25 January 2012

Elsevier boycott thought

Daniel Lemire | Should you boycott academic publishers?

There is a growing list of famous scientists who have pledged to boycott Elsevier as a publisher. If I were in charge of Elsevier, I would be very nervous: academic publishers need famous authors more than the famous authors need the publishers. After all, famous scientists could simply post their work online, and people would still read it.
One wrinkle: the famous scientists' post-docs and grad students still need these publishers.

My advisor isn't quite famous enough for him boycotting Elsevier to matter to them, but let's pretend he is. Since he is a co-author on almost all the papers I write, his boycott means that I am also boycotting, by default. Even if not appearing in the journals currently recognized as top-tier doesn't matter to him at this point in his career, it would very much matter to me. And since he's a good advisor, he cares that I have a lot to lose even if he does not.

This is not to say that Elsevier, Springer, etc. don't have a lot of problems, or that they don't deserve boycotting, or that there aren't a host of other problems with academic publishing. The divergent preferences of co-authors makes trying to solve these things more complicated.

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