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    • CommentRowNumber1.
    • CommentAuthorMark C. Wilson
    • CommentTimeMar 19th 2012

    Over 8000 have signed, but I found out last week that some colleagues I thought were generally well informed hadn’t even heard of it. How can the momentum be maintained? I would hate to see all this effort squandered. Does anyone have inside information on actions behind the scenes (I have seen references to the dangers of strategizing in public, and so am hopeful that something is going on, but it would be nice to have a few more concrete rumours).

    • CommentRowNumber2.
    • CommentAuthorTom Leinster
    • CommentTimeMar 20th 2012

    I think that’s a good point, Mark. I’ve been keeping an eye on it — basically waiting for it to hit 10000 — and noticing that it’s slowing down.

    I don’t think we’re anywhere near the point where everyone who’d like to sign has signed. As you say, there seem to be plenty of people (even a large majority of mathematicians, I suspect) who haven’t heard of it.

    • CommentRowNumber3.
    • CommentAuthorMark C. Wilson
    • CommentTimeMar 20th 2012

    I am trying to get discussion going through my national mathematical society, but it only has about 200 members. If anyone has other ideas on how to get the word out (I am putting a note in my email signature file), I would like to see them.

    • CommentRowNumber4.
    • CommentAuthorHenry Cohn
    • CommentTimeMar 20th 2012

    I think the boycott is relatively well known among mathematicians who are heavy internet users, but it could use more publicity even there, and it definitely needs to get much more publicity in the broader mathematical community.

    There’s been a lot of media attention, much of which is listed at, and this really helps get the word out. However, it tends to happen primarily when there’s some breaking news. If another journal leaves Elsevier, that may provoke a lot more coverage. In the meantime, if you know any journalists or writers, especially ones who write for publications not focused on the most recent news, please encourage them to look into this.

    It’s important to keep some level of attention on this issue. If you have a blog or use other social media, mentioning it there is valuable. Getting stories in university newspapers or department newsletters is really helpful, and they are often eager to cover this if they can feature a local angle (for example, Libraries can play an important role in publicizing things ( The general pattern so far is that once someone from a university starts actively publicizing the boycott there, participation from that university rapidly increases.

    Some people have done things like proposing that the faculty senate (or equivalent) at their university should officially endorse the boycott. Enough people are uncomfortable with the boycott that I doubt this will actually lead to an endorsement, but it works beautifully for generating publicity, and ultimately the publicity is itself valuable.

    The polymath web site above also includes a poster based on Michael Eisen’s boycott logo. Organizing people to put up posters can be an effective way to get the word out, and it has the advantage that it can reach strangers without, for example, spamming them. If you’d like the TeX file, for example to adjust the wording or translate it, please let me know. (E-mail me at my last name at

    One key way to reach mathematicians is through mathematical societies. The statement of purpose was published in the London Mathematical Society newsletter this month, and it will appear in the notices of the Australian Mathematical Society, the SMF (in French), and the DMV (in German). Doug Arnold and I are writing an article that will appear in Notices of the AMS, and SIAM has published a story in its newsletter. There’s been some discussion of getting the IMU involved in issuing some further recommendations regarding publishing or copyright, but that will come down to what their executive committee decides is appropriate.

    If anyone has any suggestions of other mathematical societies to get involved, particularly if you’re a member of that society, please approach them, or let me know and I’d be happy to help try to arrange things. Each additional society is a real step forwards in publicity, even if it’s not large.

    Apparently there’s a Chinese translation of the statement of purpose in the magazine “Mathematical Culture”, but it’s not clear whether it is available online (does anyone know?).

    I like Mark’s idea of e-mail signatures, and I wonder how else one could unobtrusively mention the boycott. For example, putting links on homepages (I need to remember to do that). I don’t know how far things could be pushed - would asking to put a temporary banner or ad on mathoverflow seem inappropriate or annoy people?

    I’d love to hear further ideas for how to get publicity. This is a really exciting time, a period of change that has been coming for decades, and it’s going to result in a publishing system that better suits our needs. The more people we can get involved, the better the outcome is likely to be.

    • CommentRowNumber5.
    • CommentAuthornarayana
    • CommentTimeMar 23rd 2012
    What Elsevier is doing is to directly contact each author. They of course mask the facts in a manner such that most people who reads only the main page or headlines are misled.

    I think only discussions and messages on a personal basis is to required to enlighten the masses. Most people read emails, but very few follow blogs and spend time reading things on social networking sites.

    We should spend more efforts in discussing with friends who are not already informed of the movement and the reasons and ask them personally to at least convey the message to their friends.
    We also can prepare a short draft message with all the important points and where to get rea, factual information about these. The idea is to send these to your friends with a personal message and aslo a note to NEVER Forward the mails, but write a new message to their friends). When we forward mails, we lose the personal touch and people tend to discard most of the highly forwarded messages.
    • CommentRowNumber6.
    • CommentAuthorMark C. Wilson
    • CommentTimeApr 23rd 2012

    The number of signatories is now over 10000. I am still meeting people who haven’t heard about the boycott. Let’s get the word out!

