Some questions for Elsevier

by Henry on February 21, 2012

NPR ran a good piece on the Elsevier saga before the weekend. I found one part of the broadcast particularly interesting. A director of Elsevier, Alicia Wise, makes the case for Elsevier as follows.

We have full-time scientific editors, who are mediating the peer review process, and finding editors, and finding reviewers, ensuring those reviews are returned on time. They also are tasked with ensuring that the published articles are bias free. … publishers are doing more work, they have more submissions, and we are incurring the costs of ensuring that peer review and quality control happens.

According to NPR, Wise acknowledges that Elsevier has done a poor job communicating with academics, and has been going online to engage with Elsevier’s critics. I hereby invite Dr. Wise to do so in the comments section here (we are online after all, and a reasonably visible blog) to provide specific answers to a few focused questions. Commenters should feel free to add more questions of their own, but I do ask them to maintain minimum standards of civilty so as to promote debate &c&c.

(1) Which aspect of keeping the academic publishing process ‘bias free’ drove Elsevier’s decision to take drug company money to repackage articles supporting these companies’ products in ways that explicitly suggested that these packages were real academic journals? It’s all very nice that Elsevier’s CEO has expressed his ‘regret’ that this ‘took place’ (rather in the same way that he might have expressed sorrow at an earthquake, a monsoon or a similar natural calamity beyond his control), but did he do anything to reaffirm Elsevier’s stalwart commitment to bias free research, such as e.g. firing the executives responsible?

(2) In a recent Science article on how journals put pressure on academics to cite work previously published in these journals (so as to bump up the journal’s impact factors artificially), four of the five worst journals were Elsevier publications. How does this comport with Elsevier’s purportedly ironclad commitment to quality control and elimination of bias in the peer review process? Skeptics might hypothesize that things have not improved as much as one might like after Elsevier was forced by public outrage among scientists to take action in the notorious “Journal of Chaos, Solitons and Fractals” case, in which an obscure journal managed to become the highest-impact journal in mathematics, thanks in large part to generous, indeed exuberant, levels of self-citation (which were, however, very plausibly not the product of coercion on the part of its editor, who was the co-author of many of the pieces involved).

(3) Why is it that Elsevier obliges libraries buying its products to sign non-disclosure agreements so that they can’t tell anyone what they are paying for their journal bundles without getting sued? Cynics might see this as a textbook example of a semi-monopolist doing everything it can to engage in price discrimination. But perhaps there is an entirely innocent answer.

I would be delighted to see Dr. Wise respond to the particulars of these questions (vague and generic restatements of corporate goals and policies will be greeted with rather less enthusiasm). There is much that remains unknown about Elsevier’s internal processes of decision making, and how they have brought this corporate publishing behemoth, and the academic publishing industry that it has sought so assiduously to reshape) to the state that it is now in.

{ 59 comments }

1

Matt 02.21.12 at 5:00 pm

Why even pretend with the questions? There are plenty of open publishing, not for profit journals that provide EXACTLY the same services as Elsevier without needing to buy off congress to give them back their monopoly rents that serve no interest but to enrich the owners of Elsevier. Pathetic. As an academic researcher I will never again submit to or review an article for an Elsevier journal.

2

buford puser 02.21.12 at 5:11 pm

I’m curious about these ” full-time scientific editors” Elsevier claims to employ: has anyone ever met or heard from these people?
Having reviewed for a number of their journals in the past, and also published in several of them, I can recall no contact with any person who was not a university faculty member providing free services to this profit-making corporation.
Was my experience unusual, or are they talking out the side of their neck, as we used to say when we were kids?

3

ajay 02.21.12 at 5:20 pm

I’m curious about these ” full-time scientific editors” Elsevier claims to employ: has anyone ever met or heard from these people?

Their identities are kept a closely guarded secret.

http://www.cell.com/contact

…Oops.

