About the Elsevier Controversy and Essential Science

From “I want to publish my paper in your journal” to “You sound like an open access activist. I think we have an answer for you,” this brilliant little video (found courtesy of Graham Steel) provides an on target overview of the issues in the Elsevier controversy. I just wish the ending wasn’t so sad.

Education of a Scientist: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_UAGireJpQ

If you want to know more about the Elsevier boycott, you can go to any search engine, type those two words, and find scads of recent content. I will share a very few, highly selected links for more background.

Where it began

“So I am not only going to refuse to have anything to do with Elsevier journals from now on, but I am saying so publicly.”
Tim Gowers, mathematician. Elsevier — my part in its downfall: http://gowers.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/elsevier-my-part-in-its-downfall/#more-3912

The focus of Tim Gowers writing on the problems with Elsevier’s dominance and monopoly of scholarly publishing and their abuse of their audience explicitly focuses on the field of mathematics. The concept applies pretty much throughout all scholarly publishing, but the solutions are not equitably distributed.

The Tipping Point

The obvious next step was a public site where researchers willing and able to take the risks of committing to this could list their names. Dr. Gowers rightly pointed out that it isn’t fair to ask young researchers to give up potential publishing opportunities, so they aren’t expecting everyone. There is on the site an excellent synopsis of the issue with a further detailed exploration provided as a PDF.

1. Pricing
2. Exploitation
3. Hinder science by restricting the free exchange of information

“If you would like to declare publicly that you will not support any Elsevier journal unless they radically change how they operate, then you can do so by filling in your details in the box below.”

The Cost of Knowledge: http://thecostofknowledge.com/

Full Steam Ahead

“Since the protest began, more than 4,800 researchers from all fields have joined in; about 20% are mathematicians. After an initial burst of activity, the petition is now attracting around 200 new signatories each day.”
“A boycott of Elsevier’s high-impact journals, which include The Lancet, could have severe consequences for the company and researchers alike”

John Whitfield: Nature: Elsevier boycott gathers pace: http://www.nature.com/news/elsevier-boycott-gathers-pace-1.10010


“In the end to survive you must publish. I’d say the goal should be that we should all give a right of first refusal to your OA option. If that fails, suck it up and send it to the private publishers. And if anyone has some good vascular/heart/circulation OA alternatives to recommend I’m all ears.”

Eisen calls for Elsevier Boycott – but can we all go OA? http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2012/02/eisen_calls_for_elsevier_boyco.php

Evidence & Context

If you want to think more deeply about the context behind these issues, the risks to science credibility and funding from the existing publishing models, you might want to follow the work of Victoria Stodden. Here is a recent keynote of hers, just to make it easy for you to get started. It isn’t long, a little over a half hour, so take a look.

Victoria Stodden: Open Science Summit: Keynote: Transparency in Scientific Discovery: Innovation and Knowledge: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZIxzTsvWhw&context=C38a61b8ADOEgsToPDskLEKCdyyJl70iC5KF60FJ4x

Everything else

John Dupuis has built THE masterful collection of background information and a timeline of how we got here. If you really want to dig into this, take a look at his collection.

John Dupuis: Confessions of a Science Librarian: Around the Web: Research Works Act & Elsevier boycott: http://scienceblogs.com/confessions/2012/02/around_the_web_research_works.php

4 responses to “About the Elsevier Controversy and Essential Science

  1. Thank you for this thought provoking posting. All that you put out (which is a huge amount) is wonderful.


  2. Pingback: Blog Index, January 27- February 17 | Emerging Technologies Librarian

  3. you should take a look at the open source journal site founded by some Berkeley folks in response to this very problem. Bepress.


    • Berkeley Electronic Press was indeed founded in response to pricing and access issues of traditional scholarly publishers, as have been many other ventures, such as PLoS, DoAJ, BioMed Central, and many more. I’m sure you’ve noticed the problems haven’t gone away!


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