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. BBBShrewHarpy says:


    Whilst refereeing is done for free, it is a real burden on those of us who referee papers, and we don’t want to be swamped with papers to referee that have not gone through any vetting by the journal, or papers from authors who find the barrier to entry (i.e., the price of submitting to the journal) too high. In that way, the price of the journal and the refereeing process are currently inextricably linked.

  2. Sara Garcia says:

    Radiology is actually a medical specialty that employs the use of imaging to both diagnose and deal with illness visualised within the human body. Radiologists apply an effective array of imaging solutions (similar to x-beam radiography, sonography, calculated tomography (CT), atomic drugs, positron emission tomography (PET) and permanent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)) to identify or deal with diseases. Interventional radiology would be the performance of (often minimally invasive) health-related techniques with all the guidance of imaging technologies. The acquisition of health-related imaging is often carried out by the radiographer also radiology technician.

  3. @50: Please read before you post. The current issue is not open access but price of the journals.

    @51: If the journal weeds out obvious crackpot papers before they are sent to referees, that’s fine. However, I think you are doing a disservice to science as a referee if you don’t want to referee a paper from someone who finds the price of the journal too high. (At least in astronomy, there are enough well respected journals without page charges that this is not an issue.) Do you think that only rich people, or people from rich institutions, can write good papers?

  4. BBBShrewHarpy says:

    I have often refereed papers from journals with no page charges, so to the extent that a field supports such journals this is an obvious way out for people who are not from rich institutions. My desire for the barrier to entry is the weeding out of crackpot papers, but also LPUs (Least Publishable Units to those who don’t live in a publish-or-perish world). Crackpot papers are often so obvious that they are easy to reject, but much better that it be done before the referee gets them, because really, who wants to spend their time doing this. The LPU is a more insidious phenomenon as it results in the creation of many, many papers. When cost per paper is a consideration to a research group, at least some of the papers will end up being combined. The result is less burden on the refereeing population, and more scientific substance per paper.

    So it is not that I think that only rich people can write good papers, but I like there to be some way of enforcing discipline on authors who even think of writing a paper whenever they feel they have some pearl of wisdom to convey. Price is one way, probably not the only one.

  5. Billie says:

    No more outlandishly priced articles!

  6. “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?”

    Timothy Gowers addresses this. Basically, a boycott has to be large enough to be visible, but not so broad that it is impractical. Why Elsevier and not Springer? Because Springer, though some costs are high, also publish books on which they probably earn next to nothing. Also, there is a long tradition with Springer while Elsevier (which has nothing to do with the company which once bore this name) seems to be in it only for the money.

  7. Pingback: Both Students And Professors Need Certification, and the Elsevier Boycott | QED Insight

  8. Gary Hurd says:

    I would suggest that if you really want to bust their nuts you need to stop citing their journals.

    If you want to effect a change, you must propose one. For example, all publicly funded research publications must be open access on-line within 6-12 months. AAAS makes their entire Science catalog free within one calendar year.

    And, when will we smack Nature? They are very stingy even with a paid subscription and should be the very next target.

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