Monday, February 6, 2012

Scholars Boycott Elsevier

Back in January, Fields medalist and mathematician at the University of Cambridge Timothy Gowers made public his longstanding boycott of the Elsevier publishing company.
After outlining the objectionable practices of Elsevier, Gowers stated:
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. I am by no means the first person to do this, but the more of us there are, the more socially acceptable it becomes, and that is my main reason for writing this post.

It occurs to me that it might help if there were a website somewhere, where mathematicians who have decided not to contribute in any way to Elsevier journals could sign their names electronically.

Within days the site was up and now has approximately 3000 scholars' signatures.

A few days ago, Michael Eisen published an analysis of the phenomenon:
Having spent a decade fighting the scientific publishing establishment, the last few weeks have been kind of fun. Elsevier, the Dutch publishing conglomerate that has long served as the poster child for all that is wrong with the industry, has come under withering criticism for pushing legislation that would prevent the US government from making the results of taxpayer funded research available to the public.

Scores of scientists (myself included) have slammed the hypocrisy of the bill. Prominent publishers, fearing a backlash against Elsevier’s overreach, have come out in favor of government public access policies.Even the editors of The Lancet, one of Elsevier’s prized possessions, called the bill a “damaging threat to science“.

But amidst all this richly deserved opprobrium, we must not forget that Elsevier are in a position to behave so poorly because we let them. Publishers control the paywalls that restrict access to the scientific literature. But individual researchers control the fate of their own papers. And the only reason a paywall ever stands between anyone and a paper they want to read is because its authors chose to put it there.
He points out a critical difference between the OA environment today and what existed when previous efforts were launched, and issues a call to action:
Thus, people joining in the new boycott have no excuses not to follow through. There are plenty of viable OA options and it is simply unacceptable for any scientist who decries Elsevier’s actions and believes that the subscription based model is no longer serving science to send a single additional paper to journals that do not provide full OA to every paper they publish. So, come on people! If we do this now, paywalls will crumble, and we all be better off. So, come on! Let’s do it!

No comments: