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    • CommentRowNumber1.
    • CommentAuthornarayana
    • CommentTimeFeb 20th 2012
    One of the main problems in taking a position against publishing in elsevier is the following. This mainly affects students and postdocs who does not have a permanent position yet.

    Many of the institutes evaluate the work done by prospective candidates based on the Journals in which the papers are published rather than the actual work. And the journals that occupy
    the most preferred list for many areas are unfortunately elsevier owned. I know this for a fact in the institutes of India and I see similar trends in Asian countries. It is going to take a while to disappear especially since not many of the few open access journals that are available have not made it to the top list in terms of IF and citation index (which themselves are not always a good measure in my opinion). Unfortunately such a measure is preferred by the bureaucracy due to the fact that such a system gives them a justification in the selection of candidates better than actual evaluation of his work which could be more subjective.

    Another related problem is the lack of open access journals. Many a time, when you submit to a journal (esp as an upcoming researcher without a big name in your co author list), the editors reject the submission just because there are more submissions than they can handle and they can hardly throw out the submissions from the "big shots". I have been personally communicated this by an editor on insisting for the actual reason for the rejection. Now, if there are many choices available, then one can resubmit to another place. But when you discard elsevier, the choice for journals reduces a lot sometimes even by more than half.

    Third and less severe problem is that when your advisor or host asks you to review, it becomes kind of difficult at least with some of the advisors or hosts who can take such a no to a personal level and you need to ask for their reco in the near future. One possibility is to say no unless one have been asked by one of the potential references.

    The first two problems makes it a lot more difficult for students and postdocs to follow suit. If you have a permanent position, you have the option of waiting longer to get your work published and also not to worry much about the IF etc and you are in a position to justify your stand.

    So I would like to hear suggestions for tackling these issues.
    • CommentRowNumber2.
    • CommentAuthorjoyal
    • CommentTimeFeb 21st 2012
    Students and postdocts should not feel obliged to sign the boycott. But all established mathematician should feel the *moral* obligation to support it. Some peoples are saying they wont sign because the boycott movement may eventually fade. This is an opportunist position. I hope they will understand that their support is absolutly essential. Together we win, divided we loose.
    • CommentRowNumber3.
    • CommentAuthorjoyal
    • CommentTimeFeb 21st 2012
    There is a political side to the boycott movement. There is a relation between freedom of speech and free access to science. What is the value of freedom of speech if the access to scientific knowledge is artificially restricted? Why is it important? Humanity could be on a path of self-destruction with the explosion of population, the depletion of resources, the destruction of eco-systems and climate change. International institutions are too often powerless in solving humanitarian crisis. Political institutions are dominated by special interest groups. Are we really on a path of self-destruction? Nobody can say yes with certainty, but it does not look good! It could be a slow suicide lasting a few centuries, in a succession of busts, booms and wars. Are we going to spoil the great adventure of life? I am now an old man. I wanted to be a mathematician, but only partially succeeded. The mystery of life seems greater and greater to me. I know almost nothing, I do not know what I am. There is a dark side in each of us. There is also love and hope. Children are full of dreams and hopes. To support the boycott is to hope.
    • CommentRowNumber4.
    • CommentAuthorBruce Bartlett
    • CommentTimeFeb 21st 2012
    Inspiring @joyal.
    • CommentRowNumber5.
    • CommentAuthormtl
    • CommentTimeFeb 24th 2012
    1. I have tried to follow the pledge for years, more than 15+ years, actually. But got stuck exactly on the grad student and postdoc point: There is a timeliness to publication for
    grad students and postdocs that simply can not be ignored. So, no good answer there. I have not signed the boycott, since I have followed in in practice, but am a frequent
    coauthor with postdocs who need validation to continue their careers.

    2. I just finished a stint as editor of the Proceedings of the American Math Society. Like many AMS journals, far more papers are received than can be published. The current
    accept/reject ratio is suppose to be something like 1 paper in 3. With virtually all papers being publishable, the reasons for taking a paper under review become subjecive.
    Still, I tried to preferentially select young authors for the PAMS. (And certainly tried to hold more established authors to a higher standard). The rationale is that pubication for the
    the younger authors can have a higher impact on their subsequent development. It is this sort of point that seems to be missing from some of the discussion of the Elsevier boycott,
    and the peer review that might replace it: There is a sociology of development of a next generation that is being neglected.

    3. As editor, I emphasized to young referees that refereeing should be in some sense *incremental* to their research development. If not, feel free to say no---plenty
    of senior referees say no, either conviently, in a couple of weeks, or less conveniently after weeks and weeks of ignoring emails.

    --- Michael Lacey
    • CommentRowNumber6.
    • CommentAuthormurphysbooks
    • CommentTimeFeb 24th 2012

    Your points are right on target. How does one escape the gilded cage when everyone else thinks the cage is so nice?

    Your ability to articulate the difficulties is what can make you a good leader of change.