4

A neuroscientist 02.21.12 at 5:26 pm

Of the many elsevier journals I deal with, only 1 (current biology) has a full time editor. The others survive and thrive on the hard work of my friends and colleagues as editors. It is only because of them that I haven’t yet signed the elsevier boycott.

5

ezra abrams 02.21.12 at 5:36 pm

it is important to remember that elsivier is part of a large “information conglomerate” reuters thompson.
In corporate speak, the value of the elsivier brand is enhanced by synergies – in otherwords, once you start buying elsivier, they hope to sell you other TR products.

In regard to your questions, they are pretty silly: Elsivier is a large for profit company. Large for profits, by their natures, are completly souless; that is why we have regulatory bodies; expecting a company like elsivier to act in an honorable manner is like expecting a hyena to treat it’s prey with respect (I have heard on TV shows that the hyena will capture prey by ripping open the stomach of the animal, who subsequently gets entangled in it’s own entrails; mother nature is pretty bloody)

In any event, as a molecular biologist with several not great but ok papers, I have questions for you:
1) if peer review and editors serve a function, and I think, based on my personal experience, that they do, how do we compensate said people ?
2) Roughly speaking, Most papers are garbage; we know this from both our personal experience as academics or professionls and from “objective” data like citation rankings; most papers get 0 or 1 citation.
Since most papers are essentially worthless, why do we bother with the charade of peer review ? I think this is why we need to pay elsivier: who on earth is gonna bother to waste their time reviewing the titanic flood of worthless papers that gushes forth every year; ‘ya gotta pay people to deal with dreck.
I personally have had to review several bad papers; it is painfull, and I have had to review one or two real contributions, and it was an honor.

6

buford puser 02.21.12 at 5:36 pm

ajay:

Perhaps I’ve been publishing in & reviewing for the wrong journals?
Cell certainly has an enviably short name, & apparently commensurately long staffing.
However, a cursory act of research, methods consisting of clicking on some titles on the Elsevier website (
Acta Ecologica Sinica , Genomics, Proteomics & Bioinformatics , the irresistably-named Gait & Posture (an admittedly non-random choice), and Pediatric Neurology ) and looking at the Editorial Board pages for each, reveals that, in at least some cases, these full-time Elsevier staff assisting the unpaid academic staff in generating profits for Elsevier may be keeping more undercover than is the case at Cell.

7

buford puser 02.21.12 at 5:38 pm

Apologies for botched attempt at formatting previous post, which is evidence of why I will never publish in a journal Elsevier deems important enough to pay for staffing of.

8

Steve LaBonne 02.21.12 at 5:46 pm

Being an old fart ex-academic-molecular-biologist I can point out that Cell always had a full-time editorial staff even long before it was gobbled up by Elsevier. So it’s not necessarily typical of their journals.

9

Manta1976 02.21.12 at 5:46 pm

ezra, I am a bit confused by your argument: you say we should pay Elsevier because people like you are willing to referee bad papers, and do that for free?

10

Junius Ponds 02.21.12 at 5:56 pm

Cell Press does have a full-time editorial board, which is unusual in biomedical sciences (also Nature Publishing Group does). The rest of the Elsevier journal do not, that I know of.

11

Robert P. Goldman 02.21.12 at 6:03 pm

A big concern of mine is Elsevier’s attempts to push copyright-maximal legislation in the US and throughout the world. I was dismayed to find that I was supporting an organization that was lobbying for censorship-friendly legislation like SOPA.

I would also like to address the claims of Elsevier’s director about their investment in their journals. The main journal in my field, Artificial Intelligence has clearly lost all of its copy-editing. Articles now appear plagued with obvious grammatical errors, often due to authors who are not native English speakers, to the point where it is not simply awkward, but can be a real impediment to the reader’s understanding. Cutting this level of production support is not a service to either the readers, or the authors, and has the effect of undercutting their own competition with their open access rivals.

12

Manta1976 02.21.12 at 6:40 pm

I did not know about 3): can you give more details? Is only for some universities, or some countries, or is it a general practice by Elsevier?

