regaining control over research publishing

dial at dial at
Thu Mar 29 18:20:41 EST 2001

Dear Everyone,
This isn’t methods related but it is an important research issue which
I’m sure people want to hear about.
Is everyone aware of the outrageous profits that publishing companies
make on our work and reviewing for which we receive no payment back and
the way they are increasing journal costs?
Also are they aware of the open letter aiming to bring control of
research information into the public domain at
If you look at the librarian’s site you will see
that the profit margin for research journals is on a par with that of
Microsoft at around %40. Last year Reed-Elsevier made a profit of 253
million Euros on turnover of 679 million. These extraordinary profits
derive from our unpaid labour and the journal reputations not from good
exceptionally good service or expertise in the company. Many of the
journals they own were started by scientists in the first place and it
is the peer review process that maintains the reputation of journals.
Journal prices have skyrocketed in recent years which makes you wonder
what the benefit the consumer derives from increasing commercialisation.

Is everyone aware that Biomednet (which is suspiciously similar in name
to Bionet) is basically an expensive advertising vehicle for Elsevier
journals who own it? This is part of a  canny market strategy by the
company to grab market share and launch more titles (especially review
articles) from competitors and journals published by scientific
societies? Do you realise they are getting scientists to review works
which they then attach their own references to?
Nature is getting in on this racket as well spawning all its review
titles, although I cannot get their financial details (does anyone know
if these are publicly available).
I suggest everyone consider supporting the campaigns that librarians and
scientists have put so much effort into organising by signing the
letter. There are also obvious ethical issues associated with this issue
because it restricts the dissemination of knowledge to those who can
afford it.
I am keen to hear people’s feelings on this. My blood was boiling so
much I signed the letter immediately. I am really surprised that some
people agree with the cause but don’t care enough to sign the letter.
They say it might hurt their career if they don’t publish in reputable
journals (there are plenty of scientist-run journals though as
alternatives eg. Science and lots of others). However, I’m also
interested in this reaction and if anyone actually supports the
publishing companies. Obviously just by signing the letter its going to
encourage change. Ultimately these companies need us more than we need
Diane Lester,
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences,
dial at or diane at


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