After a little soul searching I signed the Elsevier boycott, pledging not to do any peer review or editorial work for any of that publishers titles. I have written before about my objections to Elsevier’s practices and have boycotted Wiley for similar reasons. Here I want to briefly outline why it took me so long to sign the pledge to boycott Elsevier.
The one thing that stopped me signing the pledge straight waywas a dilemma regarding the “will not publish” and “will not review” parts of the pledge. As I have not been asked to do any editorial work for any journal the “will not edit” part was easy to sign.
Part of my job and my research involves statistics and I do a lot of work to help colleagues with their data analyses. I often undertake analysis jobs for them to help them get the most out of their data and to treat them in a statistically appropriate manner. As a result I get my name on a fair number of papers but I am not in a position to dictate where those papers are submitted for publication. And herein lies my dilemma; I was effectively asking other members of the scientific community to review my papers submitted to journals that I wanted to pledge not to review for.
After some thought it became clear that submitting a journal for publication in an Elsevier title does not behove me to do unpaid peer review work for them. By giving them the fruits of our labours with which they can sell on at huge profit I am not obliged to then do more unpaid-by-them work. Once I was happy with this argument, I had no objection to signing the “will not review” part of the pledge. In all consciousness I cannot in good faith sign the “will not publish” part of the pledge, so I haven’t. I will pledge, however, to do all I can to influence where the colleagues that I do statistical analysis for submit their manuscripts. This was all quite timely as I had been asked to review a paper for an Elsevier journal. I declined, sending the note below to both Elsevier and the journal editor. If you haven’t already done so, I would encourage you to visit the boycott website and to add your name to the growing list of scientists that are bringing the fight to the publishers over access to our work.
Dear Editor, I am declining this review request as part of my support for the Elsevier boycott (http://bit.ly/ykeekC). Whilst Elsevier has withdrawn support for the RWA in the US, it has not changed its stance on open access and its attitude towards peer-review as being something it does that adds huge value and justifies their journal pricing. I also object to the way Elsevier bundles journals and the prices they charge for subscriptions to the most read titles. Science depends upon access to the scientific literature in order for progress to be made. The business model that Elsevier has adopted acts to restrict access to scholarly works by levying a disproportionate charge on the readers of that literature through high subscription prices and restrictive usage agreements even after you have paid the fee. As the vast majority of research output is derived, one way or another, from public funding of science and the scientists who do the research and peer review, it is unjustifiable that Elsevier should employ such restrictive practices.A number of successful business models exist that are built around open access to research and fair usage. I would urge your to raise these issues with your publisher. Until such a time as Elsevier adopts a radically different approach to open access, journal pricing and and fair use of the data to which we subscribe, I will not be undertaking peer review for any of its titles. Yours sincerely, Dr Gavin Simpson UCL Department of Geography