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    • CommentRowNumber1.
    • CommentAuthorScott Morrison
    • CommentTimeOct 1st 2012
    • (edited Oct 1st 2012)

    Perhaps everyone here has already seen this, but Elsevier recently sent out a letter regarding recent changes. I’ll include a copy here for reference.

    Dear Dr. Morrison,

    Following our previous letters in February and May this year, we would like to update you on the progress of several initiatives we mentioned, as well as inform you of some new initiatives we are undertaking with regards to our mathematics journals.

    Free access to over 155,000 archived articles

    We recognize how important archival material is for supporting advancements in mathematics research. That’s why in April we opened up access to all articles, from 4 years after publication to 1995 for the primary mathematics journals. We are pleased to announce that we have now significantly expanded this program to offer free access to all available archived articles, back to Volume 1/Issue 1, for this set of journals.

    More than 155,000 articles are now freely available to the mathematics community, via ScienceDirect, including: * Advances in Mathematics, established 1965, now over 3,500 articles freely available * Discrete Mathematics, established 1971, now over 9,900 articles freely available * Journal of Algebra, established 1964, now over 11,900 articles freely available * Topology and it Applications, established 1971, now over 4,000 articles freely available

    For more information on this program and the titles included, please visit our information page at

    Update on 2013 institutional prices

    Earlier this year we indicated that we were striving to reach prices at or below US$11 per article (equivalent to 50-60 cents per normal typeset page on average), placing us below most university presses, some societies and all other commercial competitors. As the 2013 prices are now set, this has resulted in further price-decreases for several journals, including Journal of Number Theory, Journal of Combinatorial Theory Series A & B and Journal of Functional Analysis. For a complete overview of the 2013 institutional print prices of all mathematics journals, please visit the mathematics pricing page

    We received feedback from librarians and members of the mathematics community that our Mathematics Subject Collection is beyond their means or exceeds their needs. In order to offer libraries and mathematics departments greater flexibility in purchasing options, we have established a new core collection of 16 highly used, highly regarded Elsevier journals. For the list of titles in the Mathematics Core Collection, please click here

    Support for the mathematics community

    As communicated in our previous open letter, it is our belief that a Scientific Council for Mathematics will be able to play an instrumental role in advising us on our mathematics journal program and on how we can best support the mathematics community going forward. They will also be closely involved in monitoring and reviewing the impact of the initiatives mentioned today and in our earlier communications. We are very pleased to announce that the Scientific Council is now in place and further details will be available on our website shortly.

    In addition to our increased efforts to address concerns related to pricing and access, we continue to support and expand our initiatives supporting the mathematics community. For an extensive list, please see our support for the community page

    We would like to highlight that a daily feed to MathSciNet has now been put into place of all newly published articles from our mathematics journals. This means that the bibliographic data is now available in MathSciNet within a week of publication. For several years, we have been financially supporting the development of the STIX fonts and MathJax and will continue to do so. Although not just of interest to the mathematics community, Elsevier, in collaboration with an independent panel of experts in research and publishing ethics, has established the Ethics in Research & Publication Program It offers young researchers advice on how to avoid misconduct and provides recommended reading and other resources about research and publication ethics.

    We are proud of our rich tradition as a publisher of high-quality, peer-reviewed mathematics journals since 1960. We cherish our collaboration and relationships within the community and aim for our mathematics program to meet the needs of the mathematics community today and in the future. The Editors of our mathematics journals have been invaluable in providing us with their constructive feedback and we would like to thank them for their continued input and support. We would like to share with you some Editor’s feedback on our recent initiatives

    We value your continuing feedback about our program. We invite you to share your views with us at and please feel welcome to stop by the Elsevier booth at forthcoming mathematics conferences


    Elena Griniari, Journal Publisher Mathematics and Statistics

    Laura Schmidt, Journal Publisher Mathematics

    Valerie Teng-Broug, Journal Publisher Mathematics

    Laura Hassink, Senior Vice President, Physical Sciences

    • CommentRowNumber2.
    • CommentAuthorMark C. Wilson
    • CommentTimeOct 1st 2012

    I’ll leave it to others better informed to state exactly what is new here, but it seems, as usual, underwhelming, although I suppose I didn’t expect them to free up archives this quickly. I find it hard to read these letters to the “community” all the way through, as mounting feelings of nausea at the level of cynicism apparently involved tend get in the way. I was surprised to read the comments on this page: I wonder whether editors live in another world from the rest of us, or is this just normal diversity - after all they only have 4 editors willing to put their name to praise of Elsevier’s concessions. Of course, none of those concessions would have been made, very likely, without the boycott. I fail to see why we should be remotely grateful. Elsevier played almost no part in building up the archives and the reputation of their few good journals, most of which were just bought from Academic Press et al.

