February 11th, 2015
Nearly 6000 academics, have put their names to a petition declaring their intention to boycott the academic publisher Elsevier. “The Cost of Knowledge” petition claims Elsevier charges ridiculously high prices for its journals and criticises its practice of selling journals in large quantities leaving libraries with many unwanted journals. Furthermore it says the publisher makes “huge profits by exploiting their essential titles, at the expense of other journals”.
The petition is part of a bigger online protest. On January 18, 2012, several websites, including Wikipedia and Reddit, turned black to protest against US bills SOPA and PIPA. Just three days later, mathematician Timothy Gowers’ blog entry sparked the aforementioned protest aimed at the major Anglo-Dutch publisher of scientific journals: Elsevier.
In his post, Gowers mainly complained about three aspects of Elsevier: high prices, imposing marketing methods and support to legislation against open access models. Consequently he announced his boycott of Elsevier, refusing to cooperate with them in any way, which means he will not publish in its journals, he won’t be part of these journals’ editorial boards, nor does he want to referee any articles. He considered it necessary to announce this refusal publicly and came up with the idea to create a website where everyone who shares his ideas could sign their name.
This resulted in the creation of ‘The Cost of Knowledge’ website, where so far 5995 people have supported the boycott. The website contains a statement signed by 34 mathematicians, who consider Elsevier, as “an example of everything that is wrong with the current system of commercial publication of mathematics journals.” In their boycott, these academics, join open access advocates and scientists who champion a less profitable model, with universities taking the place of publishers.
It is clear that today, scientists have the tools to go through the whole process of publishing and distributing their research in a much easier, cheaper and instant way than 15 years ago. This is something that our company, United Academics, has understood very well.