The 2004 Inquiry was remarkable for a number of reasons, not least the way in which it managed to explore a deeply divisive issue in an independent and fair-minded way, despite intense lobbying from all sides.
This independence was all the more striking given that the Inquiry was itself a response to lobbying by OA publishers, origins that gave rise to a great deal of paranoid speculation.
On discovering that the Inquiry was a product of behind-the-scenes agitation by OA publishers, for instance, subscription publishers became extremely jumpy, fearful that it could lead to government intervention that would impact negatively on their profits. In their turn, OA advocates became increasingly concerned that the Select Committee did not understand the issues, and that the Inquiry was therefore in the process of being “captured” by subscription publishers.
The widening suspicion led to a great many rumours and conspiracy theories. When publishing consultant David Worlock was appointed as “specialist adviser” to the Committee, for instance, OA advocates assumed that his appointment had been masterminded by subscription publishers, with the aim of ensuring that the Committee ended up concluding that the status quo should not be disrupted.
What those outside the Committee and its support staff did not know, however, was that Worlock’s appointment was in part a tactical move intended to act as a counterweight to the fact that the Inquiry had been triggered by lobbying from OA publishers. Likewise, they did not know that another (more OA friendly) specialist had been interviewed for the position, but that the Committee had been more impressed by Worlock.
Those caught up in the rumour mill also failed to appreciate that the role of a specialist adviser is not to provide opinions, draw conclusions, or write reports, but solely to offer insights and contacts based on their expertise.
In this case, it was felt necessary to appoint an adviser because the Committee members had no personal experience of the publishing industry. As such, they needed someone with the necessary knowledge to answer the practical questions that they had about it.
When recruiting advisers, select committee staff consult with in-house specialists, and then call up people in the field to ask for suggestions.