Archive for Elsevier

Enough of the Academic Publishing Racket!

Posted in Open Access with tags , , on November 5, 2015 by telescoper

There have been some interesting developments this week in the field of academic publishing. A particularly interesting story concernes the resignation of the entire editorial board of the linguistics journal Lingua, which is published by – (no prizes for guessing) – Elsevier. Not surprisingly this move was made in protest at Elsevier’s overpricing of “Open Access” options on its journal. Even less surprisingly, Elsevier’s response was considerably economical with the truth. Elsevier claims that it needs to levy large Article Processing Charges (APCs) to ensure their Open Access publications are economically viable. However, what Elsevier means by “economically viable” apparently means a profit margin of 37% or more, all plundered from the tightly constrained budgets of academic research organizations. In fact these APCs have nothing to do with the actual cost of publishing research papers. In any other context the behaviour of publishers like Elsevier would be called racketeering, i.e.

Racketeering, often associated with organized crime, is the act of offering of a dishonest service (a “racket”) to solve a problem that wouldn’t otherwise exist without the enterprise offering the service.

Let me remind you of the business model that underpins the academic publishing industry.  We academics write papers based on our research, which we then submit to journals. Other academics referee these papers, suggest corrections or improvements and recommend acceptance or rejection. Another set of academics provide oversight of this editorial process and make decisions on whether or not to publish. All of this is usually done for free. We academics then buy back the  product of our labours at an grossly inflated price through journal subscriptions, unless the article is published in Open Access form in which case we have to pay an APC up front to the publisher. It’s like having to take all the ingredients of a meal to a restaurant, cooking them yourself, and then being required to pay for the privilege of eating the resulting food.

Why do we continue to participate in such a palpably  ridiculous system? Isn’t it obvious that we (I mean academics in universities) are spending a huge amout of time and money achieving nothing apart from lining the pockets of these exploitative publishers? Is it simply vanity? I suspect that many academics see research papers less as a means of disseminating research and more as badges of status…

I’d say that, at least in my discipline, traditional journals are simply no longer necessary for communicating scientific research. I find all the  papers I need to do my research on the arXiv and most of my colleagues do the same. We simply don’t need old-fashioned journals anymore.  Yet we keep paying for them. It’s time for those of us who believe that  we should spend as much of our funding as we can on research instead of throwing it away on expensive and outdated methods of publication to put an end to this absurd system. We academics need to get the academic publishing industry off our backs.

All we need to do is to is dispense with the old model of a journal and replace it with a reliable and efficient reviewing system that interfaces with the arXiv. Then we would have a genuinely useful at a fraction of the cost of a journal subscription . That was the motivation behind the Open Journal of Astrophysics , a project that I and a group of like-minded individuals will be launching very soon. There will be a series of announcements here and elsewhere over the next few weeks, giving more details about the Open Journal and how it works.

We will be starting in a modest way but I hope that those who believe – as I do – in the spirit of open science and the free flow of scientific ideas will support this initiative. I hope that the Lingua debacle is a sign that change is on the way, but we need the help and participation of researchers to make the revolution happen.

“Dutch universities start their Elsevier boycott plan”

Posted in Open Access with tags , on July 3, 2015 by telescoper


Good for them!

Originally posted on Bibliographic Wilderness:

“We are entering a new era in publications”, said Koen Becking, chairman of the Executive Board of Tilburg University in October. On behalf of the Dutch universities, he and his colleague Gerard Meijer negotiate with scientific publishers about an open access policy. They managed to achieve agreements with some publishers, but not with the biggest one, Elsevier. Today, they start their plan to boycott Elsevier.

Dutch universities start their Elsevier boycott plan

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Elsevier in Australia

Posted in Open Access with tags , on May 23, 2014 by telescoper


More on open access, this time from the perspective of an Australian Mathematician, pointing out that the idea of Gold Open Access Hybrid Journals touted by some publishers is nothing but a scam. I won’t mention any names of course but Elsevier springs to mind.

Originally posted on Secret Blogging Seminar:

I’ve just got back from talking to Roxanne Missingham, the University Librarian here at ANU, about Elsevier, and I want to quickly report on what I learnt.

