Elsevier? Just say No!

I found out via Twitter that UK Universities are now negotiating again with publishing giant Elsevier for access to its range of hideously overpriced journals.

Five years ago the result of similar negotiations was a clear victory for Elsevier and UK institutions have been paying ever since. This time there’s a strong feeling in the UK academic community that the negotiators have to take a much firmer line, even if that means losing access to Elsevier journals.

See, e.g., this thread from mathematician Tim Gowers (who runs a very successful arXiv overlay journal called Discrete Analysis along similar lines to the Open Journal of Astrophysics).

and this from Computational Neuroscientist Stephen Eglen:

It is important to take a stand on this issue if you want the negotiations to succeed in reducing the burden on University budgets caused by profiteering publishers like Elsevier. If you’re on Twitter you can do so using the hashtag #NoElsevier. Alternatively you can make it clear to your institution’s library that you’re prepared to do without Elsevier journals unless they reduce the price substantially.

I’d add a more general comment. If you’re an academic who thinks academia needs the likes of Elsevier then you’re an academic who is not thinking. There are plenty of ways of communicating your results without shaking hands with the Devil. I find it completely mystifying why so many academics and their institutions are so willing to be fleeced in the academic journal racket. Perhaps they believe they don’t understand how little it actually costs to publish articles online?

You could do a lot worse than seize this opportunity to set up your own journal. It’s really quite straightforward and inexpensive, especially if your research community uses the arXiv. Why not try setting up your own overlay journal?

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24 Responses to “Elsevier? Just say No!”

  1. Bit ironic that the link on the first line leads to a pay-for-view screen..

  2. Cesar Uliana Says:

    Not sure I understand the economics here. Suppose the UK does not reach an agreement with Elsevier and lose access. A logical consequence is that people would refrain from sending papers to Elsevier if they can, since anything published there would be unavailable to UK researchers. So not paying Elsevier hurts them both in the loss of direct revenue and because their journals have less appeal.

    Europe managed to get funding for the LHC, it should be able to coordinate the universities into threatening the publishers with a massive opt-out of contracts. Even the politics should be easy, as it could be done under the guise of saving taxpayers money.

    Although, as you say, I’m baffled that people in academia see any value in spending money for publishing papers.

  3. Francis Says:

    I noted this sentence:

    ..Many research funders now set requirements that academics publish research open access – but this comes at a publishing cost to universities…

    The requirement is to have the research open access, not to pay additional funds to a journal to make it open access. I would also imagine that most universities now have their own research publication repositories?

    • Francis Says:

      The point is that it does then satisfy the requirement – including for REF – that the paper is open access. arXiv does the same, but I don’t think all disciplines have similar systems.

    • telescoper Says:

      Yes, the publishers seem to have persuaded many academics that they should pay for Open Access to maintain profit levels in the industry.

      Most universities have Open Access repositories and there’s no reason in principle why you couldn’t have overlay journals sitting on top of these. I just think subject-based repositories are better.

      • telescoper Says:

        Libraries are very advanced in this area, using common standards to allow compatibility.

    • telescoper Says:

      Institutional repositories could join in an indexing system, but I think it’s better to stick with subject-based repositories like arXiv.

    • telescoper Says:

      Please give evidence of widespread dislike of the arXiv, by which I mean not just your own. Everyone I know in astrophysics posts their papers on arXiv. Why would they do that if they disike it?

      And to answer your last question yet again. We built the journal as an arXiv overlay journal because the arXiv is the de facto publishing route for a huge majority of astrophysics papers and we’re happy to promote it as such.

    • telescoper Says:

      Wrong. It is possible to submit a paper to OJA directly. We don’t encourage it but some authors use that route. The benefits of putting papers on arXiv first are substantial.

  4. telescoper Says:

    arXiv overlay journals are an option for people who use the arXiv. Your papers are on arXiv. Your numerous comments about this seem to be based on a disgruntlement about one of your papers being what you consider to be the wrong section.

  5. telescoper Says:

    The answer to your first question is the innate conservatism of academia. It’s like the joke about how many academics does it take to change a lightbulb – the answer is “change?”…..

  6. Anton Garrett Says:

    If it is really so cheap and easy to set up an online journal, why aren’t there more of them?

    I expect it *is* cheap and easy. The hard part is winning your online journal a reputation. Peter is prepared to put in the effort and will, I expect, be seen as among the pioneers in a generation’s time. Let us encourage this sort of thing, not discourage it.

  7. ArXiv also needs funding, and that should be accounted for in the cost of overlay journals. But that will be a minor cost compared to the excessive costs of scientific publishers. A combination of ArXiv as repository and overlay journals which provide the quality control and refereeing, should remove the need for expensive journals.

    What now seems to be happening is that publishing companies buy up the low-cost journals.

    The expansive journals still depend on us for refereeing.

    • You are very negative about ArXiv. I have very good experiences with it. I put papers there only after acceptance but that is a personal choice. Papers on ArXiv have much more visibility than those that are left to the journals. Geology does not have an ArXiv, and finding and accessing their papers is much more difficult than it is in astrophysics.

    • telescoper Says:

      Well I saw your paper in MNRAS but there’s no sign of it on arXiv, not even in general physics…

    • telescoper Says:

      It would have shown up when I clicked on your name regardless of which section it was in…

      (I read your earlier comment as meaning that you tried to have it removed but wasn’t allowed to…)

    • telescoper Says:

      It would have shown up under a name search or keyword search whether or not I knew of its existence beforehand.

    • telescoper Says:

      I’ll submit mine to astro-ph so they can be published on OJA!

    • telescoper Says:

      I agree. It is Quite Easily Done.

    • telescoper Says:

      Your paper is published in MNRAS and could have been on the arXiv if you hadn’t decided to withdraw it. I really don’t see the reason for the hysteria. You can’t equate this with bullying in any way.

    • telescoper Says:

      Do you honestly think someone might commit suicide because a preprint appeared in general physics instead of astro-ph?

    • telescoper Says:

      Why should I?

    • telescoper Says:

      If you feel your mental health is at risk because of this episode then I urge you to seek professional help.

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