Should we publish in, or edit for, Elsevier Journals?

Mike Clark mrc7 at cam.ac.uk
Fri Nov 21 11:11:55 EST 2003

In article <96pvb.2142$k7.77785 at read2.cgocable.net>, Donald Forsdyke
<URL:mailto:forsdyke at post.queensu.ca> wrote:
> The following is from this week's Nature.  This is just the sort of topic
> for which Bionet.journals.note was intended. Please let us hear your views.
> Don Forsdyke (Discussion Leader. Bionet.journals.note)
> Cornell axes Elsevier journals as prices rise
> A top US research university is set to cancel its subscriptions to
> several hundred scientific journals published by Elsevier in January,
> in response to spiralling subscription costs.

Hi Donald,

I'll follow off from your lead. Yes I do think this issue is very
important. The journal costs for my own university,
Cambridge University (UK), are now such that we have to pick and choose
which ones we can continue to subscribe to. Although this causes
complaints from some uninformed post-docs and other scientists, the
simple fact is that we  are facing a budgetary crisis and the spiralling
costs of journals isn't helping the situation.

In addition to speaking out about this within my university there are
several personal ways that I am attempting to influence this situation.

[1] I am supporting the open access initiatives and in particular the
Public Library of Science

[2] I have not renewed several personal subscriptions to Elsevier
journals including Trends in Immunology and Trends in Biotechnology.

[3] I've used the savings in journal costs from [2]  to take out a
personal subscription to PLOS Biology. I know it is freely available
online, but I consider a personal subscription, at least in the short to
medium term, as a way of showing my support.

[4] I have stopped refereeing for any journal that does not have a
policy on open access and which our own Departmental library doesn't
stock anymore. I see no point in wasting my university's money in terms
of my personal salary, on time spent working for free for journals that
no one in my Department is likely to benefit from.


By way of further reading there was a couple of interesting articles on
a similar vein in a recent issue of The Lancet (but you'll probably need
to pay Elsevier to read them!).

21st-century biomedical journals: failures and futures by Richard Horton

Open access to peer-reviewed research: making it happen by Tamber,
Godlee and Newark <URL:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(03)14748-4>

Open-access publishing: where is the value? by B.D. Crawford

This last article is by an editor for John Wiley and Sons, and quite
frankly I'm not even convinced he understands what open access is all
about, or why so many scientists are p***ed off with the big publishers.
It seems to imply in this article that peer review will suffer because
of open access. 

I've never been paid by any journal, not even expenses, for my services
as a referee, and I'd be more happy refereeing for a journal that
everyone can read than one which extorts money out of subscribers.

It has always struck me as odd that we as scientists are willing to, pay
the publishers of journals page charges and refereeing costs to publish
our manuscripts, to work for journals for free as referees, and then
to pay them as subscribers in order to read our own articles and those
of our colleagues. It's taken us millions of years of evolution to be
that dumb!

But what's that I hear? Is it some colleague telling me that if I don't
go along with this charade that my career is doomed to oblivion?

Mike                        <URL:http://www.path.cam.ac.uk/~mrc7/>
M.R. Clark, PhD. Division of Immunology
Cambridge University, Dept. Pathology
Tennis Court Rd., Cambridge CB2 1QP
Tel.+44 1223 333705  Fax.+44 1223 333875

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