Death to Elsevier!

You already know my feelings about that exploitive science publisher, Elsevier; I’m not the only one, and there’s been a long, long history of anger over their publishing model — and it’s not just scientists, but scholars in other disciplines who have been peeved.

Now a boycott has coalesced. If you publish, edit, or review Elsevier journal articles, make your opinion known and sign the petition.

(Also on Sb)


  1. says

    I agree completely. I do not have access to scientific literature through some type of an organisation. I have to pay for every article, and I simply can’t afford it.

    Sure, I have access to older papers, Newton’s writings, Darwin’s writings, many of Einstein’s writings. However, some time has past since then, and while it interesting, I am not interested in limiting myself to the history of science.

    I am also not some nincompoop that somehow needs to be protected from current science, and feels content reading the nonsense keyboarded by “science journalists” who think that Deepak Chopra is a quantum mechanics genius.

    To hell with Elsevier and its friends!

  2. Usernames are stupid says

    It seems archaic/backwards that dead-tree journals are still in business (using the scarcity model).

    What about a system like this:

    • Researcher writes paper and sends it to reviewers
    • Reviewers make whatever recommendation
    • Paper is published on researcher’s institution’s website (and reviewers’ names are attached)
    • Paper is submitted to Library of Congress(?) for indexing.

  3. says

    Usernames are stupid is right. I don’t support the dead-tree model either. In fact, I have run a paperless office for years now, as well as an almost paperless library which I expect to be completely paperless sometime this year as well as a completely paperless past.

    The only paper that will remain is the paper that I cannot get rid of without getting in deep trouble, and that fits in a single archive box with ample room to spare.

  4. jaycee says

    I just got one of those annoying emails from an Elsevier journal reminding me that ‘my review of paper #### is overdue’. What is really annoying is that the review was due on Saturday (the “true” Sabbath of all days!), and the editor didn’t even wait until Monday before complaining that my freely donated review was late. You have to laugh at the passive-agressive tone of these emails, which often suggest that the fate of my discipline rests on my returning my reviews ‘on time’. What is ironic is that it is not clear that Elsevier cares much about the fate of my discipline or progress in my field.

    It is clear that the current system is a beautiful one, if you are Elsevier (or any number of publishers). What other industry gets all their materials and the bulk of the labor done for free, then turns around and charges the institutions where those people work large fees to view the material they submitted?

    When I agree to a review, I don’t usually pay too much attention to the publisher, but rather the journal name. However, I am strongly reconsidering.

  5. says

    Glen: I have heard most people say “El – seh – veere”

    Close. I think that El – suh – veere might be better.

    The “se (suh)” in Elsevier sounds identical to the “u” in “buck”.

    Also, the “r” is a rolling r such as is known from Russian and Spanish.

  6. Enkidum says

    It’s a real mess. In my field (psychology) everyone, including me, complains about their practices, and acknowledges how frigging awful they are. But at the same time they publish many of the top journals in the field (including the Journal of Experimental Psychology and all its offshoots, which amount for about 5 of the top 10 journals). For me to boycott them feels suicidal, frankly – I’m basically having my chances of publishing a paper in a top journal.

  7. says

    I get where you’re coming from, Enkidum. Elsevier doesn’t publish the major journals in my field, so it’s somewhat meaningless for me to say that I’m boycotting them. But honestly? I’m a graduate student trying to defend within the next year, and I have to publish one more paper to graduate. If Elsevier did have more influence in my field, I would have a hard time cutting off my options for publishing.

    I do see where high-profile researchers who will likely be accepted wherever they apply could have a very effective boycott.

  8. NitricAcid says

    My boycotting would be useless. I haven’t published a paper in ten years, and nearly all of mine were in publications of the American Chemical Society.

    I own a few very good texts published by Elsevier, but I have not had any reason to by new advanced texts in the past ten years.

  9. madscientist says

    I’ve always made use of library subscriptions (and cursed loudly when the library didn’t have a particular journal article). I didn’t realize that subscriptions were sold in bundles – the cost per journal is absurd enough. Anyway, I’m all in favor of open and free publishing so that everyone can learn. I think this needs to be a government program though – at least the government needs to supply the computing facilities and a few hundred people to oversee the operations (from maintaining computers to soliciting articles, reviewers, editors, and layout people). There have been a number of successful free efforts out there (with funding from universities or extremely generous senior scientists) but I believe to maintain a reliable future in scientific and technical publications we require a concerted effort funded by the government.

