Scientists occupy publishers!

by Alexey Bersenev on January 23, 2012 · 2 comments

in open science

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As you know, since the first day, we are advocating and promoting open science. Today, we would call you to act. We can’t stay aside. We would like to support the movement emerging among scientists worldwide.

The tipping point has arrived! The system of publishing in academia doesn’t function properly any more! Academic publishers have become the enemies of science! We should declare a war!

Every scientist wants:

  • disseminate knowledge and make it easily accessible as fast as possible;
  • to see validation and reproducibility of their data in other labs around the world;
  • to make results of their research applicable and useful for society.

The right and proper way to accomplish these goals is an open science. The new era of open science is so inevitable, why should we wait any longer?
Open science:

Unfortunately, academic publishers are not supporting all of these necessities any more, as it was historically. They are limiting and taking serious actions against the open science and science in general. They don’t want dissemination, exchange of knowledge and translation scientific ideas to useful technologies. How do they do it? By implementing:

This is not a full list of academic publishers sins, which we can’t just silently observe any more. All of this about money:

The result would be an ethical disaster: preventable deaths in developing countries, and an incalculable loss for science in the USA and worldwide. The only winners would be publishing corporations such as Elsevier (£724m profits on revenues of £2b in 2010 – an astounding 36% of revenue taken as profit).

So, why we are willing to give our knowledge for free to corporations which sell it back to us? Nearly all scientific research done on taxpayer money. Why taxpayer should pay twice – to fund a significant research and to read the results? You know why:

The returns are astronomical: in the past financial year, for example, Elsevier’s operating profit margin was 36% (£724m on revenues of £2bn). They result from a stranglehold on the market. Elsevier, Springer and Wiley, who have bought up many of their competitors, now publish 42% of journal articles.

And more:

Almost everyone is Scholarly Poor. They have no access to medical articles other than paying 40 USD per day for each one. They are denied access to life-saving knowledge for the greater good of preserving the publishing industry.

Vote either for profit or for access to knowledge.

Now, the important part. We can and we should do a lot about this. We should act now:

Unfortunately, most of these actions can be taken only by faculty members, who have a voice in academia. But “scholarly young” (grad students and postdocs) also can act by spreading the information.

Some examples and quotes of scientists who have boycotted academic publishers:
Timothy Gowers:

If I’m asked to referee a paper for an Elsevier journal and I am clearly an appropriate choice of referee, then refusing to do it feels like a criticism of the editor who has asked me, who may well be somebody I know. It also feels like shirking my duty and slightly letting down the authors, who may well also be people I know.

So 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.

Danah Boyd:

I vow that this is the last article that I will publish to which the public cannot get access. I am boycotting locked-down journals and I’d like to ask other academics to do the same.
Academic publishers: Wake up or get out. Silencing the voices of academics is unacceptable. You’re not helping scholarship or scholars. Find a new business model or leave the journal publishing world. You may be making money now, but your profits will not continue to grow using this current approach. Furthermore, I’d bank on academics shunning you within two generations.

Dear scientists, it’s time to take actions and join the movement. Dear young scientists, you are the future. Let’s bring open science and make scientific information free and easily accessible! It’s time to wake up!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex Holcombe January 24, 2012 at 4:29 pm is another site for pledging to support good publishing practices. The particular pledge there currently is to review mostly manuscripts destined for open access. This differs from those at researchwithoutwalls and thecostofknowledge, and thus fills a different niche.


Björn Brembs February 8, 2012 at 4:49 am

It’s much simpler than that. We can change the system much more easily by asking: what is it that publishers do that our libraries wouldn’t be able to do better and more cheaply? Talk to your libraries, after all, they have centuries of experience of archiving and making the work of their faculty accessible.


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