Posted by: Hillary Corbett
Mega-publisher Elsevier has been garnering some negative publicity of late. Last month it was revealed that its political action group funded the re-election campaigns of Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), one of the authors of the controversial Research Works Act (H.R. 3699) that would prohibit open access to articles resulting from government-funded research.
Now, thousands of scholars are signing an agreement to boycott Elsevier in protest of its high subscription prices, its practice of bundling journals (so libraries are forced to subscribe to titles they don’t want), and its support of restrictive legislation like SOPA, PIPA, and the Research Works Act. Although members of the library community have protested such practices by Elsevier and other large publishers for years, this marks the first occasion that members of the research community–the people who write the articles and serve as peer reviewers or editors–have taken a large-scale stand.
Timothy Gowers, a prominent mathematician, wrote a blog post on January 21, 2012, in which he discussed the issues outlined above and asked, “Why can’t we just tell Elsevier that we no longer wish to publish with them?” A reader took up the challenge and created a website where scholars could register their dissatisfaction and refusal to provide free labor for Elsevier in the form of research, peer review, and editorial duties. Within its first ten days of existence, the website has collected the signatures of over 2,700 scholars worldwide.
The boycott has received a lot of media attention, perhaps especially because it has grown so exponentially in such a short period of time. And many writers are asking: because scholars are both producers and consumers of research journals, do they have the ability to disrupt the scholarly publishing system and effect lasting change?
- Elsevier’s Alicia Wise on the RWA, the West Wing, and Universal Access – Richard Poynder’s “Open and Shut?” blog, 2/8/2012
- “Thousands of Scientists Vow to Boycott Elsevier to Protest Journal Prices” – Science, 2/1/2012
- “As Journal Boycott Grows, Elsevier Defends Its Practices” – Chronicle of Higher Education, 1/31/2012
- “Testify: The Open-Science Movement Catches Fire” – Wired.com, 1/30/2012
- “Elsevier’s Publishing Model Might be About to Go Up in Smoke” – Forbes.com, 1/28/2012