Wanna help run a major University – apply for this job

U. C. Davis, where I am a faculty, is recruiting nominations and applications for “PROVOST AND EXECUTIVE VICE CHANCELLOR.” So if you are itching for something new out there, and think you have what it takes, consider applying.

Oh, and hopefully, from my point of view, you will be more supportive of Open Access publishing than our interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, Barbara Horwitz (see here and here for more on her position on Open Access).

Let me state first, that I realize that Open Access is not the only important thing in the world and that there are many kinds of OA and furthermore that some people may generally support OA but may be worried about how to get there (e.g., see Timo Hannay’s discussion of some of his concerns about doing full OA here ).

And Dr. Horwitz has done some quite good things in other aspects of her job. But her more recent foray into the OA debate was so icky, so misleading, that I am really hoping she does not become full time provost and furthermore that whomever does has a different take on the whole thing.

What was it that raised my ire? Well, she was directly involved in what could be considered a bit of a test run of the ideas behind PRISM, the much panned “coalition” against open access. I wrote about the PRISM-esque test run by Horwitz and colleagues here. In summary, she and a group of other anti-OA advocates wrote a letter stating their PRISM-esque objections to the OA movement. For example here is one of their PRISM-esque quotes

“The free posting of unedited author manuscripts by government agencies threatens the integrity of the scientific record, potentially undermines the publisher peer review process, and is not a smart use of funds that could be better used for research.”

Ooh you say — a letter — what’s the big deal. Well, the ten people who wrote the letter wrote it as individuals, but then a PRISM-esque anti OA group wrote a press release wherein they referred to the people who wrote the letters as “University Officials” which they were (all were deans, provosts, etc) and how University Officials were against OA. This was clearly done to give the impression that the Universities themselves were against OA, which was not true. And this misleading presentation was clearly done in collaboration with the letter writers. So Horwitz and crowd allowed the fact that they were University officials to be used to mislead people into thinking that their opinions were POSITIONS of the university.

Horwitz is welcome to her opinions and I agree with Timo Hannay that we need a fair and measured debate about OA (although I think he goes overboard in dinging people for being a bit agressive in their blog commentaries about it — this is after all what makes blogs a bit fun). But let’s not abuse our positions of authority and responsibility within the University to mislead about our positions. And just because we have a pleasant debate does not mean I will support an anti OA advocate to help run UC Davis, not that I have much say in the matter.

But given that U. C. Davis is strong and getting stronger in the sciences means that one key aspect of the recruitment of a new Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor should be how they stand on scientific publishing.

Author: Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis

3 thoughts on “Wanna help run a major University – apply for this job”

  1. What’s Horwitz’s financial angle on this? While plenty of people are (unfortunately) apathetic on the open access issue, it seems that the only people who feel strongly supportive of the closed access model have ties to publishers. “Follow the money” as Deep Throat said.


  2. Well, following the money is sometimes hard to do. And I am not suggesting Horwitz has any financial ties to anti OA groups. But she certainly has direct connections – she was president of the American Physiological Society and of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, both of which have been against OA publishing.


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