The Chronicle of Higher Education sums up scientists’ concerns about Elsevier:
First there are the prices. Then the company bundles subscriptions to lesser journals together with valuable ones, forcing libraries to spend money to buy things they don’t want in order to get a few things they do want. And, most recently, Elsevier has supported a proposed federal law, the Research Works Act (HR 3699), that could prevent agencies like the National Institutes of Health from making all articles written by grant recipients freely available.
Sean M. Carroll, a prominent cosmologist and senior research associate at the California Institute of Technology, has signed the online pledge; he notes that Elsevier indeed charges “amazingly exorbitant prices to university libraries—and then makes the published papers very hard to access for anyone not at one of the universities.”
In calling for a boycott of Elsevier, researchers are more than aware that they are the suppliers of content to the journals. Without scientific research, you can’t really have a scientific journal.
Scientists are attempting to publish without the likes of Elsevier and other private-sector publishers at sites including F1000 research and the arXiv, at which physicists and mathematicians can post work in progress. Such “instant publishing” is still in its infancy as a valid, and validated, venue for scientific research.
But I commend these researchers’ intentions and efforts. I’m an academic at a small, chronically under-funded urban college. We don’t have access to a number of publications because the subscription costs are just too high. My college is not a research institution but the more research that is available via open access, the more our students — the more that anyone — can benefit.
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