Not Just Academics Fed Up With Elsevier: Entire Editorial Staff Resigns En Masse To Start Open Access Journal
from the good-for-them dept
It’s really somewhat astounding just how absolutely hated journal publishing giant Elsevier has become in certain academic circles. The company seems to have perfected its role of being about as evil as possible in trying to lock up knowledge and making it expensive and difficult to access. A few years ago, we noted that a bunch of academics were banding together to boycott journals published by the company, as more and more people were looking at open access journals, allowing them to more freely share their research, rather than locking it up. Elsevier’s response has been to basically crack down on efforts to share knowledge. The company has been known to charge for open access research — sometimes even buying up journals and ignoring the open licenses on the works. The company has also been demanding professors takedown copies of their own research. Because how dare anyone actually benefit from knowledge without paying Elsevier its toll. And that’s not even mentioning Elsevier’s history of publishing fake journals as a way to help giant pharmaceutical companies pretend their treatments were effective.
Basically on the list of companies which really are pushing to get themselves declared “evil,” Elsevier has a prime spot.
And now even its employees are revolting. The editorial staff of an Elsevier journal have all resigned to go start an open access journal instead:
All six editors and all 31 editorial board members of Lingua, one of the top journals in linguistics, last week resigned to protest Elsevier’s policies on pricing and its refusal to convert the journal to an open-access publication that would be free online. As soon as January, when the departing editors’ noncompete contracts expire, they plan to start a new open-access journal to be called Glossa.
The editors and editorial board members quit, they say, after telling Elsevier of the frustrations of libraries reporting that they could not afford to subscribe to the journal and in some cases couldn’t even figure out what it would cost to subscribe. Prices quoted on the Elsevier website suggest that an academic library in the United States with a total student and faculty full-time equivalent number of around 10,000 would pay $2,211 for shared online access, and $1,966 for a print copy.
One of the editors who quit notes that he’d “be better off going to flip burgers” in the time he spent working for the journal, rather than accepting the tiny amount Elsevier pays him.
While this may seem like a specific kind of dispute focused in the academic world, what’s incredible is it shows just how far copyright has moved from its original purpose and intent. The original copyright laws were officially focused on this kind of research. The US’s first copyright law was specific that it was an act for “the encouragement of learning.” And the use of “science” in the Constitutional copyright clause actually meant “learning” at the time it was written. Copyright was supposed to be about encouraging people to share information for educational/learning purposes.
And now it’s being used for exactly the opposite. And in these cases it’s certainly not (at all) about compensating content creators. Academic authors don’t get paid for their research papers — and in some areas they even have to pay to submit it to these journals. And companies like Elsevier get tons of free or cheap labor as well. Peer review is generally done for free. The article notes that the executive editor of the journal is paid only $5,000 per year. And yet the company wants to charge libraries thousands of dollars to access it?
It’s a total scam.
And, worse, it’s a scam where all of us are the victims. The sharing of knowledge and the ability to learn from others and to build on their works is a core aspect of how learning, science and education advance. And Elsevier has rejected all of that in favor of fat profits — something it can only do because of our totally screwed up copyright laws. Having the editorial staff here resign is a really strong public message that hopefully people take notice of.
In the meantime, however, Elsevier should be Exhibit A in how copyright is abused to stifle learning which is completely opposed to its Constitutional purpose.