“EOS” Exposed!

Rick Anderson: “Stevan, is it really true that any institution can join the EOS? According to the webpage, membership is “available to approved institutions” (emphasis mine). I assume that EOS itself does the approving — is that correct? And if so, that means that it’s not really true that “any institution can join,” is it?”

Ok. You caught me, Rick! I guess I’ll have to ‘fess up now: EOS is a secret organization whose true goals I am not at liberty to divulge. The approval of the approved institutions (just a small subset of the many who have applied for approval across the years) is done by an invisible college whose identities are all classified, along with the identities of the institutions and the true goal of the organization, but if you make a formal FOI request it might be possible to provide you with an edited transcript of the list (with identities coded for confidentiality).

Rick Anderson: “Stevan, Is it really true that the EOS is “public”? I don’t see any list of its members anywhere on the site. (If I’m missing it, please do provide a link.) I would assume that an organization that is “public” (as distinct from a “secret society,” the term at which you took such umbrage) would at the very least make its institutional membership a matter of public record, wouldn’t it?”

You’re right again, Rick. EOS is indeed not public: It is a secret society whose true purposes (which have no relation to what it says on the website) I am not free to reveal.

Rick Anderson: “And does the EOS really make all of its documents public? On the site I see a small list of briefing papers — are those the only documents the organization has produced? No minutes, no agendas, no other documents that would normally characterize the work of an organization committed to transparency and public openness?”

I’m truly embarrassed now, Rick. Fact is, you’ve got me again! The documents on the website have nothing to do with the true objectives and activities of EOS. We do have minutes and agendas, but those are all confidential (especially our true goals) as we are in fact not committed to transparency and public openness — or, for that matter, to openness of any kind.

[Please get out the clippers. Many quotes here suitable for clipping and using in the context of your choice, Rick!]

Rick Anderson: “To be clear, the EOS is under no more obligation to be public and transparent in its work than any other organization is — this isn’t about legal or ethical obligation. It’s just about commitment to principles of openness and transparency.”

You’re quite right Rick, and I’m really grateful to you (and to Richard too) for giving me this opportunity to unburden my conscience, which has been weighed down for years with remorse about all the play-acting we’ve been doing. Indeed Yuletide is almost the optimal moment for at last coming clean about this shabby business. (I can think of only one early spring date that might have been even better.)

Congratulations on your successful sleuthing! You have both (and of course the intrepid PMR too!) performed an invaluable service to the academic community and the public at large for unmasking this sordid affair. Please do keep up the courageous and insightful work in the service of openness, transparency and verity. In the world we live in today, one can’t be too careful.

“Stevan Harnad”

Instalment #2 (2015/12/28)


Despite the season, I am beginning to take a less jolly view of this exchange than Bernard Rentier does (if only because I have been less successful in my planned holiday catch-up than I had hoped, which makes the diminishing returns from this sort of dawdling increasingly diminutive).

In particular, although the suspicions about EOS were silly from the get-go — they didn’t even have the elementary support of a putative motive that even amateur detective novels know they need in order to generate suspicion — they seem now to have sunk into abject absurdity. Levity is clearly unavailing to restore common sense, so let me provide a motive (in fact three) — not for the suspected lack-of-transparency on the part of the suspects, but for the suspiciousness on the part of the sleuths:

(1) For PMR the motive is an inordinate fondness for open data, even if it is at odds with OA — a motive EOS clearly does not share.

(2) For RA the motive is unfondness of OA itself, which EOS again clearly cannot share (I won’t venture an ulterior motive for RA’s unfondness).

(3) For RP the motive is seasonal shortage of substance.

So let me propose three topics of substance, any of which would make a jolly basis for seasonal discussion in “Open and Shut”:

I. Can anyone provide a substantive link between the need for open access to published, peer-reviewed research and the need for peer review reform?

II. Can anyone provide a substantive link between the need for open access to published, peer-reviewed research and the need for academic freedom?

III. Can anyone provide a substantive link between the need for open access to published, peer-reviewed research and the need for freedom of information?

(And can anyone still remember what the words “access to research” meant before they somehow got conflated with re-use rights or with “transparency”?)

I’ve been on this ride a long time now but I can’t help noting that as we get exercised over all these other worthy matters, we are still rather far from having open access to published, peer-reviewed research…