Thursday, February 6, 2014

The problem with academic journals 8

It's been a long time since I last blogged about the problems with academic journals. Several of my old posts described the behaviour of the giant academic publisher Elsevier, specifically trying to buy a law in the US Congress that would virtually ban researchers publishing in open-access journals. This resulted in an enormous backlash against Elsevier, including a boycott that now has more than 14,000 names, culminating in the proposed legislation being dropped.

Unfortunately, Elsevier is back to their old bad behaviour: they have been sending notices to researchers and academic network sites demanding the removal from the web of papers that the researchers' had published in Elsevier journals. While Elsevier may be within their legal rights to do so (since they demand that authors sign over copyright to Elsevier), preventing people from self-archiving papers that they wrote is highly
 detrimental to science. In other words, Elsevier gets the research papers for free (submitted by the authors), they get the quality control for free (done by volunteer reviewers), and the administration of journals for free (done by volunteer editors). Then, they do some basic formatting and proof-reading, demand that the authors surrender all rights to the article, and publish it at an enormous profit.

Some publishers like the IEEE work the same way but allow for self-archiving, that is, they allow authors to post papers they have authored on their own websites for other researchers to access. The IEEE seems to be doing quite well out of this practice, but then the high offices of the IEEE are held by engineers and academics rather than businessmen. Does Elsevier really think that they can get away with this kind of bully-boy behaviour?

There are a couple of Elsevier journals that I've published several papers in, and I still have research that I was going to submit to them. But now I think that It's time for me to find some alternative journals to submit my work to. I'm currently reviewing one article for an Elsevier journal, and I took that task on because a friend asked me to, but after that, I won't review for any Elsevier journals. And I will not, under any circumstances, serve on the editorial board of any Elsevier journals.