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    • CommentRowNumber1.
    • CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
    • CommentTimeFeb 6th 2012

    At the time of writing, I have yet to sign the Boycott of Elsevier. It’s not that I’m not going to, but just that there were a few comments that I wanted to make and so I decided to wait until I had somewhere to make those comments. As I now do, once I’ve written this then I’ll happily sign up.

    Listing the reasons at the top of the page makes it look, at least at first glance, as if this is the first stage in a negotiation. If, so the inference goes, Elsevier stopped indulging in those practices, we’d happily all go back to submitting, refereeing, and editing with Elsevier journals.

    I won’t.

    Not because I think that Elsevier are so awful that I’d never do business with them again. But because I think that journals are going to be increasingly irrelevant so why would I bother?

    Indeed, I can imagine doing business with Elsevier again, if they had something that I wanted to buy. At the moment, I wouldn’t buy it, on principle. But if they do make it clear that they are prepared to treat academics fairly then I see no reason not to consider them in the future. Just not for journals. Moreover, the practices that have been outlined, whilst bad for me and other academics, don’t seem like particularly bad business practices: buy low, sell high - isn’t that the canonical business motto? That we’ve gotten ourselves into a sticky situation is our fault: and our responsibility to get ourselves out of it. Blaming others is fun, but won’t - ultimately - get us to a better place.

    So demanding that they stop these practices doesn’t seem the right thing to ask.

    What really is scandalous is not the prices they charge for journals now, but the fact that they hold the copyright to so much of our ancestry. As pointed out in an article on Forbes, it’s the back catalogue that provides them with the leverage. So the gesture that I would like from Elsevier - and the other publishers - is related to that. What I would like is for them to declare that they would not pursue anyone who makes available a copy of a published work, providing it was done with proper attribution.

    If they do that, I’ll call it an amicable separation. If not, then I’m afraid they’re still the Bad Guys.

    Either way, I’ll not submit, referee, or edit for an Elsevier-based journal again.

    • CommentRowNumber2.
    • CommentAuthorJohn Baez
    • CommentTimeFeb 10th 2012
    • (edited Feb 10th 2012)

    Andrew wrote:

    Listing the reasons at the top of the page makes it look, at least at first glance, as if this is the first stage in a negotiation. If, so the inference goes, Elsevier stopped indulging in those practices, we’d happily all go back to submitting, refereeing, and editing with Elsevier journals.

    I think you’re pondering this issue too rationally here, not like a politician. The point of the Elsevier boycott is to draw attention to an important issue. It’s working. It’s too late to fine-tune the wording of the demands, since over 5000 people have already signed it with the existing wording. But the details of the wording don’t matter very much, except insofar as they got lots of people to sign it.

    Nobody will sue you if you never do business with Elsevier again.

    • CommentRowNumber3.
    • CommentAuthorJohn Baez
    • CommentTimeFeb 10th 2012

    Over on Google+, Tim Gowers wrote:

    I see the Elsevier boycott not as a way of changing Elsevier but as a way of energizing researchers to take the necessary measures to rid ourselves of our dependence on the big commercial publishers.

    • CommentRowNumber4.
    • CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
    • CommentTimeFeb 11th 2012


    I agree with your comment. I’m not trying to change the wording of the boycott - I think it’s fine as it is. I just wanted to say that my own view is more “hard line” than that stated on the boycott.

    I realised this when I “listened in” on some discussion of the boycott where one person was saying that the financial stuff was more complicated than was being made out and that the wrong numbers were being used to judge Elsevier’s profits from journals (the person wasn’t defending Elsevier, just wanting to be precise) and as I read the discussion, I realised that I didn’t care what their profits were and whether or not they were excessive. I just don’t see a place for that model any more and even if they became a model business, I still wouldn’t want them publishing our research articles.

    • CommentRowNumber5.
    • CommentAuthorzskoda
    • CommentTimeFeb 12th 2012
    • (edited Feb 12th 2012)

    Andrew, I agree that the rationalizing how things are more complicated just distracts us all the time from seeing the big picture and resoluteness to act now. Bravo!

    Disclaimer. I myself am not yet ready to sign and restrain from ALL Elsevier journals: I still see no good replacement for excellent and quick J. of Geometry and Physics (Comm. Math. Physics is matching the scope and quality well enough, but if you are not Witten they will be slow). But hopefully with a stable job within a year or two, I can again send all the devilish publishing tactics to the hell, as I used to do 7-8 years ago, this time permanently.

    • CommentRowNumber6.
    • CommentAuthorScott Morrison
    • CommentTimeFeb 13th 2012

    (Aside; I guess CMP must have variable response times — my papers there have been processed faster than anywhere else.)

    • CommentRowNumber7.
    • CommentAuthorNoah Snyder
    • CommentTimeFeb 13th 2012
    (Speed of reply is probably more a function of the editor than of the journal.)
    • CommentRowNumber8.
    • CommentAuthorzskoda
    • CommentTimeFeb 13th 2012
    • (edited Feb 13th 2012)

    7: I agree, but the good editors are all we truly have in good journals. All the rest is either the consequence or of several orders of magnitude smaller importance.