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What you may have heard about the dispute between UC and Elsevier (universityofcalifornia.edu)
287 points by montalbano 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 206 comments



This paragraph made me smile:

>Elsevier alleges that “one senior library official has repeatedly pointed to illegal sources of articles, including a Russia-based piracy site.”

>We are unaware of any library employee who has been directing users to illegal sources of articles. On the contrary, UC explicitly published a statement on its website, in response to questions asked by users, that states: “The UC Libraries do not endorse the use of Sci-Hub for article access.”30 As the UC Berkeley university librarian said in a published interview, “we are unequivocal: it is our understanding (though we are not attorneys!) that Sci-Hub is in violation of U.S. copyright law. We will not advise nor help anyone to use it.”

By naming Sci-hub.tw, they're basically educating people that there's a way to get articles they want but it might be less than legal than some other methods.


There was a thread on twitter about how important it is not to talk about sci-hub. Please tell your friends not to use sci-hub to instantly download any science article. Sci-hub and its various domains which can be found by searching "where is sci hub now" must be stopped from their criminal violation of intellectual rights law. I repeat, do not talk about sci hub

https://twitter.com/NeuroPolarbear/status/115747010610198528...


And under no circumstances you should tell anyone to edit the URL by inserting their illegal domain name after the article's, as that would directly, and importantly - illegally, download the article.


people beware: do not create a browser toolbar bookmark with this link. it will instantly download any article from sci-hub, which is illegal and wrong. You should never use sci-hub, in fact you should avoid mentioning sci hub to anyone who might be interested in sci hub.

    javascript:window.location='http:/'+'/sci-hub.tw/'+window.location


This reminds me of what vineyards did during the prohibition, selling “grape bricks” and explicitly instructing people to NOT dissolve in water and let sit for 21 days or it would turn into wine.

https://vinepair.com/wine-blog/how-wine-bricks-saved-the-u-s...


"Note: The UC Libraries do not endorse using Sci-Hub for article access. Using Sci-Hub circumvents cumbersome publisher paywalls to access content illegally. The Sci-Hub interface hosted at https://sci-hub.tw/ proxies requests and does not use login credentials, so access to research cannot be tracked the publishers in violation of copyright. The UC faculty and staff and the regents of the University of California would certainly not want students to directly access research papers for free by using Sci-Hub in this way. As there is no way to catch and punish students who use Sci-Hub to conveniently access research papers, we have made this public notice to inform the student body to not use Sci-Hub, not matter how convenient and accessible it might be. We repeat: do not use Sci-Hub, hosted at https://sci-hub.tw/, to freely download published research from any computer."


If this is hyperbole, please remove the quotes. If this is an actual quote, please cite it!

Ether way it's hilarious, but it would help to be clear.


Pretty sure it's hyperbole. Here's the page linked to from the OP, "Access to Elsevier Articles", that mentions (only) the first line in the quote above.

[0] https://osc.universityofcalifornia.edu/open-access-at-uc/pub...


I don't think they need to cite something that's literally in the text of the posted article. This is a comment section to comment on that very article!


I don't think that's true - I can find the opening sentence in the submission, as well as in their FAQ and an interview, but not the rest of the paragraph, and in particular, not the implicit instructions for how to access Sci-Hub.


Man, I hate Elsevier with a passion. As well as being shady, dishonest, shifty, moneygrubbing toerags, they also provide the world's crappiest service.

I have to use their web interface every time I submit a paper to an Elsevier journal. It's like sticking needles into my eyes. It's this bad: in 2019, they still use an image map for their main menu.

A particular pleasure is when they force me to compile my TeX into a PDF. Via a web interface.

Then when I submit they'll "proofread" and "format" my paper, failing to spot existing errors, introducing their own, and outputting an ugly mess, maybe with two columns to make it really unreadable.

And then there's the stuff the article talks about: the huge fees universities pay so that our own work can be "open-access".

I hate them. I hope they go bust. I hope their CEO becomes homeless.


While we’re doing “as well as”s about Elsevier...

I hate how soulless the journals feel. Recently, I wanted to read a quite old paper as it connected to my recent research. It was published in the 60s, in a journal that has housed some extremely ground breaking work in my field. But you wouldn’t get that impression from their elsevier site. Where is the history? Where is the pride? Instead it looks just like any old rubbish journal, and any reader who stumbled upon it would think the same unless they read its history in Wikipedia.


> I hate how soulless the journals feel.

I certainly sympathize with you!

That said, personally I'm happy about this development. Journals don't really fill a practical need anymore, and (as you point out) they increasingly don't fill an emotional, intangible one either. Perhaps then we will muster the effort to kick the entire industry to the curb.


Of course they won't do it as that would show the world the other 99% of their journals are in fact old rubbish. And they don't buy us drinks as we know...

https://gitlab.com/publishing-reform/discussion/issues/104


Which journal?


All of them use the same process.


I was asking about:

> Recently, I wanted to read a quite old paper as it connected to my recent research. It was published in the 60s, in a journal that has housed some extremely ground breaking work in my field. But you wouldn’t get that impression from their elsevier site

The OP is describing how all journals are treated the same, despite the the fact that they are essentially mini societies, some with more important histories than others


The papers they hold hostage have not been fully backed up [1] and made accessible for everyone. Elsevier does deserve to go bankrupt, but we must ensure that the information they have amassed gets salvaged.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5832410/


I had a laugh reading this.

> Readers should note that, in many jurisdictions, use of Sci-Hub may constitute copyright infringement. Users of Sci-Hub do so at their own risk. This study is not an endorsement of using Sci-Hub, and its authors and publishers accept no responsibility on behalf of readers. There is a possibility that Sci-Hub users — especially those not using privacy-enhancing services such as Tor — could have their usage history unmasked and face legal or reputational consequences.

> Sci-Hub is currently served at domains including https://sci-hub.hk, https://sci-hub.la, https://sci-hub.mn, https://sci-hub.name, https://sci-hub.tv, and https://sci-hub.tw, as well as at scihub22266oqcxt.onion

"We are not telling you to use Sci-Hub, but you can use Tor and here are some addresses where you can find it."

> Here we report that, as of March 2017, Sci-Hub’s database contains 68.9% of the 81.6 million scholarly articles registered with Crossref and 85.1% of articles published in toll access journals. For toll access articles, we find that Sci-Hub provides greater coverage than the University of Pennsylvania, a major research university in the United States.

"See, Sci-Hub works that well" :-)

Managing to have this hosted on a .gov website seems noteworthy.


Almost like this old joke: "How long can we tolerate this nest of indecency and moral corruption at Smith street 2, pink door on the second floor, knock three times?!"


> Since the ledger of Bitcoin transactions is public, we can evaluate the donation activity to known Sci-Hub addresses (1K4t2vSBSS2xFjZ6PofYnbgZewjeqbG1TM, 14ghuGKDAPdEcUQN4zuzGwBUrhQgACwAyA, 1EVkHpdQ8VJQRpQ15hSRoohCztTvDMEepm).

Subtle


At this point, this article is a masterpiece.

Thanks for the joke praptak.


Note that the former and current Editors-in-Chief of that journal are both UC Berkeley biologists (also huge critics of paywalled science).


All articles are already assured to get salvaged via services like LOCKSS, CLOCKSS, and Portico. All we need is to have them go bankrupt, preferably fully, so stories like that won't repeat: https://gitlab.com/publishing-reform/discussion/issues/22


> we must ensure that the information they have amassed gets salvaged.

Hopefully it all gets backed up by sci-hub before that point.


What's preventing Sci-Hub from having it all, and who is backing up Sci-Hub?


If Elsevier is so terrible, and everybody hates them, how is it possible that it's so hard to move away from them? Their entire business depends on the people who hate them: the scientists who submit their articles to them and the universities who subscribe to the journals.

If everybody agrees Elsevier is terrible, you'd think it should be easy to set up a competitor that does it better, but someone everybody still wants to get published in Elsevier's journals, and everybody still wants to read what's in them. If everybody were to just stop, Elsevier would be out of business within a month.


Welcome to coordination problems. Nobody loves them, but short-term, publishing with them is still the optimal move for scientist's career.