    You don't need to have all the answers. You just need to bring together everyone you work and study with (docs, postdocs, grads, and undergraduates) to join together and figure out how to get out of the current system of servitude.

    The fear of failure you feel is not a reason to stop. It is the reason to push on.

    Things do not change because people without fear act. Things change because those that can see a greater good beyond their fear act. I hope you are that person.

    All it takes in one institution to figure out how to get off the endless cycle of publishing and subscribing to expensive closed journals and we will all be set free of the current situation.

    The point is not to destroy a publisher. The point is to accelerate learning and discovery through open access to public information.

    It is ok to fear such radical change, but please, act anyway.

    Talk to those that will decide if you get your degree and ask how you can promote change and not ruin your future plans. They may already have the answer.

    Chris Murphy
    • CommentRowNumber7.
    • CommentAuthorYemon Choi
    • CommentTimeFeb 25th 2012

    All it takes in one institution to figure out how to get off the endless cycle of publishing and subscribing to expensive closed journals and we will all be set free of the current situation.


    • CommentRowNumber8.
    • CommentAuthorColin Gopaul
    • CommentTimeFeb 25th 2012
    • (edited Feb 25th 2012)
    5 - All your points have great merit. Point 2 from my memory has been mentioned in the blogs to some extent with no consensus, like many other things so discussed. However, it does indeed strike a cord with me, but I want to say that science and mathematics are first and foremost a human social endeavor. Science should not be practiced in such isolation whereby one sees career advancement and one's work more important and urgent than social responsibilities. Moreover, when collective action is urgently needed, one must take responsibility to firstly correct these social ills for the mutually benefit of all (in this case in the medium to long term). Otherwise such selfishness and greed is no different from the behavior of those we appear to agree should be boycotted.

    To me, those who participate in such restructuring would have done more for mathematics and science than they will otherwise achieve. That said, history shows most people place themselves first at all times, the publishers, the authors, everyone's selfishness has collectively lead us to this point. The current effort does not seek to change this behavior, it seeks to show that in the continued interest of selfishness, those who would benefit by boycotting should do so, and those who would not benefit should not boycott.

    It is sad, because science, all of it - the ideas, the effort, the skills - owe its existence to the communication of ideas, issues and observations among all human beings, not just scientists. Even the most magnificent ideas all came to many people at different times and across many different subjects. Every paper really never began with the authors. Sometimes when you achieve, you yourself did the least of all that effort that so many others gave in making that path free for you to walk, so that you would have the opportunity or time or coaching, etc, to achieve that goal (which by the way is a goal of merit because of some social structure). I am curious to see what paths in science we leave for those that follow.

    Surely the postdocs of today can implement measures to ensure their success within some of the publishing models along the lines that Gowers and Baez mentioned. But I see so many of them not caring or discussing and the Elsevier business model no different from their personal models. Alas, these posts are now almost always written by the usual suspects.
    • CommentRowNumber9.
    • CommentAuthoroshalit
    • CommentTimeFeb 28th 2012
    Dear narayana,

    You do not have to bind yourself to some strict set of rules to make a difference.
    Even if you do not sign the boycott, you can still try to avoid Elsevier as much as you can.
    You can decide to prefer as best you can open access, and then learned society owned, and then other publishers, and last Elsevier.
    So next time you have a pretty good paper you can send it first to Documenta Mathematics (open access, non-profit) and if they reject it you can send it to the comparable (say) Advances in Mathematics (Elsevier), in case you do not see a good alternative. But being aware, you will look for alternatives. You can adjust your policy as your career advances. So maybe when you are a professor, after your paper gets rejected from Documenta you can skip Advances and publish somewhere less "prestigious", say New-York Journal of Math, Banach Journal of Math, etc.
    If everybody gives priority to open access/non-profit journals, then in effect these journals will end up having the better papers, and the incentive to publish in the for-profit journals will drop. So you can affect the reality in a gentler way.

    Just like you can dramatically reduce your use of fossil fuels by biking or walking, even without selling your car - which you might happen to need now or then.

    And regarding the remarks about making the world better: there are really a million ways to try to do this, you can choose your own way.
    • CommentRowNumber10.
    • CommentAuthornarayana
    • CommentTimeFeb 28th 2012
    • (edited Feb 28th 2012)
    Great to hear from all of you. I have already decided to discontinue my support to elsevier in terms of refereeing except for those I have already committed to and to try out all other options before submitting to Elsevier.

    2 Years back while I was still doing PhD in India, I was shocked to know that about 75-85 % of the annual funding of many of the premier research institutes in India goes for Journal Access and most of it for Elsevier.

    What the community should focus is to bring out high quality open access journals (The issue has alrady been addressed elsewhere in this forum. But we need at least 3-4 good open access journals in each important areas, to address the needs for the time being). It takes a bit of time to get them established, emhpasising the need to start acting soon.