Many faculty members around the world — about 2900 as of this moment — have in the past few days signed a pledge to boycott Elsevier, a major commercial academic publisher. The list of signatories to date is impressive and growing quickly; you can see the current list at “The Cost of Knowledge” website, or if you wish can use that site to add your own name.
The signatories have committed not to publish, referee, or do editorial work for Elsevier journals “unless they radically change how they operate.”
Concerns with Elsevier mirror some that many UO librarians also feel — that Elsevier has been at the forefront of rapid increases in journal pricing, anti-competitive practices aimed at libraries such as “bundling,” monopolizing access to a large segment of the last 90 years of scholarly publishing, lobbying in favor of bills such as SOPA and a bill (the “Research Works Act“) that would repeal the NIH Public Access Policy, and in general a large number of small policies antithetical to author rights and to public access to research.
My own impression is that of all major academic publishers Elsevier is trying the hardest to kill disciplinary and institutional online repositories such as PubMed Central or the arXiv or our own Scholars Bank.
The new pledge, which was launched in a posting a week ago by Mathematics Fields Medalist Timothy Gower, seems to be setting a new standard for faculty revolt against publishers whose practices are seen as focused on profit to the detriment of improved public access to scientific information.
Interested in more perspective? “Elsevier Publishing Boycott Gathers Steam” and “As Journal Boycott Grows, Elsevier Defends Its Practices” in this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education are quite good. Forbes also has an interesting economic analysis at “Elsevier’s Publishing Model Might be About to Go Up in Smoke.”
The UO doesn’t take a position on whether our faculty should sign this pledge. However, the UO Senate does have a formal recommendation (resolution passed in 2008) that all UO faculty authors include an author’s addendum as part of any copyright transfer. Such an addendum would let the original author retain rights that Elsevier clearly doesn’t want academic authors to keep, including the right to reuse your own work or to deposit a copy of the work in an online repository.
Director, Scholarly Communications