Mathematicians take a stand April 8, 2012Posted by Scott Morrison in elsevier, evil journals.
Douglas Arnold and Henry Cohn have just posted to the arXiv their article Mathematicians take a stand, which will also appear in the Notices of the AMS shortly.
In it they describe the background to the Elsevier boycott, and make a case for more people joining in. It might appear at this point that the boycott is losing steam, but I’m pretty sure this is not the case. A lot has been happening, although too much of it is “behind the scenes”. Elsevier has made some concessions, although these so far seem to mostly miss the point. There’s a rumour of more to come. Two weeks ago some representatives met with the Journal of Number Theory’s editorial board, to discuss their concerns. The meeting was inconclusive, but it seems the editorial board there remains unsatisfied with Elsevier. (It appears that the minutes of that meeting are googleable…)
I hope that the prestigious mathematics journals still with Elsevier (particularly the three discussed in Arnold and Cohn’s article: Advances, the Journal of Algebra, and the Journal of Number Theory) make sure they get what they need from Elsevier. Right now, they have the support of the mathematical community, and I hope they will not be timid about making demands. I’m not sure what’s already been discussed in private, but this would be my list:
- Legal ownership of the journals to be transferred to the editorial board or their chosen representatives, with Elsevier kept on as the publisher on a contract basis.
- Open access to the historical archives (everything older than 5 years), with clear rules and ideally an open license, allowing access for indexing, preservation and analysis.
- Prices reduced to no more than twice the per page cost of comparable journals published by professional societies, and a clear mechanism for libraries to achieve proportional reductions in bundle costs by dropping unwanted journals.
I don’t realistically expect that Elsevier will agree to any of these right away. But, nevertheless, I hope we demand this of them. At the moment their interests are simply diametrically opposed to ours — their commercial interest is to restrict access to our work, while our interest is to have the widest possible dissemination. Until they clearly see that we’re willing to take our toys and go home, I think there’s little hope of Elsevier taking meaningful steps.
Finally, it would be great to hear from editors at Elsevier journals about the impact of the boycott. Has Advances seen a decrease in quantity or quality of submissions? If so, what are they going to do about it?