    • CommentRowNumber7.
    • CommentAuthorMark C. Wilson
    • CommentTimeJul 3rd 2012

    The number is over 12000, but the graph is looking very concave now. Does anyone have an explanation? IS it really the case that almost everyone who will sign has already done so? That seems hard to believe.

    • CommentRowNumber8.
    • CommentAuthorMark C. Wilson
    • CommentTimeSep 20th 2012

    Now still under 13000. I find this very disappointing - am I missing the point? Where is the momentum? The Cost of Knowledge blog is moribund (at least the twitter account works). I realize that this is a time of ferment and experimentation, etc, but apart from Forum of Mathematics, what are the “leaders” of this movement doing? It is all very well for each individual to strive, but without some kind of organization and strategy, it will be much harder to achieve anything worthwhile. How many years are we expecting to wait until we get to the promised land? :)

    I have spent huge amount of time reading and writing on this issue, and there are others who have done much more. I would like to see some activity on this forum for a start, from those who have achieved some media attention and whom we are keen to support. I fear that otherwise most of this work will have been wasted.

    What is the IMU doing? Boycotts of other publishers (with higher profit margins than Elsevier)? Discussion of journal code of ethics and transparency? Improved citation indices? … Serious experiments using Open Journal Systems to do Gold OA cheaper? Pressure on people to self-archive (are all the signatories to the original CoK statement complying?) There is so much to do to get to a sustainable high quality solution, and it may be decided by other disciplines if mathematicians don’t get involved. There may be some disagreement over the value of peer review, etc, but surely a consensus can be built around more than just “Elsevier is bad”.

  1. I can start advertise a project hosted by CCSD, a French unit of the CNRS which developed the open archive “HaL”, to which I contribute. The scientific leading this is Jean-Pierre Demailly.

    The plan is to create a publishing platform for open-access overlay journals (i.e., articles will be disseminated and archived only in an open archive, mostly the arXiv, and the journal will select the papers and list them). The project is named “Épisciences” and is mostly oriented toward mathematics for now. An “epicomity” has already been set up, and should start by giving advices for the platform itself, before trying to get new or existing editorial boards into this system. We hope the first papers can be submitted in the course of 2013.

    Since this is not already completely set up and I have little time, I will not say more for now. But be sure that things are coming – and if all goes well, this project could host a fair number of journals.

    • CommentRowNumber10.
    • CommentAuthorAndrew Stacey
    • CommentTimeOct 3rd 2012

    I’ve been out of this for a while over the summer - various small reasons (exams, moving for sabbatical, that sort of thing) - but this trajectory does worry me. I don’t see the same amount of noise about this issue that I saw earlier in the year, and I also am curious about how much discussion is going on “behind closed doors” - where did the “Forum of Mathematics” spring from?

    (I do appreciate the effort of those who have striven to keep this forum active; thank you.)

    • CommentRowNumber11.
    • CommentAuthorMark C. Wilson
    • CommentTimeOct 4th 2012
    • (edited Oct 4th 2012)

    We only had one member of the initial boycott signatory group regularly contributing here, and Henry seems to have disappeared. Of course not all strategizing can be done in public, but I would really like to know what’s going on other than FoM. Surely the IMU and national organizations can give some strong moral support by endorsing a resolution. I see this whole crisis as an opportunity to overhaul many practices other than just commercial capture of research, including promoting more transparency in the mathematical community.

    • CommentRowNumber12.
    • CommentAuthorjoyal
    • CommentTimeDec 23rd 2012

    The cost of knowledge trajectory is now flat. This is quite depressing and we should try to understand what happened. I would like to propose a simple explanation. The majority of my collegues agree with the Statement of Purpose of the boycott movement, but many have not signed. Why is that? I guess they fear the boycott might fail, in which case the signatories will bare the cost of the boycott, since they will have to avoid publishing in many important journals. So it seems that the boycott movement is failing because many peoples feared it might fail, like a self-fulfilling failure. This explanation may have an element of truth, but there is another one: the boycott itself could be the wrong answer to the problem. It is only tactic, a secondary goal in the battle against commercial scientific journals. The focus of the movement should be on creating new open-access journals that can compete with commercial journals. I doubt that the Forum of Mathematics is the correct answer, since it is a commercial journal and it will charge important fees to authors. A better answer could be in creating community-based journals, an experience described in two recent articles of the Notices of the AMS. Maybe the project described in #9 will help. I believe we can win this battle. We need to concentrate on the next phase. Have a nice holidays.

    • CommentRowNumber13.
    • CommentAuthorMark C. Wilson
    • CommentTimeJan 30th 2013

    A statement today by some of the original signatories: