Although I frequently josh the OpenAccess!!!!111!!!!111!!!! crowd I am careful to note that I agree with the sentiment that as much science as possible should be readily available to the world audience. I applauded the move by the NIH and other funding agencies to require that manuscripts produced under their grant awards be placed in the PubMed Central repository. This last point is actually pertinent to today's discussion.
Are unusual efforts to keep science secret a violation of these publication rules? In spirit if not in actual point of law?
A few colleagues and I have been discussing some highly important RULZ sent out by an academic society at the opening of their annual meeting. The short version is: NO BLOGGING!!!!!
Now there was actually a lengthy set of remarks sent by the organization in question "reminding" their members that the society name could not be used
in vain without permission in any press releases. But, and I kid you not, the opening premise was that they got wind that some "organization" had tried to get someone to blog the meeting. (No, I have nothing to do with this, Dear Reader, in case you were wondering.) Hmm. Ok, I will admit I know nothing about press rules but I am aware that lots of "events" control who does and does not get a Press Pass.
It is also the case that, just as with your stadium rock show, academic society annual meetings tend to have a lot of boilerplate rules prohibiting video recording or photographing any part of the meeting. That's right, your proud picture next to your first poster evah! is illegal. So is the shot of your academic family you take every year when gathered next to a poster of your BigShot academic parent's latest grad student.
However, my question on this topic would be on the science publications, meaning the content of the presentations. For most meetings we consider poster or platform presentations to be a type of publication of the information. Citable publication even, whether the abstracts are published in a normal print journal or not. It is less common now but in older literature you will find citations in print journals which refer to work "published" in the Society For Neuroscience Abstract Book. By convention the scientific information is expected to be discussed back at the lab in lab meeting reports on the meeting. To facilitate this, many people hand out miniature copies of their posters freely.
Now, new technologies and whatnot always pose problems for bureaucratic structures and they tend to be reflexively "agin' it!" whenever something new pops up. Blogging is still relatively new but there has been a fair bit of live-blogging or post-blogging of science meetings. I've been known to put up a meeting post or two myself. As far as I know, most academic societies do not crack down on blogging the meetings. Have they simply not caught on in any official capacity? Or do they realize that they can't do anything about it, it's a good thing for science and ultimately good PR for their meetings?
Well, at least one academic society has decided to be reflexively against blogging.
My question is whether one thinks that this violates the NIH directive that PIs need to put their published work into PubMed central. Obviously there is a letter-of-the-law difference between print publication and poster presentation but the spirit is the same. If we consider meeting presentations to be publication of information then why shouldn't this be required to be openly available as well? If this approach is granted, what about the embargo interval? With print journals the idea is that you have to give the publisher an interval of exclusive marketing to keep up sales. What about meetings? The "sale" is the meeting registration. Already a done deal by the time the poster is presented. So the embargo should be what? Two hours? One day? Post-meeting?