    I have a strong feeling that they are trying to make minimal concessions in order to drag out their surely inevitable demise for a few more decades. Understandable, but hardly helpful to the “community”.

    • CommentRowNumber3.
    • CommentAuthordarij grinberg
    • CommentTimeOct 1st 2012

    I actually do think that the free access they implemented this time is a good step forward, as opposed to the pokazukha free access to articles published past 1995 (which were mostly on the internet anyway). This is a book Springer should take a page off. Let’s not twist the facts for political reasons. That said, I find it ironic that Elsevier’s scanning quality often is inferior to that often found on pirate sites (and the storage format, too; DjVu, anyone?).

    The “Editor’s feedback”, though, is largely hogwash. I imagine they either mass-mailed all of their editors and cherrypicked the four that answered in the most positive way, or put their request in such terms that only positive feedback was expected. If they think this is a way to get “feedback”, they must be the world champions at positive thinking. If not, it means they are trying to bullshit people, without even a need to (they could have the opening up of the archives speak for itself). It makes it painfully obvious that Elsevier is still Elsevier; they just got cornered this time and had to make a few concessions.

    Don’t know about the pricing changes. My guess about the Mathematics Core Collection is that it’s probably not enough for most libraries, but can a librarian give comments?

    • CommentRowNumber4.
    • CommentAuthorMark C. Wilson
    • CommentTimeOct 2nd 2012

    I didn’t follow the comment “Let’s not twist the facts for political reasons”, so will ignore. I would be interested in any estimate of revenue foregone by Elsevier by opening up the archives. My guess is that they paid very little for them, and didn’t expect to earn much from them anyway.

    • CommentRowNumber5.
    • CommentAuthordarij grinberg
    • CommentTimeOct 2nd 2012

    I was referring to the “hardly helpful to the “community”” part of your post, which I think is wrong this time: The research community does profit from these archives being out in the free.

    We’re on the same page as far as the big picture is concerned. There is no way these changes could have happened without the boycott; the bullshit accompanying these changes proves that they still believe they can talk their way out of objective issues; and finally, Elsevier still has not provided any actual justification for its involvement in scientific publishing to begin with.

    • CommentRowNumber6.
    • CommentAuthorMark C. Wilson
    • CommentTimeOct 2nd 2012

    Aha - I understand now. I agreed that the specific step is useful, although small. What I meant was that their apparent strategy of dragging things out for decades is hardly helpful to the community, and if they really cared about that, they would approach things differently.

    I realize it is very tough for Elsevier and other commercial publishers to change. They are used to a huge level of profit. I don’t know what I would do if I were in their position. But they have had years to think about it, and it’s not our problem. If they could concentrate on really trying to add value, that would be a start, but maybe this is too big a shift in culture. As for what value they could actually add, I think some high quality (possibly paid) peer review services, plus a Scopus that is better resourced and doesn’t keep combining my papers with those of other authors, are the best bet.

    • CommentRowNumber7.
    • CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
    • CommentTimeOct 3rd 2012

    Here is an email I just sent to, Laura Hassink, David Clark and Alicia Wise:

    Dear Laura,

    I was very much cheered by the recent decision by Elsevier to open up their digitised back-issues of the co-called ’primary’ mathematics journals. Topology is still not one of these journals. However, now the situation is not as you described in your email to me dated 3 May this year (CC’d to Alicia Wise and David Clark, as well as the address):

    Yesterday’s announcement related to current live titles, so that authors and reviewers knew that work published there would become freely available after a set time period. We are aware of the issue with titles such as Topology which are no longer published and we will be addressing it separately.

    as back issues – by which I mean pre-1995 titles – are not a matter of current live titles.

    The back issues of Topology are no less important to current mathematical research than back issues of, say, Advances in Mathematics, so the distinction between these two should be nil, if the motivation is the advancement of mathematics. Of course, Topology is just a stand-out example because it was a flagship journal which is no longer live. There are other journals not on the ’primary’ list which no doubt are of interest to the mathematical community, I am just more familiar with Topology.

    Regardless of the above point, what has been the progress on the more general issue mentioned below, about which I am still interested.

    Cordially yours,

    Dr David Roberts

    Post-doctoral fellow

    School of Mathematical Sciences

    University of Adelaide


    On 7 May 2012 16:41, Hassink, Laura LM (ELS-AMS) wrote:

    Dear David,

    Unfortunately I can’t give you a firm time line right now but I will keep you posted.

