1000 scientists and counting boycott Elsevier journal publishing

Posted: January 30, 2012 by tallbloke in Blog, books, Legal, media, Philosophy, Politics

From El Reg

The Independent Printing Press

H/T Tim Channon.

The ongoing world protests against SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA have helped inspire a revolt among scientists over the role of academic publisher Elsevier and its business practices.

British mathematician Tim Gowers kicked-started the campaign with a scorching blog post outlining numerous complaints against the publisher, which sells over 2,000 academic journals such as The Lancet and Cell. Gowers claims that Elsevier charges unacceptably high prices and forces libraries to subscribe to bundles of publications en masse – some of which have little, if any, scientific credibility.

He also noted the company’s involvement in lobbying for SOPA, PIPA, and the Research Works Act (RWA) currently going through the US Congress, which would introduce charges to access publicly funded scientific research.

I am not only going to refuse to have anything to do with Elsevier journals from now on, but I am saying so publicly. I am by no means the first person to do this, but the more of us there are, the more socially acceptable it becomes, and that is my main reason for writing this post.


I firmly believe the day of the big journals publishers is nearly  done. They  are an anachronism. Their restrictive practices go against natural justice on fundamental issues around the sharing of knowledge and the progress of humanity.

I want to take the opportunity to say a huge thank you! to scientists like Hans Jelbring and Ned Nikolov who bring their science to the people for free here on the talkshop. They are in the vanguard of a new movement which is bringing real and exciting new science out into the light where the public can share a draught at the wellspring of knowledge and participate in it’s advancement and refinement. A huge thank you! to WordPress as well, our excellent hosts, who calmly resist the attack on free speech and knowledge being waged against us.

We do not need or want privately owned corporations in science behaving like Rupert Murdoch and forcing our library institutions to accept bundles of substandard, partisan and corporate driven material to dilute what should be ranked amongst the finest of human achievements.

After we have driven this goliath to the ground it will be time to tackle the cliques who have taken over the administration and editorial control of the big science institutions. For too long we have allowed the interests of power and finance to control public perception of truth and fact.

Bring on the renewal of the enlightenment! Independent publishing via the internet is the new medium we must nurture and protect.

  1. cedar rebellion says:

    Wrong approach. What should be done is to simply change the copyright laws by limiting them to a reasonable time. For example, when a song is produced, it peaks usually within a few months. Same for a movie. Same for a TV show. Same for books. Same for most things in todays hyper-speed world. Thus, as a starting point, reduce copyright to one year, for example, starting with the first sale or publication. Period.

    You can even slice up the copyrights. For example, a written work cannot be made into a movie or TV show (etc) for 20 years unless the copyright holder agrees (i.e., is paid by the show producers). There simply is no need in our modern high-speed society to extend government protections beyond a specific period for the person to make a profit.

    To keep the bu-crats working, have them set up a plagerism data base where folks that steal others work and make it their own without acknowledgement, can be identified. Even let them cruxify them in some way.

    What we need to focus on is not enforcement but why we’re protecting all these folks in the first place. Face it. To borrow a current phrase, 99 percent of what’s produced today is grotesquely horrible anyway.

  2. Thanks for this post. I started following links, which led to more links, and got quite an education. Two days ago I blogged about the fact that the Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet has signed his name to a letter full of loaded, highly politicized language that targets the Global Warming Policy Foundation. I view this behaviour as highly inappropriate.

    My reading this morning reveals that The Lancet is owned by the publishing company Elsevier – and that many folks from many disciplines and perspectives have grave concerns about how this company conducts itself.

    My blog post is here:


    To understand the harm done by The Lancet’s editor, this is how the matter is being reported by the gullible media:


  3. tchannon says:

    The medical people were more or less instructed by government, presumably the establishment, the core which is all pervasive in the UK, long story.

    So when the medics started writing it was no surprise. Vague recollection this started December so it might be worth tracing back to origin.

    Betcha the crass thinking is “everyone believes a doctor”, little realising there is very wide mistrust of medical people.

