows for deeper expression of thought. Either medium attracts the use of only a small percentage of the population, both as authors and readers. I learn a lot from Twitter, but I would never say that because a relatively small number of researchers on Twitter are talking about some aspect of publishing, that their opinions are representative of the research community as a whole (just as one should never read any Scholarly Kitchen post and think that the opinion voiced is representative of anyone other than the author).

And to comment on paper counts as a metric – this would be a disastrous measure of researcher productivity, even worse than our current awful metrics. For every prolific author on Twitter that you could name, I could likely find 10, if not 100 or 1000 in the same field just as prolific and not on Twitter. If one were judged solely on the number of papers published, you’d see even more salami-slicing than goes on now. We want authors to write fewer, better papers with more meaningful results, rather than lots and lots of fluff. If it’s of interest, a study was recently done on “hyper-prolific” authors, including some who publish a paper every five days:

I appreciate your response, David. Because I am heading to a 3-day retreat in the outer wilds of New Zealand, I’m going to (mainly) be offline (hopefully) for the next 3 days, so don’t take my relative silence from herein out as anything except that I need to take my holiday more seriously (smile).

“The theme of conspiracy emerged even more explicitly among other tweeters: “Do they have shares in the publishing companies?” asks one (the original in Portuguese), while another wants to know “which vested interests” are behind the letter, and another accuses the letter writers of “collusion.” Still another tweeter charges Kamerlin with “doing precisely the dirt job Elsevier can’t do openly.””


The language in the original tweet you mentioned in the extract above is Spanish, not Portuguese.

Right you are, André — thanks for catching that. I’ve corrected the post accordingly.

This is the issue trust in those who declares that they are leaders in promoting OA idea (OASPA). We know that among members of OASPA there are several which are quite questionable with regard to ethics. Yes, Beall’s list of predatory publishers contains some of them, and OASPA always tried to ignore this fact. But finally, look at the recent case. This is a smaller Publisher accepted to OASPA recently This Publisher in the Bealls list too. OASPA ignores this fact. Let it be, but what a paradox that journals of this publisher were removed by DOAJ from DOAJ journal list a year ago (October 24, 2017). The reason was serious – Editorial misconduct by the Publisher. OASPA and DOAJ declared in August 2018 that they both combine its efforts about new applications by the journals and Publisher. And what do we have now? DOAJ removes the journals of the Publisher, and at the same time this Publisher is accepted by OASPA!!! Such cases can distrust OASPA and finally, the lack of accountability inside of DOAJ and OASPA will make both distrusted too. So, we should rely not on OASPA and similar promoters, but on the growing movement of scholars worldwide toward OA.

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