I don’t yet have any of the juicy numbers revealing what libraries are paying for their Elsevier subscriptions (as Timothy Gowers has been doing in the UK; if you haven’t read his post do that first!). Nevertheless there are some interesting details.

Essentially all the Australian universities, excepting a few tiny private institutes, subscribe to the Freedom collection (this is the same bundle that nearly everyone is forced into subscribing to). The contracts are negotiated by CAUL (the Council of Australian University Librarians).

My librarian was very frank about Article Processing Charges (APCs) constituting double-dipping, whatever it is that Elsevier and the other publishers say. The pricing of journal bundles is so opaque, and to the extent we understand it primarily based…

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Elsevier Journals – The QMUL Figure

Posted in Open Access with tags , on May 18, 2014 by telescoper


More information on the scandalous cost of academic journals.

How would you feel if your institution paid over half a million pounds a year to Elsevier?

Originally posted on Edward F Hughes:

A few weeks ago I reblogged Tim Gowers’ post about the cost of Elsevier journals. I noticed that my own institution (QMUL) had deflected his Freedom of Information request. Curious to learn more, I did some digging.

It turns out that QMUL paid a total of £545,306.93 to Elsevier for the academic year 2013/14. Interestingly this is more than other universities that joined the Russell Group recently. However it’s still much cheaper than the bill Cambridge, UCL, Imperial or Edinburgh face.

Unfortunately QMUL weren’t able to provide any further breakdown of the figures. Apparently this information isn’t available to the university, which seems like a very odd way of doing business. I think it likely that the vast majority of the cost is the subscription fee.

I should point out that QMUL and Cambridge certainly have differentiated access to Elsevier journals. For example QMUL Library does not have access to Science Direct…

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Elsevier journals — some facts

Posted in Open Access with tags , , on April 24, 2014 by telescoper


Read this, and weep as you learn that Elsevier’s ruthless profiteering continues unabated…

Originally posted on Gowers's Weblog:

A little over two years ago, the Cost of Knowledge boycott of Elsevier journals began. Initially, it seemed to be highly successful, with the number of signatories rapidly reaching 10,000 and including some very high-profile researchers, and Elsevier making a number of concessions, such as dropping support for the Research Works Act and making papers over four years old from several mathematics journals freely available online. It has also contributed to an increased awareness of the issues related to high journal prices and the locking up of articles behind paywalls.

However, it is possible to take a more pessimistic view. There were rumblings from the editorial boards of some Elsevier journals, but in the end, while a few individual members of those boards resigned, no board took the more radical step of resigning en masse and setting up with a different publisher under a new name (as some journals have…

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Elsevier’s Confidentiality Clauses

Posted in Open Access with tags , on December 22, 2013 by telescoper

I came across this a little while ago (here, where the context is explained in more detail). It comes from a conference about the future of scientific publishing, and features David Tempest of Elsevier responding to a question from Dr Stephen Curry.

I hadn’t realised before this question that Elsevier not only charges eye-wateringly expensive subscription rates for its journals but also often requires institutional libraries to sign a confidentiality clause under which they are forbidden from revealing how much the subscription costs. Here Mr Tempest attempts to explain this policy:

So there you have it. If people actually knew what other people were being charged there’s a danger that prices would be driven relentlessly downward. Shocking.

You have to feel some sympathy for Elsevier, struggling along on a profit margin of a mere 36%. It must be so difficult for them to make ends meet…

Elsevier is taking down papers from

Posted in Open Access with tags , on December 12, 2013 by telescoper


Yet another example of an academic publisher (Elsevier) acting in a manner clearly detrimental to research.

Originally posted on Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week:

Lots of researchers post PDFs of their own papers on their own web-sites. It’s always been so, because even though technically it’s in breach of the copyright transfer agreements that we blithely sign, everyone knows it’s right and proper. Preventing people from making their own work available would be insane, and the publisher that did it would be committing a PR gaffe of huge proportions.

Enter Elsevier, stage left. Bioinformatician Guy Leonard is just one of several people to have mentioned on Twitter this morning that took down their papers in response to a notice from Elsevier. Here’s a screengrab of the notification:


And here is the text (largely so search-engines can index it):

Hi Guy

Unfortunately, we had to remove your paper, Resolving the question of trypanosome monophyly: a comparative genomics approach using whole genome data sets with low taxon sampling, due to a take-down notice from…

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