  4. Brian H says:

    Note also the remarkable post in the Grauniad by Taylor:

  5. Hans says:

    When the publisher starts paying for the scientific work and pay the peer reviewers they can claim ownership.
    It would be nice with an alternative type of peer review outside the conventional one which too often is more or less corrupt.
    But how to construct a high quality peer review system to secure high quality research articles is beoynd my fantasy.
    Public funded research work should be free for people to share since they already paid for it. See also:

  6. Doug Proctor says:

    Individuals and corporations have ethics, egos and passions; that is what drives them to do what they do and how they do it. Corporate leaders both inherit and create the ways of the corporation, and maintain the status quo is a large part in how one gets the job in the first place. A serious change at the top is threatening, unless it is towards more control and more focus. The individual is always the block towards openness and power distribution.

    The mainstream has been linked to the governors for as long as the governors realised that the public’s opinion mattered to them. You don’t get knighthoods in Britain publishing irritants to the ruling classes. In the beginning the passion of the press was in confronting the ruling elite with their outrageous ways, and the presses were attacked (and still are outside the 1st world). Now, in the first world, the word and who speaks it are part of the established power structure. To go against that structure invites retribution, of which becoming an outcast is the worst part.

    Today the blogosphere is the new independent press. Disagreement is possible and disconnect between position and reality easily announced. As long as the blogosphere doesn’t become corporate, it will be a weapon and a power for truth.

    There is no way to stay ethically true and non-corporate, mainstream. You cannot go big without bumping against the borders of others. If you want in the club, there are rules. From what I have read, Bush deleted newspaper reporters from his press briefings if they wrote badly about him. The newspapers needed those briefings to stay competitive, and so they had to back off. Blacklisting is nothing new.

    Jones and Mann caused blacklisting in the climate wars. Nothing new there: money, position and power were under threat. And so it goes.

    Whoever goes against the grain pays the price. Boycott Elsievier? Sure, as long as there is an alternative, which will be there as long as someone important isn’t pissed off. There is a Journal of Experimental Science that publishes avant-garde research into clairvoyance, psi, AIDS research that goes against the mainstream. The papers are created only by “peer-reviewed”, accredited authors. You’ll never see them anywhere else, and all are dismissed as the works of cranks. That is how it is: you make waves, you’re not allowed in the boat.

    We are lucky the internet (thank you, Al) exists. CAGW would already own you.

    By the way, I expect I and almost all of you regular contributors of opinion and fact are already on some form of List. Not active, just sitting there, ready for service. It is how it works.

  7. Who’s going to read the papers published in publications that are too expensive to buy?

    If the publisher owns the results of research and sells them at exhorbitant prices, doesn’t that make the information effectively proprietary? A secret?

    Is that what the publisher actually wants? To itself own intellectual property created by others, to the exclusion of others with comparatively little investment and almost no risk in the form of funding research?

    If the publisher claims ownership but doesn’t fund research, who’ll be wanting to fund research for the financial benefit of the publisher?

  8. Hans says:

    Doug Proctor says:
    January 30, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    “Individuals and corporations have ethics, egos and passions; that is what drives them to do what they do and how they do it.”

    By law the aim of corporations is to make profits. If they do they might chose to bribe some of those who deliver “scientific” results in one way or another to make even more profits.

    Publishing companies also strive to make profits. To them it doesn´t matter if 90% of what they sell is junk seen from a scientific perspective. People´s trust in scientists is exploited.

  9. Ray Tomes says:

    Wonderful to see an effort to stop restrictive practices by people who did not even fund anything to do with the research.

  10. Michael Hart says:

    I agree with the first post: If the public purse funds the bulk of the research then the government should be in an invincible position to make sure that it later becomes free to access after an appropriate period for the publishers to make a reasonable return.
    He who pays the piper…….

  11. Wayne Job says:

    The internet has the powers that be bamboozled, It is our job to fight to keep the internet
    unencumbered by government such, that free thought can continue. The USA the EU even Australian governments have been trying to put controls on the internet, this is our last freedom.

    It is our only hope to keep freedom of ideas from government control. The MSM and the majority of journals have been hi-jacked for political purposes.

  12. Brian H says:

    Short-term, media control and censorship make sense for TPTB, survival-wise. Long term, not so much, as they vitiate and debase the sources of strength and wealth that TBTB want to keep control over.