> If everybody were to just stop,

That's the root of all human-created hard problems on this planet; it's not exclusive to scientific publishing. People don't spontaneously coordinate. As long as it's in the short-term interest of any individual to not be the first one to stop, or to not stop when others are stopping, almost no one is going to stop.


It's not just about coordination. Clearly, coordination would make solving the accepted problem relatively easy. Yet, individual action does solve the problem to a small degree. Humans are wired to neclect small changes when they come at a personal cost to them, so they think "it won't change if I stop doing it, so I won't stop doing it". This thinking is arrogant and the cause why many changes in society don't happen, although many people recognize that there is a problem.


The problem is that often changing your own behavior hurts you more than it works to effect change, unless lots of others also spontaneously jump onboard. Which, more or less certainly, they won't, so you're basically just self-flagellating in a closet, which might make you feel morally pure but isn't doing anything to change the world. This is a pretty well-studied part of political science (and probably is covered in other disciplines like sociology, I'd expect) so there's a ton of both theoretical and practical (case) studies on the topic.

Coordination problems (and very serious problems of information access & distribution) are why things like boycotts are in fact, however much we might wish otherwise, so laughably bad at enforcing community norms on e.g. large companies, and why the market doesn't do a great job of just "sorting out" all kinds of things most people would consider to be problems.


> Which, more or less certainly, they won't, so you're basically just self-flagellating in a closet, which might make you feel morally pure but isn't doing anything to change the world.

I think you are factually wrong and condecending in the way you express it.

One case I can bring is the vegan product market in Germany. For many years, individuals were "self-flagellating in a closet" and simply avoiding animals products and buying the alternatives that were offered. That triggered the production of more of these products, which triggered more consumption of them. Today the market is big and makes a meaningful difference. This the result of individual action without coordination by all market participants.

I don't make a claim about the relative cost of individual change. I rather call the thinking that individual cost will only be accepted if everybody changes arrogant. I've heard more than I'd like to count sentences like "If I/we change, the others still continue, so the problem won't be solved", while in fact it will be solved to the degree that I/we are causing it. Demanding that everybody changes just because you change is arrogant.

I'm not saying individual costs are negligible compared to the influence one can have with individual change. There may be good reasons to not change.


Well, I'm just coming at it from the perspective of observed efficacy in the real world. It's fine in a Kantian moral sense or whatever, if your goal is personal ethical edification. If your goal is to make things better it's a poor tool to rely on.

The problem's not so much that they can fail—any method can—as that they can fail with anything short of overwhelming and sustained support, that is, they can be wildly popular and still have no long-term effect at all. Better to look elsewhere—no amount of "if we'd all just do it, we could fix this!" will change that.

Again, as a personal choice, fine. As an alternative to more-effective means, no. It's not "arrogant", it's an outcome-focussed stance fitting with observed reality and current scholarship.

[EDIT] "They" being "movements mostly based on changes in personal behavior patterns, at some significant personal cost or risk"


I do not advocate individual change as a tool to rely on to solve problems, so this is a straw man. That would disregard other effective and efficient ways to approach problems. I also don't think it's about "personal ethical edification". That is again a rather condescending spin you are giving to it.

My point is about recognizing the individual influence one has. Often that is avoided by the statement I'm criticizing.


> My point is about recognizing the individual influence one has

How is that not essentially zero, in most political circumstances and for non-extraordinary individuals? That's my point.

[EDIT] and further:

> That is again a rather condescending spin you are giving to it.

I think I'm giving it a pretty fair shake by acknowledging there's any laudable purpose to actions of personal behavioral choice on large political problems. There is, but it has little to do with effecting change, if that's the part that's important.


We are one in many. That means we just share the influence. Many issues are not binary, and often the individual contribution to a problem can be canceled out completely by individual change. The influence may be small compared to the sum of all, but still the responsibility for the individual contribution lays completely with the individual. The comparison must be between the individual cost and the individual contribution to the problem and it's solution, not falsely to the complete problem on the scale of the society.

Even when the problem is binary, the argumentative position becomes much stronger by individual change. For example, if Europe became fully carbon neutral, it's stance would be much more powerful when it comes to these questions compared to if it continued to build new coal power plants and told other countries to stop doing that.