13

JW Mason 02.21.12 at 6:41 pm

CT is really doing the Lord’s work here. Keep it up; and I also would be interested in seeing responses to Henry’s questions. I do think there’s value in adopting the stance of a genuine dialogue here, even if you don’t really expect the other side to reciprocate.

In regard to your questions, they are pretty silly: Elsivier is a large for profit company. Large for profits, by their natures, are completely souless

This reminds me of my new favorite Horkheimer quote: “Cynisism is the worst kind of conformity.” There’s no ethical violation that someone won’t tell you is just the way things are, nothing to be done; the only reason we have a decent society (to the extent we do) is that people don’t listen to the Ezra Abrams of the world, and continue to demand that institutions live up to their stated norms and purposes.

14

jim 02.21.12 at 6:44 pm

As long as P&T committees, deans and provosts are impressed with publications in Elsevier journals, then people are going to submit to them, some worthwhile papers will be published in them and libraries will feel the need to continue to buy them.

The questions that you pose should be reformulated and directed to P&T committees, deans and provosts: why do you consider publication in journals that indulge in these practices proof of scholarship?

15

Manta1976 02.21.12 at 6:51 pm

jim, I am not in such a committee, but a couple of journals by Elseveir in the sub-field I work on are among the best (and with good editors), and the same happens in other fields. The P&T committees are doing their job, which is to evaluate the candidate.

To break Goldwin’s law: the best rocket scientists happened to work for the 3rd Reich: that did not stop them from being the best rocket scientists, and the relevant hiring committee took “did for Hitler” as a proof of scholarship…

16

buford puser 02.21.12 at 7:32 pm

As to Nazi rocket scientists, promotions committees, & academic indifference to social consequences of technical decisions:
“‘Once ze rockets are up,
Who cares vhere they come down?
That’s not my department’
Says Wernher von Braun”
T. Lehrer [MIT poli-sci dept.] . 1965. “Wernher von Braun”. That Was the Year That Was. Reprise Records.

17

AcademicLurker 02.21.12 at 7:51 pm

So is the conclusion of this thread that Elsevier is worse than Hitler or just that they’re objectively pro-Hitler?

18

jim 02.21.12 at 8:06 pm

@15

The P&T committees are doing their job, which is to evaluate the candidate.

The problem that P&T committees have, and deans and provosts have in spades, is they’re unqualified to judge the value of the candidate’s research. They can and do ask outside qualified referees for their opinions, but have to recognize that those opinions may not be unbiased. So they look for proxies, and a journal’s reputation becomes a proxy for the value of a paper published in it.

[A] couple of journals by Elseveir in the sub-field I work on are among the best

…because of the papers published in them. It isn’t anything intrinsic to the journal. There’s a virtuous/vicious circle at work. Good papers are published in a journal, therefore it’s a good journal, therefore people who have written good papers want to be published in it, therefore it gets to publish good papers.

In the case of Elsevier, it would be good for the academy as a whole if that circle were broken. Henry has advocated trying to persuade academics not to submit to Elsevier journals. I believe an approach more likely to succeed is to get academic authorities to stop assuming they’re a proxy for quality.

19

buford puser 02.21.12 at 8:12 pm

Well, my complaint was confined to merely pointing out that justifying annexing the Sudetenland because of their high gauleiter staffing costs makes no sense given the actual lack of any such gauleiters (at least at the sort of lowly journals to which I offer the sad products of my work).

20

Henry 02.21.12 at 8:55 pm

bq. In the case of Elsevier, it would be good for the academy as a whole if that circle were broken. Henry has advocated trying to persuade academics not to submit to Elsevier journals. I believe an approach more likely to succeed is to get academic authorities to stop assuming they’re a proxy for quality.

