In what might be a growing “grassroots” movement (in the sense that it may be individually rather than corporately organized), there seems to be some interest among academics in protesting the high costs of journal publishers through boycotting Elsevier. An early call came from Timothy Gowers. This was mentioned by Michael Nielsen, who gives some more context:

Elsevier is the world’s largest and most profitable scientific publisher, making a profit of 1.1 billion dollars on revenue of 3.2 billion dollars in 2009. Elsevier have also been involved in many dubious practices, including the publishing of fake medical journals sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, and the publication of what are most kindly described as extraordinarily shoddy journals. Until 2009, parent company Reed Elsevier helped facilitate the international arms trade.

Much earlier than this was Robert Darnton’s “The Library: Three Jeremiads,” which points out a “vicious circle” of the rising cost of academic journals:

the escalation in the price of periodicals forces libraries to cut back on their purchase of monographs; the drop in the demand for monographs makes university presses reduce their publication of them; and the difficulty in getting them published creates barriers to careers among graduate students.

The Elsevier boycott thread was recently picked up on Crooked Timber, as well as in a Chronicle piece by Gowers.

Here’s the most recent development at University of Michigan, where the library reports

A boycott launched on January 21st has (as of February 2nd) obtained a commitment by 11 members of the U-M community and 3044 people in total to refuse to publish, referee, or do editorial work for Elsevier journals “unless they radically change how they operate.” (Read more)

Go Blue!

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