Elsevier’s practices, politics spur scientists’ boycott

Update: The number researchers boycotting Elsevier is now over 5,000.  There’s also a graphic representation of Dr. Gowers’s position.

Researchers across many disciplines and around the world are taking action against the business practices of academic publishing giant Elsevier, and the movement’s momentum may be carrying it toward a critical mass.  Some 4,900 scientists around the world have signed a statement refusing to publish in, edit for and/or referee for the company’s 2,000 journals.

It’s old news that its critics find Elsevier’s high subscription costs and expensive bundling policies unethical. But today there’s a political issue as well, as detailed in an op-ed column in The Boston Globe:

“Now Elsevier is supporting an odious bit of legislation known as the Research Works Act. Currently, the National Institutes of Health has a rule: If the American people pay for research, then they should be able to see the results without paying again. This is simple fairness. Yet the legislation would end that policy, further boosting Elsevier’s profits by locking important biomedical research, the stuff of life and death, behind paywalls.”

The movement’s current surge appears to have been generated by the high-profile British mathematician Timothy Gowers. His original blog post last month has generated at least 315 responses and inspired the creation of The Cost of Knowledge website.

Worth noting: Elsevier is the contractor/developer for the Reach NC faculty database.

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