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Academics call for boycott of Elsevier

Academics have called for a boycott of publisher Elsevier, saying it is involved in "the exploitation of a monopoly position" in overcharging for its online journals. But the publisher has said they have got their facts wrong and asked them to reconsider. 

Over 2,000 academics and researchers thus far have signed a petition supporting a boycott, on www.thecostofknowledge.com, on the grounds that the publisher charges "exorbitantly high prices" for journals, and adopts the practice of selling journals in bundles, so "libraries must buy a large set with many unwanted journals, or none at all". The petition also protests against Elsevier's support of measures such as the Research Works Act that "aim to restrict the free exchange of information". 

Signatories include academics from leading universities across the world including Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, Harvard, McGill, University College London and University College Dublin. 

Tim Worstall, a fellow at London's Adam Smith Institute, writing in a blog on Forbes.com, said the publisher had "leveraged" its ownership of papers from the last 50 to 60 years into the power to make college libraries pay "eyewatering" amounts for subscriptions. He said the petition, and further blogs on the topic, will "lead to some fairly major changes in the way that Elsevier is able to run its journal publishing division. At least, I rather hope so, for the entire cost base and financial structure is outmoded in this internet age". 

British mathematician Tim Gowers has stated his plan to boycott the publisher, saying: "I am not only going to refuse to have anything to do with Elsevier journals from now on, but I am saying so publicly. I am by no means the first person to do this, but the more of us there are, the more socially acceptable it becomes." 

Gowers argued: “We [academics] have much greater bargaining power than we are wielding at the moment, for the very simple reason that we don’t actually need their services...In brief, if you publish in Elsevier journals you are making it easier for Elsevier to take action that harms academic institutions, so you shouldn’t.” He adds: “One final remark is that Elsevier is not the only publisher to behave in an objectionable way. However, it seems to be the worst.” 

In a statement, Elsevier said the facts on which the petition was based were not correct. “Access to published content is greater and at its lowest cost per use than ever. The reality is that (1) our price increases have a actually been among the industry’s lowest for the past ten years, (2) the introduction of optional packages have added enormous access at fractions of the list prices; and (3) Elsevier was the first and largest contributor to the NIH (Pubmed central). We look forward to working further with our communities to advance scientific knowledge together, and we believe this is best achieved without government mandates.” 

The statement went on: “We respect the freedom of authors to make their own decisions. We hope the ones who sign the boycott reconsider their position however, and we are keen to engage to discuss their concerns. We absolutely value the contributions authors, reviewers and editors make to journals, and we are also proud of our role in making research more accessible and discoverable while ensuring the integrity of the scientific record.” 

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I support non-profit distribution of the results of scientific research, however, there is no viable model at the moment for free open access. Most peer-reviewed journals use academics as part-time editors who require paid support staff for logistics and copy-editing. Also, printing and on-line distribution and archiving costs money. At the moment for most "open access" papers the authors have to pay these costs, usually between $1500 and $3000 per article.

Thought you might enjoy this.

Albeit I am very much against the RWA, I do find this frenzied mob attack on Elsevier quite disturbing and wonder about the real motivation behind this.

If there was a genuine concern from Academics and journalists (note recent articles in the Guardian), there would be action against the academic and scientific journal industry in general, including huge companies such as Walters Kluwer, Wiley, Springer, Taylor and Francis, etc. There isn't!

This comes across as a propaganda attack aimed directly at Elsevier as a company rather than policies adopted across the publishing industry.

The academics and scientists need to make sure they are fully aware of what they are asking for and why, and make sure they aren't cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

Speaking as the author of that Guardian article ...

Anger within academia (or at least the part of it that I work in) is directed towards the whole existing for-profit (and hugely profitable) closed-access scholarly publishing edifice. Elsevier are the ones drawing fire not because the other are guiltless, but because they (A) are biggest, (B) are the most vocal and obvious supporters of the RWA, and (C) have the worst track-record of abuses.

Wiley and others should not imagine that they are held guiltless.

New comment for academics.

shing edifice. Elsevier are the ones drawing fire not because the other are guiltless, but because they (A) are biggest, (B) are the most vocal and obvious supporters of the RWA, and (C) have the worst track-record cheap printing

I support non-profit distribution of the results of scientific research, however, there is no viable model at the moment for free open access. Most peer-reviewed journals use academics as part-time editors who require paid support staff for logistics and copy-editing. Also, printing and on-line distribution and archiving costs money. At the moment for most "open access" papers the authors have to pay these costs, usually between $1500 and $3000 per article.

Thought you might enjoy this.

Albeit I am very much against the RWA, I do find this frenzied mob attack on Elsevier quite disturbing and wonder about the real motivation behind this.

If there was a genuine concern from Academics and journalists (note recent articles in the Guardian), there would be action against the academic and scientific journal industry in general, including huge companies such as Walters Kluwer, Wiley, Springer, Taylor and Francis, etc. There isn't!

This comes across as a propaganda attack aimed directly at Elsevier as a company rather than policies adopted across the publishing industry.

The academics and scientists need to make sure they are fully aware of what they are asking for and why, and make sure they aren't cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

Speaking as the author of that Guardian article ...

Anger within academia (or at least the part of it that I work in) is directed towards the whole existing for-profit (and hugely profitable) closed-access scholarly publishing edifice. Elsevier are the ones drawing fire not because the other are guiltless, but because they (A) are biggest, (B) are the most vocal and obvious supporters of the RWA, and (C) have the worst track-record of abuses.

Wiley and others should not imagine that they are held guiltless.

New comment for academics.

shing edifice. Elsevier are the ones drawing fire not because the other are guiltless, but because they (A) are biggest, (B) are the most vocal and obvious supporters of the RWA, and (C) have the worst track-record cheap printing