‘PR pit bull’ to take on open access?

January 25th, 2007 by Kaitlin Thaney

Nature – a for-profit publisher – has learned that a group of big scientific publishers has hired Eric Dezenhall – known as the “pit bull of public relations” – to take on the open-access movement.

This eye-opening article, entitled “PR’s ‘pit bull’ takes on open access”, was authored by Nature‘s Jim Giles and published online January 24.

Dezenhall, author of Nail ‘Em! Confronting High-Profile Celebrities and Businesses, is more widely known for his work protecting and un-tarnishing companies and celebrities’ reputations. As reported in Business Week, Dezenhall used money from ExxonMobile to fight the environmental group Greenpeace, as well as worked for former Enron chief Jeffrey Skilling, who is now serving a 24-year sentence for fraud.

According to e-mails passed to Nature, Dezenhall employees spoke to employees from Elsevier, Wiley and the Association of American Publishers, who appear to be exploring extreme measures to help reinstate their livelihood, which they claim open access publishers have stripped away.

Giles writes:

“A follow-up message in which Dezenhall suggests a strategy for the publishers provides some insight into the approach they are considering taking.

The consultant advised them to focus on simple messages, such as ‘Public access equals government censorship’. He hinted that the publishers should attempt to equate traditional publishing models with peer review, and ‘paint a picture of what the world would look like without peer-reviewed articles’.

Dezenhall also recommended joining forces with groups that may be ideologically opposed to government-mandated projects such as PubMed Central, including organizations that have angered scientists. One suggestion was the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank based in Washington DC, which has used oil industry money to promote sceptical views on climate change. Dezenhall estimated his fee for the campaign at $300,000 – 500,000.”

To read this article in full, click here. And, thanks to Nature, this article is freely available to non-subscribers.

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