More on journal costs: Elsevier boycott?

Donald Forsdyke forsdyke at post.queensu.ca
Sat Nov 22 09:12:15 EST 2003

Here is some more discussion from the Evolution bulletin-board on the
options facing small institutions regarding journal access. We thought the
golden age had arrived. The playing field was at last level. Through the
internet we could get the same access as the big institutions. Seems it aint
necessarily so.

Donald Forsdyke. Discussion Leader. Bionet.journals.note

For those of us at smaller institutions, the cost of scientific journals
has recently become relatively excessive. While completing my doctorate at
a large university, I was not conscious of the true luxury afforded to me
by a library system with a Big Ten budget. Taking a faculty position at a
smaller school was a rude awakening to the reality of journal costs
nowadays. I am writing to make a quick plea of consideration to the members
of Evoldir - consider carefully the journals in which you publish and be
especially mindful of the pricing policies of those journals. The reasons I
encourage this are really twofold:

First, there are more and more journals that are priced in such a way that
really only the larger research institutions can afford them, and not even
then in all cases (see below). This means your articles will be more
limited in their impact than you might like - and despite the impression
you might have, research activity is quite vibrant on many smaller
campuses. Your work will have limited impact in those arenas.

Second, I encourage you to consider publishing in journals that are
marketed in such a way that they *are* affordable. This means that those
journals will have increased demand and increased readership, diminishing
the current power the publishers of the most expensive journals have over
the market. There are a number of ways to try to stem the tide of increased
journal costs, but the most grassroots solution seems to be that scientists
should stop publishing in those journals. As consumers of journal material,
we have no choice, we must read those articles no matter where they are
published. Publishers know that, and they use that to their profit. But as
the producers of journal material, we do have a choice. Publish in journals
that have reasonable pricing schemes and discourage some of the outrageous
pricing being set by publishers at this time.

One of the publishing groups, Elsevier, has recently been the focus of
concern at university libraries across the US (if not worldwide). A number
of the journals published by Elsevier are undoubtedly of interest to
EvolDir members, and those journals are not going to get read by a lot of
other scientists. This is not just happening at smaller institutions -
Cornell and Harvard are among those re-tooling their collections due to
these rapidly increasing journal costs (see below). Give it some thought.

Alec Lindsay
>Paula J. Hane of Information Today Inc. reports:
>"November 17, 2003 — Cornell University Library has posted a list of about
>200 Elsevier journal titles it is canceling for 2004. Harvard University
>says it is preparing for similar cuts in its Elsevier holdings. The
>University of California continues its negotiations with the Dutch
>publisher of scholarly scientific journals on behalf of all the UC
>campuses, while faculty on some campuses have resolved to boycott Elsevier
>if reasonable rates cannot be negotiated. Other universities and library
>consortia around the country are also in the throes of assessing what they
>can afford and what they will have to cancel due to price increases and
>budget constraints. It’s journal renewal time and the strain of the tough
>decision making is taking its toll on academic librarians, who know that
>the results will, of course, directly affect the faculty and students they
>. . . .
>The Academic Senate at UC Santa Cruz recently passed a resolution
>demanding reasonable rates and urging faculty “to seriously consider
>cutting ties with Elsevier by refusing to sit on its boards, referee its
>journals, and submit papers to the publisher.” UCSC currently spends half
>of its budget for online journals to ScienceDirect
>Online from Elsevier."
>For the full story, see:
>Here is the UC Santa Cruz Academic Senate resolution:

Alec R. Lindsay, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Biology
Northern Michigan University
1401 Presque Isle Avenue
Marquette, MI 49855
office & lab: (906) 227-1834

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