I have actually been thinking about this a bit, and what to do. On the one hand, I don’t think that it is fair e.g. to oblige junior academics not to publish in Elsevier journals. On the other, I think it is not fair to punish those who don’t want to publish in these journals for the many reasons that have been discussed in the last couple of months. One possible step might be to have some boilerplate language that tenure committees could use when they send out requests for letters, stating e.g. that they do not want to see non-tenured academics punished for refusing to publish in Elsevier journals, and that they request that letter writers take this into consideration when evaluating work for purposes of tenure. The implication would be that if someone declines to submit to Elsevier journal _x_ and instead sends it to ‘not quite as good but still in the same league’ non-Elsevier journal _y_, they would not be penalized for so doing.

21

Manta1976 02.21.12 at 9:12 pm

That would be quite a bold move: which hiring committee would, essentially, express publicly the support for boycotting Elsevier? (and it would amount to that, no less since the comapny would be named in the letter).

22

Leigh Caldwell 02.21.12 at 9:25 pm

And the end of this thread adroitly demonstrates why the corollary to Godwin’s Law was articulated.

23

JW Mason 02.21.12 at 9:27 pm

And Henry @20 proves once again that even people who know the secret undocumented CT formatting code, cannot successfully use the secret undocumented CT formatting code.

24

Steve LaBonne 02.21.12 at 9:33 pm

And Henry @20 proves once again that even people who know the secret undocumented CT formatting code, cannot successfully use the secret undocumented CT formatting code.

Well, good old HTML works.

25

Substance McGravitas 02.21.12 at 9:35 pm

If you apply it on a per-paragraph basis, which is not very HTML-like…

26

Barry Freed 02.21.12 at 9:40 pm

To return to the topic, how many here have signed on to the boycott at http://thecostofknowledge.com/ ? and for those in the academic community who have published in Elsevier journals and are taking part in the boycott I’d like to ask if you think this tactic will work (/is working)? [I'm just a very interested outside observer myself but it certainly seems to be having an effect.]

27

krippendorf 02.21.12 at 9:47 pm

I’ve publishing in Elsevier journals (what can I say, they currently have a monopoly on journals in my little corner of the social sciences), and have yet to see any sign of a copy editor. However, errors mysteriously appeared in my equations at the page proof stage, which may have been the work of a top-secret Elsevier editor …

28

Eli Rabett 02.21.12 at 10:05 pm

FWIW it used to be good to publish in the Elsevier journals because they had top notch copy editing and printers and were much faster than the learned society journals. Now not so much. Certain Elsevier journals also did not have page charges, so we paid for the off prints and mailed them to anyone who asked.

However, today Elsevier pushes the costs of their key journals to crowd out everything else. Anyone on library committees is sick of killing off another journal to handle the rising cost of Tetrahedron or Tet Lett.

29

Barry Freed 02.21.12 at 10:15 pm

Forgive the ignorant questions but do you have to pay – processing fees, page change fees and the like – to get your articles published in scientific journals?

30

AcademicLurker 02.21.12 at 10:20 pm

Forgive the ignorant questions but do you have to pay – processing fees, page change fees and the like – to get your articles published in scientific journals?

Yes. In my neck of the (scientific) woods it runs to about $1,000 per article if there are any color figures.

These fees are typically paid from grants, so for research published in a non-open access journal the taxpayers basically pay for the research 3 times: once for the actual work, once for publication costs and once to actually get access to the published paper.

31

throwaway80 02.21.12 at 10:24 pm

Tell you what – I’m not Alicia Wise, but here are honest answers to your questions:

1) This was done by a small branch office without approval. The local person who approved it left soon after (not sure if he was fired or if he was leaving anyway). Everyone I know at Elsevier today thinks it was unethical and stupid. It also happened 7 years ago. If you examine any large company’s history you will find cases like this (witness Google in Kenya, just a few weeks ago). This does not excuse the incident, but how long will you keep bringing it up?

2) Look. You’re an academic, right? What are the implications of a (say) 0.5% error rate in managing the volume of journals and papers that Elsevier processes? At that error rate, you would expect about 10 problem Elsevier journals a year.

It would be shocking if there was never a problem, and cherry-picking anecdotes like this does nothing to prove systematic misconduct. Maybe Elsevier is systematically worse. Maybe not. But anecdotes like this do not prove it.

