Boycotting Academic Publishers

There was an interesting article in The Chronicle of Higher Ed yesterday about the Elsevier boycott:

 ”Timothy Gowers of the University of Cambridge, who won the Fields Medal for his research, has organized a boycott of Elsevier because, he says, its pricing and policies restrict access to work that should be much more easily available. He asked for a boycott in a blog post on January 21, and as of Monday evening, on the boycott’s Web site The Cost of Knowledge, nearly 1,900 scientists have signed up, pledging not to publish, referee, or do editorial work for any Elsevier journal.

The company has sinned in three areas, according to the boycotters: It charges too much for its journals; it bundles subscriptions to lesser journals together with valuable ones, forcing libraries to spend money to buy things they don’t want in order to get a few things they do want; and, most recently, it has supported a proposed federal law (called the Research Works Act) that would prevent agencies like the National Institutes of Health from making all articles written by its grant recipients freely available.”

The high cost of academic journals has been an issue in libraries for quite some time, but the interesting thing about this particular boycott is that it is being led by content producers rather than libraries.

As a librarian, I’ve been on one side of this conversation – namely, watching the costs of academic journal subscriptions rise while being unable to do anything about it.  Canceling the subscription is not an issue for an academic library whose community demands access to those journals.  As someone engaged in research, I am becoming more aware of the other side of academic publishing and am finding it to be equally frustrating.  I will be curious to see how the boycott goes and will be following the discussion closely.

articles, sources, sites:

Elsevier Publishing Boycott Gathers Steam Among Academics 

As Journal Boycott Grows, Elsevier Defends Its Practices 

Researchers boycott publisher; will they embrace instant publishing?

Testify: The Open-Science Movement Catches Fire

Timothy Gowers

The Cost of Knowledge

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