Elsevier boycott: Time for librarians to rise up!

A little while back the Cost of Knowledge site started up a boycott pledge list in response to mathematician Timothy Gowers' pledge to stop contributing to Elsevier's operations by ceasing writing, reviewing and editing for them.

Here is the call to action:

Academics have protested against Elsevier's business practices for years with little effect. These are some of their objections:

  1. They charge exorbitantly high prices for subscriptions to individual journals.
  2. In the light of these high prices, the only realistic option for many libraries is to agree to buy very large "bundles", which will include many journals that those libraries do not actually want. Elsevier thus makes huge profits by exploiting the fact that some of their journals are essential.
  3. They support measures such as SOPA, PIPA and the Research Works Act, that aim to restrict the free exchange of information.

The key to all these issues is the right of authors to achieve easily-accessible distribution of their work. If you would like to declare publicly that you will not support any Elsevier journal unless they radically change how they operate, then you can do so by filling in your details on this page.

More information:

It then asks signatories to sign the pledge with their name, affiliation and discipline and pledge not to publish, referee or do editorial work for Elsevier.

I have done so. In fact, I've recently declined an opportunity to publish in an Elsevier professional newsletter in the library field and cited the Research Works Act in my refusal.

I would ask all the librarians and library/information science people reading this to consider adding their names to the boycott as well.

I've hesitated to ask this so directly before since there was no way for librarians and other library people to sign the pledge explicitly stating their affiliation with libraries and information science as a subject. We either had to put "Other" or chose perhaps the discipline from our non-library degrees.

Fortunately, the organizers of The Cost of Knowledge have recently added Library and Information Sciences to the list of subjects. They've also set it up so that if you signed up previously, you can update your subject just by re-signing with the same email address.

Librarians and other library/information science people can now directly support the boycott as it pertains to our own professional literature. By our participation, we can also clearly state that we support faculty, researcher and other scholars in their quest to make their professional and scholarly literature less the subject of excessive commercial avarice.

Most importantly, we can send a message that we are united, that we stand together.

I could make this a much longer post, explaining my rationale for singling out Elsevier, explaining the goals of the boycott and various other points.

For that, I'll point you to:

And some of my own thoughts along similar lines:

6 responses so far

  • starskeptic says:

    Happy March...

  • John Dupuis says:

    Ooops. Thanks for pointing that out...

  • Greg Laden says:

    Does this mean I don't have to review this paper they just sent me????


  • Schenck says:

    Surely having librarians on the petition will mean more than just a researcher, it's the libraries that are the major customers for publishers like Elsevier.

    Are there any Universities that have signed on, as a whole, to the petition/boycott? It'd certainly be doable (in terms of mechanism, if not likelyhood)

  • BobS says:

    Occupy Elsevier! Just scan or copy interesting journals in one's field of interest from your library and anonymously upload via Tribler or other privacy protocols! Best put it in bundles like: 'cell biology', 'physical geography', 'optics', etc. That'll teach'em!!!

  • Paul Murray says:

    I just think this is insane. Don't you people have the internet? Aren't you a university? http was *invented* by and for academia.

    Set aside a domain: pub.ox.ed.uk for oxford university as *the* place where the academic output of a university - anything faculty wants published - is *published*. Put some money aside to do the only thing these publishers do - organise peer-review. Treat documents published at that location as being "published" in the sense that documents in the Journal of Whatever are published. And give Elsevier the finger. Forever.

    Just do it. Domain name. Web sever. System for handing out DOIs to the various schools. Official promulgtion of "this is where our peer-reviewed academic output gets put". Job done, for God's sake.

    And it barely needs pointing out that this is absolutely, absolutely a job for the librarian - curation of documents. The main thing you need is a recognition, by academia, that when some one asks "is this work properly published", that a url starting with "pub.ox.ed.uk" is recognised as being every bit as formally reliable as a journal citation. That oxford university stands behind every document fetchable from that namespace (in the sense of it being legit scholarship).

    The technical side of the job can be done by any 12-year-old these days. The only thing beyond getting an off-the-shelf content management system would be to ensure that DOIs are assigned (I work with the taxonomic data at anbg - if everything that gets cited had a DOI, life would be immeasurably better).

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