3) Elsevier asks for confidentiality agreements because contracts are custom negotiated for every customer. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I’m not sure. It does create flexibility on both sides of the negotiation, and I know of examples that benefited Elsevier, but also examples that benefited the library.

I understand that you don’t like the current publishing model. There are indeed many things that can be improved (though it also has hidden strengths that you simply don’t see anymore, because they are so much a part of the background of how academic communication works). But things change – perhaps open access is the future, and maybe Elsevier will adapt to that, and maybe it won’t. We will see.

But, please, try to elevate the discussion above the name-calling in this post (not to mention the comments that followed).

32

Barry Freed 02.21.12 at 10:27 pm

Thanks for that AcademicLurker. I’m following this from a library science perspective and I’m curious to know if you and others here who publish in Elsevier journals think this boycott will work (and I’m certainly hoping it does).

33

Manta1976 02.21.12 at 10:38 pm

In my neck, instead, you don’t pay for publication (unless you need color, but who needs such modern contraptions)?

34

hellblazer 02.21.12 at 10:52 pm

Interesting remarks from Eli R at 28 – I have sometimes wondered whether there were past advantages/benefits, or whether it was purely accidental.

I’m in the same boat (on the same neck? in the same neck?) as Manta1976 here. Don’t have to pay anything, except in some cases if I want physical collated copies of offprints – even then the PDF is usually provided free without any DRM. The charges for offprints are also levied by apparently “virtuous” publishers of journals affiliated to academic societies, so I don’t think one can blame Elsevier alone for that particular levy.

Whether or not the journal subscription fees, via bundling, are “worth it” is a whole other debate, which I’m not really sure about myself.

35

js. 02.21.12 at 10:58 pm

In my neck, instead, you don’t pay for publication (unless you need color, but who needs such modern contraptions)?

Same here. (What is this thing called “color”?) I’m fairly well shocked that the price of publishing an article can be $1000. $1000! Also, Elvesier has zero presence in my (sub-)field, or anywhere in the vicinity really. Which I guess I’m just glad about.

36

Substance McGravitas 02.21.12 at 11:09 pm

There are plenty of open publishing, not for profit journals that provide EXACTLY the same services as Elsevier without needing to buy off congress

Gee whiz, isn’t this a foreign company that wants the American monopoly?

37

buford puser 02.21.12 at 11:23 pm

Open-access journals seem to often charge per-article fees to authors to support that open access, or am I again the product of parochial experience?

38

LFC 02.21.12 at 11:48 pm

If Ezra Abrams @5 is correct that Elsevier is part of Reuters Thomson, I’m surprised that no one in the thread seems to have remarked on this. Thomson alone was an enormous company (perhaps not as much in the academic/scientific areas as in, e.g., legal/business/etc publishing), and with Reuters it’s even bigger. To what extent, if any, can the practices at issue be traced to, or connected with, the growing concentration, i.e., conglomeritization (conglomerizing? whatever) of the (so-called) information industry? Henry’s #3 in the OP suggests there may be a connection to these broader industry developments.

39

Tom Hurka 02.22.12 at 12:46 am

Thomson used to be in the newspaper business (as in Lord Thomson of Fleet) but got out of it and into, among other things, academic journals, because they thought there was more money in that. I guess they were right. (I used to run a philosophy journal and the costs involved in producing it were tiny compared to the subscription fees charged by other journals. We didn’t charge that much, but could figure out what the others must be making in profit.)

40

Sidewinder 02.22.12 at 12:56 am

Reed Elsevier is not part of Thomson Reuters.

Regarding NDAs, an increasing number of academic research libraries in the US are refusing to sign NDAs with Elsevier (and other for-profit publishers). I’m not sure what the situation is with libraries in other parts of the world.