  10. neuroturtle says

    Too true. I decided I was going to go open-access, and started looking into publishing in PLoS. Which… costs over a thousand dollars per article. I am a new investigator. I can’t afford that.

    Maybe I can start a movement within my professional society to start self-publishing our flagship journal online.

  11. madscientist says

    Just one more thought – I noticed that the signatory list was missing one extremely important thing – in fact the one thing Elsevier cares most about: “I will not subscribe”. Folks need to organize their libraries to refuse to renew subscriptions. Until the issues are sorted, people will have to keep in touch with developments by attending professional meetings and staying in touch with their peers.

  12. F says is kinda down.

    4. Elsevier supports many of the measures, such as the Research Works Act, that attempt to stop the move to open access. They also supported SOPA and PIPA and lobbied strongly for them.

    And almost certainly ACTA.

  13. A. R says

    Don’t get me started on these idiots, their paywalls have been holding up my review article for a year now.

  14. says

    If Elsevier did have more influence in my field, I would have a hard time cutting off my options for publishing.

    You are correct. Please, for your sake, in your situation, do NOT boycott them.

    Over 30 years ago, I made the mistake of standing up to my professor of anatomy. He was blatantly and embarrassingly wrong. I was right. The result, however, is that I never go the research professorship in anatomy I craved and I didn’t even get to continue my studies.

    My career as a computer programmer and a translator is a very satisfying one and as a result I do not *regret* what I did, since I made the best decision that I thought I could make, but it did cost me a career in my first love, anatomy.

  15. says

    Jaycee: LOL! If I were to criticise anyone’s pronunciation, I would be just as bad as a Xtian who calls atheists “Fools”. When I speak, it is embarrassingly obvious to anyone, that English is not my native tongue!

  16. says

    madscientist: I agree. Actually, I think that we must evolve to a kind of economy where knowledge -all knowledge- is freely accessible to anyone. I realize that this may be somewhat or even very dangerous in some cases, but that is the price we pay for a true democracy. It just does not make any sense at all that knowledge about how nature ticks should be restricted to a privileged few. That is the scheme religion relies upon. Science should be better than that.

  17. ikesolem says

    @Bart B. Van Bockstaele

    The best way to take on the ivory tower of corporate autocratic Lysenkoism is with a catapult and a siege engine, not by trying to change it from within.

    Or, “Galileo had the right idea, even if it cost him his freedom.”

    And yes, it is very odd that scientific knowledge (full papers) is so restricted on the internet, particularly when the researchers have to pay a fee to have their work peer reviewed and published, and considering that said work is usually supported by taxpayer donations via the NSF, NIH, etc.

    Of course, it used to be a crime to teach a slave how to read and write, so I suppose some progress has been made.

  18. mikeh says

    Or, “Galileo had the right idea, even if it cost him his freedom.”

    Coincidentally, Galileo’s Discorsi e Dimostrazioni Matematiche, intorno a due nuove scienze was published in 1638 in Holland by Elsevier, after the manuscript had been smuggled out of the jurisdiction of the Inquisition. Galileo lived in home arrest at the time.

    I’ve had some of my stuff (rather less revolutionary than Galileo’s) published by Elsevier and agree that they need to go.

  19. DLC says

    New in Elsevier: Principia Mathmatica, by that young upstart Newton. your copy available for a low low fee.

    Bah. Screw Elsevier.

  20. anuran says

    I’m unlikely to publish, referee or review. But I promise not to reference any article published in an Elsevier journal.

  21. says


    I agree that some progress has been made, but a lot more needs to come. One of the problems with the inaccessibility of scientific literature is that this makes it too easy to claim that the masses are illiterate and uneducated. As you say, that’s what was done to the slaves, and to women as well and the very ignorance that resulted from this was then used to “prove” that they were too stupid to begin with.

    As a result, alternologists are getting an unfair advantage. They freely spread their nonsense all over the Internet, and they don’t even have to pretend that they are fighting against science, since science is essentially nowhere to be found.

    I think it is inexpensive to argue that people are gullible (which is almost certainly true, nevertheless) and don’t want to learn, if they are explicitly prevented from doing exactly that.

  22. NitricAcid says

    Hmm. Not a week after I saw I don’t need Elsevier, I find I need to look something up in a Journal that I don’t have…and it’s published by Elsevier.

    Anyone with access to “Talanta” want to look up a paper for me?