More on journal costs: Elsevier boycott?

Mike Clark mrc7 at cam.ac.uk
Mon Nov 24 06:46:58 EST 2003

In article <bgKvb.892$oe.60055 at read1.cgocable.net>, Donald Forsdyke
<URL:mailto:forsdyke at post.queensu.ca> wrote:
> 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.
> Cheers,
> Alec Lindsay

One of the points I note is that Elsevier have frequently purchased
independent journals that already have an established reputation and
high impact factors, two examples I can think of are Cell and The
Lancet, and then these are bundled in with other journals as a package.
You may want just some of the prominent journals but you are asked to
purchase access to all.

Another point is that once these high impact journals are in the
Elsevier stable they can trade on this reputation whilst making
cost saving changes to the editorial and production control of the
journals which effectively might be detrimental to the quality of the
journal and which are mainly aimed at improving profits for the

I've also noticed a phenomena amongst many of the journals, particular
the Trends Journals, to re-use articles and news pieces in mutiple
journals or in hybrid supplements. Effectively they get away with
selling commissioned articles several times over.

If the articles were all available in open access form there would not
be any incentive to do this because the articles would readily be
available to all, regardless of the original journal they were published

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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