41

RW Force 02.22.12 at 1:09 am

In 2011, Elsevier had a profit of $1.1 billion, an operating-profit margin of 36%.
http://www.economist.com/node/18744177

42

Keith K. 02.22.12 at 1:20 am

Wise is doing what Republican politicians have mastered over the last 40 years: answering questions about policy with descriptions of procedures, and counting on lazy journalists not to notice that they’ve reframed the discussion away from the topic to quibbles over procedural minutia.

43

Barbara Fister 02.22.12 at 1:24 am

@buford puser – many OA journals do not charge authors; it is a model used by PLoS and many commercial publishers are developing author-pays model journals as new revenue streams – or (as in the case of SAGE) allow authors to pay a $3,000 ransom to make it possible for non-subscribers to read their articles.

This is more common in the sciences, though, and I suspect it’s because scientists can build costs into grants. There are, however, many OA journals that do not charge authors.

@Manta1976 – on the subject of nondisclosure agreements, Elsevier sought an injunction against researchers who were obtaining costs to public universities using a freedom of information act request. Elsevier’s lawyers claimed knowing how much institutions paid for information would be damaging to the advancement of knowledge. The judge did not agree. That said, libraries are frequently asked not to disclose how much they pay for a package, the threat being that they will blow their chance to swing a special deal. The Association of Research Libraries thinks that’s probably not a good idea. But it’s common practice.

44

Rick Karr 02.22.12 at 1:55 am

I’m the reporter who did the piece to which Henry links in the original post.

Elsevier is not owned by Thomson-Reuters. Instead, it’s part of Reed-Elsevier.

45

Bloix 02.22.12 at 2:18 am

Elsevier is not part of Thomson Reuters. It is part of Reed Elsevier, a company incorporated in both the UK and the Netherlands (as Reed Elsevier PLC and Reed Elsevier NV) and publicly traded in both countries.

46

Henry 02.22.12 at 2:24 am

someone who appears to be a pseudonymous Elsevier employee has popped up with some responses at #31 – this has been in our moderation queue for some hours and I have only just seen it. I don’t find it particularly convincing – being responsible for 4 out of the 5 worst journals in what appears to be a reasonably systematic survey is not an ‘anecdotal’ finding – but people should read for themselves, obviously.

47

John Quiggin 02.22.12 at 3:15 am

Assuming the Elsevier response on point 1 is factually correct, I’d say that episodes like this, along with Elsevier’s involvement (until it was shamed out of it) in the arms fair business have created concerns about the whole corporate culture there. In this context, it’s hard to assume good faith in relation to things like confidentiality agreements.

48

Substance McGravitas 02.22.12 at 3:25 am

The Wikipedia entry for Elsevier lists 2006 pre-tax profits as over five hundred million Euros. Perhaps they’re just barely scraping by now and need support.

49

nick s 02.22.12 at 4:01 am

Elsevier asks for confidentiality agreements because contracts are custom negotiated for every customer. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I’m not sure.

A comparable pricing model comes to mind for ‘enterprise’ software, which is agreed with exchanges of scribbled numbers between the sales rep and the buying institution, and where prices begin at ‘if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.’ That might work for Oracle or SAP, but it seems utterly inappropriate for academic publishing.

[I don't have much else to add here, other than that the journal model needs to go away, but I'll note that Textile is broken throughout the site.]

50

LFC 02.22.12 at 4:34 am

I hope Ezra Abrams is still reading this thread since he was the one who wrote up at comment #5 — incorrectly, as it turns out — that Elsevier was part of T-R.

51

Ed. (former) 02.22.12 at 4:38 am

I heard Ms. Wise’s comments on “On the Media,” and I had a lot of trouble understanding what she was referring to. I edited an Elsevier journal in the 90s and have steadily published in others. At no time has anyone at Elsevier provided any service such as the ones she describes. Excellent papers and utter crap have both been published, without help or interference from Elsevier staff. I am friends with other editors after my time, and I’ve never heard of anyone at the company detecting errors or checking for bias or any such thing. Indeed, unlike journals published by scientific organizations, there now seems to be almost no copyediting, which truly IS the publisher’s job.