    Best wishes, Laura

    —–Original Message—– From: David Roberts [] Sent: 07 May 2012 03:55 To: Hassink, Laura LM (ELS-AMS) Cc: Mathematics (ELS); Clark, David (ELS-AMS); Wise, Alicia (ELS-OXF) Subject: Re: Why is Topology not freely available?

    Dear Laura,

    thanks for permission to reproduce what you said regarding non-live titles.

    May I nudge you regarding my other question:

    On 3 May 2012 21:27, David Roberts wrote:

    Do you expect the addressing of the ’issues’ surrounding Topology to take long? I notice that there are journals in the open archive which Elsevier do not currently publish, so it looks a little like a double standard for some non-live titles to be on there and not others.

    Best regards,


    Dr David Roberts

    Visiting research fellow

    School of mathematical sciences

    University of Adelaide


    I will report back any news.

    • CommentRowNumber8.
    • CommentAuthorDavidRoberts
    • CommentTimeOct 3rd 2012
    • (edited May 22nd 2013)

    Well, I guess I just didn’t look hard enough. Topology is listed in the freely available journals after all. Such an activity is completely illegal, but I wonder if there are unscrupulous types who are plotting to steal all this gratis content by clever scripts that scrape sciencedirect for all the pdfs… Well, the license terms now allow scraping the pdfs, at least up to April 2009. I would be happy to have a copy of Elsevier’s back issues of at least the journals of interest to me (JPAA, Advances, JGP, T&iA). I already have a fair chunk of the Advances ones…

    • CommentRowNumber9.
    • CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
    • CommentTimeOct 3rd 2012

    From my viewpoint, this is excellent news. Now I can say “Bye, bye, Elsevier” with no qualms and no hard feelings.

    As I’m pretty sure I’ve said elsewhere, the journal that an article is published in matters not one whit for me until I try to get hold of it and discover that it is behind some paywall. This means that Elsevier is no longer hindering my day-to-day work and for that then I’m grateful. Let’s hope that the other publishers that still lock archives follow suit.

    But for me, this has never been about “Elsevier are really bad, let’s make them better” but about the fact that the current publishing model is not helping us do our work. Locking the archives was a significant symptom of what was wrong, but only a symptom. The underlying issues are still there and there’s nothing that I can think of that would make me want Elsevier a part of a real solution, nor - I suspect - would Elsevier see in my ideas of what a real solution would look like much that would allow them to make a profit so I doubt they’d want to be part of it.

    • CommentRowNumber10.
    • CommentAuthorMark C. Wilson
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2013
    • (edited May 21st 2013)

    I recently emailed Elsevier asking about an extension to their opening up of back issues, reducing their gold OA fees to $500, and giving up ownership of journals and just publishing (as they do with AI Journal, for example). The reply came from the recently appointed Publishing Director for Mathematics and Statistics, Christopher Greenwell. It is cordial and fairly prompt, but not offering anything new. The summary:

    • Since this is a relatively recent initiative we are still evaluating the impact and it is unlikely that there will be any further moves in the short term.
    • Obviously a gold open access journal with such a fee would be very similar to the two Cambridge University Press Forum of Mathematics titles (Pi and Sigma) and we are obviously monitoring the progress of these titles to gauge the demand for them.
    • I have known of journals moving in ownership from societies to publishers and vice versa. How and why this happens usually depends on the copyright and contractual situation but also, as you note and to a reasonable degree in most cases, on the historical position. As a result any such request would need to be discussed individually as every case is different but what is common in all cases is a demonstrable benefit to the title concerned. Elsevier tends not to publish journals that provide no longer-term financial return although we do continue to launch titles which requires significant investment and which take many years to see any return. We do also publish many titles that provide lower rates of return but are very high quality, strategically important, affiliated to or owned by societies or are in niche areas where we have traditionally published a title and feel it is important to continue to do so for those communities that publish in them.

    He also noted the following activities:

    • As you will know for 2013 we managed to reduce many of our prices as we tried to work towards our stated aim of pricing at US$11 per article which is less than many other publishers (whether commercial, society or University Press). Although not finalised we are aiming to set our 2014 prices in Mathematics and Statistics with this in mind.

    • In Mathematics and Statistics we are investing in new initiatives such as MathJax (of which we are a partner level sponsor) and we are working on projects such as the revisions to the typesetting models we use to improve readability (based on feedback from 1,300 researchers) and ease of submission for the community.