Could Elsevier shut down

They haven’t yet, but they are supporting SOPA, a bill that attempts to roll back Web 2.0 by making it easy to shut down entire sites like wikipedia and craigslist if they contain any user-submitted infringing material. (Here is a hypothetical airline-oriented version of SOPA, with only a little hyperbole about planes in the air.)

I think that appealing to Elsevier’s love of open scientific discourse is misguided. Individual employees there might be civic-minded, but ultimately they have $10 billion worth of reasons not to let the internet drive the costs of scientific publishing down to zero. Fortunately, their business model relies on the help of governments and academics. We can do our part to stop them by not publishing in, or refereeing for, their journals (the link describes other unethical Elsevier practices). Of course, this is easy to say in physics, harder in computer science, and a lot harder in fields like medicine.

There is another concrete way to stand up for open access. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has requested comments on the question of public access to federally-funded scientific research. Comments should be from “non-Federal stakeholders, including the public, universities, nonprofit and for-profit publishers, libraries, federally funded and non-federally funded research scientists, and other organizations and institutions with a stake in long-term preservation and access to the results of federally funded research.” That’s us!

But don’t procrastinate. The deadline for comments is January 2.
Here is more information, with instructions on how to comment.
Here is also the official government Request For Information with more details.

This entry was posted in Blogging, Computers, Economics, Open Science, Politics, Scientific Publishing. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Could Elsevier shut down

  1. Hear, hear! No more publishing in these journals! But as you say, the academic communities (AAS, APS, etc) should have a position on SOPA for exactly these reasons. Do they?

  2. John Sidles says:


    As a practicing scientist/engineer, please let me say that open public access to scientific research is immensely beneficial to America’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) enterprises.

    Please take measures to increase (*not* restrict) open public access to scientific research.

  3. Of course they’re going to shut it down. It won’t belong before they do.

  4. As a scientist, I urge fellow scientists to support open access publications.

    The most prestigious journal in my area, Computational Linguistics, is open access for free but published by MIT Press:

    Academics do not get paid royalties for writing articles, carry out peer review for free so at the very least their works should not be locked away behind paywalls of greedy publishers, who add little value (the amount of editing/layouting done nowadays is minimal).

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  7. Ben Webster says:

    I might be wrong, but I suspect that shutting down the arXiv is a very bone-headed move in the long term for Elsevier, and hopefully they know it. I can’t imagine an event that would be more effective at organizing the scientific community to get rid of the scientific publishers. At the moment, there’s a huge collective action problem where the people making the decisions (the scientists) are actually doing OK out of the system, and while they don’t have particularly warm feelings toward Elsevier, they aren’t going to take serious career risks to take them on.

    I would actually be extremely disappointed if Elsevier shutting down the arXiv were not immediately followed by all their editorial boards in mathematics resigning en masse. I don’t think they really want that.

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