They usually do typeset the articles and notice if there are missing references, but gross blunders still have occurred. For example, I once wrote a rebuttal to an article that was criticizing an earlier article of mine. The two papers (critique and rebuttal) were supposed to appear adjacent to one another, as agreed by the editor and both authors, so that they would form a pair that could be read together. But the Elsevier production staff didn’t seem to understand this, and so mine appeared in a later issue, making all the readers what critique my was referring to. Oh well. At least there was no bias.

52

JW Mason 02.22.12 at 5:34 am

I’ll note that Textile is broken throughout the site.

Entertaining to find that Henry’s very post on this site includes a textile tag. It doesn’t work. But hey, all those thousands of innocent hyphens that have been interpreted as strikethrough tags over the years (is there even one case of someone deliberately using this tag?) have been totally worth it. Right?

Also, comment numbering screwed up by moderation queue. Just saying.

(And yes, I know, free ice cream. I’m grateful! But even if the ice cream is free, a house convention that banana actually means pistachio may not be the best idea.)

53

bexley 02.22.12 at 10:35 am

Look. You’re an academic, right? What are the implications of a (say) 0.5% error rate in managing the volume of journals and papers that Elsevier processes? At that error rate, you would expect about 10 problem Elsevier journals a year.

It would be shocking if there was never a problem, and cherry-picking anecdotes like this does nothing to prove systematic misconduct. Maybe Elsevier is systematically worse. Maybe not. But anecdotes like this do not prove it.

@31

I’m guessing the anecdote you’re referring to is the use of the Journal of Chaos, Solitons and Fractals as an example. The study finding Elsevier has four of the five worst journals when it comes to coercing academics to cite work previously published in these journals certainly isn’t anecdotal.

I agree it looks like the Journal of Chaos, Solitons and Fractals case was due to a rogue editor-in-chief rather than Elsevier evilness. However this just raises the question of where exactly Elsevier was in all of this? There appears to have been no oversight of the Journal and no action taken until those in the field started kicking up too big a stink to ignore. What stops someone else doing something like this? Are Elsevier just relying on their editors ethics while applying no oversight and scooping fat profits?

54

Eli Rabett 02.22.12 at 11:07 am

The pattern appears to be that you have to ransom your papers to OA status if the journal is not all OA. See, for example, American Institute of Physics journals (Not picking on them, just providing an example)

55

EKR 02.22.12 at 5:16 pm

For what it’s worth, some members of the CS community have taken an arguably more (or arguably less) radical stand: refusing to review for any venue that’s not
open access.

56

Ed 02.23.12 at 8:51 pm

@55

Very interesting! Elsevier is the publishing group we love to hate, but they are really more a symptom of the greater serials crisis than the sole cause. Indeed, getting folks to sign up for full-on open access instead of just shunning a particular publisher would be a more radical (and arguably more useful) step. It is hard to effect radical change though — don’t forget that PLoS started out as an attempt to do the same thing

57

Chris Williams 02.23.12 at 11:24 pm

There’s a marvellous intervention from the editor of Explorations in Economic History – an Elsevier journal, here:
http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2012/02/22/elsevier-price-boycotters-untruth/

“What I strongly dislike is the Chief Executive claiming that the objections of Elsevier’s critics are based on “misstatements or misunderstandings of the fact”. He should be honest and state that in many cases his journals have an element of monopoly power which as a commercial, capitalist company he is determined to exploit as fully as possible . I would respect him were he to say that.”

I love economic historians.

58

Elizabeth 02.26.12 at 8:59 pm

In addition to its other sins, Elsevier is a member of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a coalition of corporations that draws up model conservative legislation and lobbies state legislatures to adopt it. (There was a good expose of ALEC in the nation: http://www.thenation.com/article/161973/koch-connection) On February 29, in New York City and elsewhere, there will be demonstrations against ALEC members.

59

Elizabeth 02.26.12 at 9:07 pm

A postcript to my previous comment: for more information on the February 29 demonstrations, see http://www.shutdownthecorporations.org/

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