Splitting with Elsevier

Just time today to pass on a bit of Open Access news: the University of California has ended negotiations which academic publishing giant Elsevier and will no longer subscribe to Elsevier Journals. The negotiations broke down over two key points: a refusal by Elsevier to reduce its charges (currently $11M) and a failure to meet guarantees on Open Access. There’s another piece about this here.

The University of California should be congratulated on its firm position here, as should organizations in Sweden and Germany for their similar decisions last year.

I’ve made my views of the academic publishing racket very clear over a number of years so I won’t repeat that rant here. I’ll just remind readers of the staggering fact that the global revenues of the academic publishing industry amount to about, €22 billion per annum. This exceeds the global revenues of the recorded music industry. Profit margins for these publishers are much larger (up to 45%) than Apple, Google and BMW.

The research community is being fleeced, and the worst offenders are the `Big Four’: Elsevier, Springer, Wiley and Taylor & Francis. It’s taken a while but it seems many organizations are finally waking up to what is going on. I don’t think we need `for-profit’ publishers at all – there are far better and cheaper ways of disseminating scientific research in the digital era, such as the arXiv.

I’ll also make a small plea here. If there are any rich philanthropists out there who want to do something positive for science then let me suggest that instead of funding more prizes or awards they consider making a large donation to the arXiv? In my view that would do far more for science than throwing yet more money at a few eminent individuals!

3 Responses to “Splitting with Elsevier”

  1. telescoper Says:

    There are already a dozen or so arXiv overlay journals in Maths and Informatics so I imagine there’ll be a range of physics versions too. I’m already in discussion with particle physicists about helping them set up an OJPP.

  2. Jonathan Thornburg Says:

    Note that /Living Reviews in Relativity/ (published by Springer) is an open-access journal — all LRR articles are free to download or read online.

  3. Anton Garrett Says:

    Well done California. It matters little to universities whether they pay by subscription or by publication charge; the point is that the cost to the research community to read its own work remains absurdly high. This is not symbiosis but parasitism, and OJA and its analogues are the way forward.

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