Boycott Elsevier

While I have the blog open, let me throw in a quick two cents to support the Boycott Elsevier movement. As most working scientists know, Elsevier is a publishing company that controls many important journals, and uses their position to charge amazingly exorbitant prices to university libraries — and then makes the published papers very hard to access for anyone not at one of the universities. In physics their journals include Nuclear Physics, Physics Letters, and other biggies. It’s exactly the opposite of what should be the model, in which scientific papers are shared freely and openly.

So now an official boycott has been organized, and is gaining steam — if you’re a working scientist, feel free to add your signature. Many bloggers have chimed in, e.g. Cosma Shalizi and Scott Aaronson. Almost all scientists want their papers to be widely accessible — given all the readily available alternatives to Elsevier (including the new Physical Review X), all we need to do is self-organize a bit and we can make it happen.

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59 Responses to Boycott Elsevier

  1. Elliot Tarabour says:

    You mean your going to forgo all those humongous royalty checks???

  2. The first I had heard of this was when Timothy Gowers announced on his blog that he was boycotting Elsevier, which I believe was only last week. Now it’s become a giant of a movement. Hopefully this leads to real change.

  3. Gizelle Janine says:

    Holy shit. That’s beyond horrible.

  4. Mike Fisher says:

    Oh, please, please, let Finagle, the Flying Spaghetti monster and the Random Quantum all help you succeed. As a layman passionately interested in science it drives me absolutely nuts when I get locked out of so much reference material when I’m trying to do some background reading.

  5. jrad says:

    Since the situation in Astronomy seems only marginally better than in Physics, do you all have recommendations for good* open access Astronomy/Astrophysics journals to publish in?

    *Where good is probably defined as peer reviewed and not scoffed at when considered for jobs.

  6. mikka says:

    Heck, they make it tricky even when you DO have institutional access. Geoscientist, going to have a look at the boycott movement – my university is getting into the open access movement, maybe I could bring this up in meeting this morning.

  7. MPS17 says:

    It’s not just exorbitant prices. Due to their stifling copyright policy, the theses of many (most?) doctoral students who have published with them are technically illegal.

  8. Unacceptable!!! says:

    The same situation applies to Economics! It’s unacceptable!!

  9. Jim A says:

    Elsevier makes the music industry look good.

  10. Dear Sean, I am not sure to understand why you want to boycott Elsevier. Do you want to boycott the company or the system?

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  12. ohwilleke says:

    If only I could. As a lawyer, I am actually required by law to do business with Elsevier, who has the contract to run the state court system’s e-filing system for legal documents.

  13. Eugene Lim says:

    “Won’t do refereeing”?

    Count me in!!!

  14. TheThinker1958 says:

    boycott now? why wasn’t there a boycott on day one?
    can’t people do things for humanity’s benefit anymore?
    you can’t buy me for 10,000 or for 10,000,000 or 1,000,000,000 dollars.

  15. Jeff says:

    Why stop with Elsevier? All journal articles that result from government grants should be accessible to the public, i.e. accessible to the people who paid for the research.

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  17. Nick says:

    Maybe I am missing something here, but why boycott Elsevier especially, and not, say, Springer, which also has a fair amount of locked-access articles with an exorbitant price?

  18. scholar says:

    Unfortunately, only authors who have funds to pay the $1500 article processing fee can “freely and openly share” their work in Physical Review X. If open access is the wave of the future, some mechanism must be found to make it available to unfunded researchers.

  19. Lab Lemming says:

    1. What #18 said.
    2. It should be pointed out that many scientific societies have outsourced the publishing side if their society journals to companies like Elsevier. Addressing the reasons for this is important of you want to get them, and the scientists who are members, to support you.

    It is very hard for me to avoid Elsevier, since they publish GCA, Chemical Geology, Precambrian Research, and the Journal of South American Geology. But I’m happy to aim for alternative publications whenever possible.

  20. Keri says:

    I love this. Was so frustrated in med school and residency when my studies were constantly foiled by the amazing prices Elsevier charges. All I wanted was to find the best treatment for my patients.

  21. Lab Lemming says:

    Further questions for Sean:
    What do you do if one of your students (either current or former) wants to submit a paper to Elsevier on which you are nth author? Do you take your name off? Do you encourage him to submit to a lower profile publication and hope his job prospects aren’t harmed?

  22. Boy Cott says:

    I’d rather boycott Phys Rev D, for their policy of publishing anything that gets sent to them, including crap of the form “Eternal inflation predicts end of fiscal deficits in 2012/13”, etc etc etc

  23. Baby Bones says:

    I was rather fascinated by the sheer number of publications Elsevier has, and found it mind-boggling how much they were charging for reports on publicly funded research.

    Interestingly, as well, Elsevier does have one high-profile mag that many non-scientists read: Variety.

  24. A Publisher says:

    Do any of you realize that even if the “research” is publically funded, that it costs the publisher a considerable amount of money to set-up systems to have the articles reviewed, copyedited, typeset, coded so that they can appear online, indexed properly, and disseminated worldwide across many online platforms?

    Let’s be realistic, just because the research is publically funded, it doesn’t mean there aren’t real costs associated with publishing the material.

    An interesting commentary on the subject has appeared in The Guardian entitled “Branding academic publishers ‘enemies of science’ is offensive and wrong”

    Please read it….

  25. I.P. Freeley says:

    Oh A Publisher, you are just a hoot!
    *Yes, the publisher arranges to have articles reviewed…by other scientists…for free.
    *Wow, they copyedit, typeset, and code the papers? As near as I can tell that mostly involves garbling the perfectly good LaTeX I sent you.
    *Nifty, on-line indexing? Yeah, NASA ADS does that just fine.
    *Cross-platform? Umm, html and pdf are not that complicated.

    I’m just impressed that publishing scientific journals for profit lasted as long as it did. Why didn’t it disappear a decade ago? One reason–there were still a few senior folks reading only printed journal articles. They have finally retired. That’s it, game over man. There’s no reason not to go fully on-line. Without the need to physically print and distribute, we just don’t see a need for for-profit publishers anymore. What do the publishers add that we can’t do better and cheaper ourselves?