An Academic Spring?

Barbara Fister | American Libraries Magazine | April 4, 2012

A successful protest against Elsevier demonstrates that populist rebellions have a place within the information-sharing community

On January 21, distinguished British mathematician Timothy Gowers posted to his blog his rationale for no longer submitting manuscripts, reviewing articles, or doing editorial work for journals published by Elsevier. Gowers faulted the corporation for high prices, bundling subscriptions in ways that made selection prohibitively expensive for libraries, and for supporting the Research Works Act (RWA), proposed legislation that would prohibit government agencies from requiring that publicly funded research be freely accessible within a year.

His message was simple, but measured: “I don’t think it is helpful to accuse Elsevier of immoral behavior: They are a big business, and they want to maximize their profits, as businesses do,” he argued. “The moral issues are between mathematicians and other mathematicians rather than between mathematicians and Elsevier. In brief, if you publish in Elsevier journals you are making it easier for Elsevier to take action that harms academic institutions, so you shouldn’t.”...