Very true, this is precisely the problem. Editors don't leave E's journals' boards because it might hurt their vitae. Referees don't decline to work for E's journals (for free) because it might hurt their relations with editors. And authors often don't have much choice where to send their articles and might hurt their career by picking out-of-stream venues.


> Humans are wired to neclect small changes when they come at a personal cost to them, so they think "it won't change if I stop doing it, so I won't stop doing it". This thinking is arrogant and the cause why many changes in society don't happen, although many people recognize that there is a problem.

To me it sounds like you just described a coordination problem. Can you clarify why you don't think it is?


It's not a "problem". elsevier has been creating actual value for years. It's becoming a problem now precisely because we think they are creating more problems than value.

It's always the value market which dictates what happens. Even a dictator has provide values for enough people (not necessarily its citizen) to stay in power.


It's still a problem. Each individual scientists is better off short-term, in terms of their own career advancement, if they support Elsevier (by publishing with them), even though they'd be much better off longer-term if they all stopped supporting Elsevier.

Markets do love this sort of thing; this is one way of capturing customers and extracting money from them, whether they like it or not.


It's a kind of vendor lock-in. Elsevier is leveraging monopolistic power.


I agree with you but that's none of my point.

My point is just that you have to weight the cost: it provided tremendous value through the system of journals, while not really giving a "real" drawback since everyone in research who has ever wanted to get a given paper in the past 5 decades has been able to find it despite the locking by trying hard enough to bypass it.

i don't even understand the downvotes: i don't agree with the system and Elsevier can die but my point is just that they never were a really tangible "problem". Mostly a "1rst world problem".


Well, they became a problem due to their firm control over the system where they mostly profit from work that others do for them for free.

If scientists write the content and other scientists review it, merely publishing the results of that process shouldn't cost that much. Elsevier is extracting a lot of value from the work of others, and locking the results of that work up.

The act of publishing does add value, but not nearly as much as the researcher and reviewer have added, and yet Elsevier takes ownership of it all, because they happen to be sitting in a position of power built on that work done by others.


What sort of value have they been creating?


providing the system on which is based a major criteria for scientist's career advancement

not saying it's good, just that it's a fact


If scientific careers didn't depend on publishing papers in high impact journals, this could happen within a month.

As it is, until Open Access journals become high impact journals, we're kind of between a rock and hard place


It varies a LOT by discipline. There are niches where OA already won and for-profit journals are essentially irrelevant, or even where the entire paper publication mechanism is just a legacy used only for dick-measuring contests and to ration funding - all the real work happens as GitHub PRs, or as mail to a mailing list maintained by some random guy or a Facebook group or something (Warning: Examples somewhat facetious).

But there are also niches where the reality is that key people are happy as Elsevier Journal editors, and they function as gatekeepers, and for the foreseeable future the only route forward in those disciplines will be to get published in those high impact Elsevier Journals.

Because of this variation, lots of people can't do anything. It's a highly distributed problem. No amount of Computer Science professors however prestigious can change how Social Sciences do journals. And we shouldn't want it any different, even though in this case it kinda sucks.


If everybody starts reading Open Access journals and stops reading Elsevier, the Open Access journals will have more impact.

But yeah, many scientists are paid by slow-moving bureaucratic machines that probably don't care about the issues involved and just want to see them published in old, well-established big-name journals, and not a new upstart that everybody else suddenly wants to consider more important.


No, that's not attached to actual reading. Having access to their whole library, I still preferred to Google for preprint PDF. Even better a "research report", which usually is the same content, but before they were forced to remove half a page of text the last day, because the system forced different margins.

The problem is that many bureaucracies attach some kind of point value to journals on this list, and a different on that list and so on. It's reforming those that is a problem, especially since according to their metrics, which are defined by counting the papers in journals in the lists, everything works perfectly.


> If everybody starts reading Open Access journals and stops reading Elsevier, the Open Access journals will have more impact.

That's irrelevant. Researchers are forced to publish in high-impact journals to preserve their career, and any newly created journal has zero impact.

Furthermore, some countries/universities enforce a journal whitelist, and evaluate the eir researchers based on the number of papers published in the pre approved list if publications.


So the problem is really with the bureaucrats that force researchers to publish in Elsevier journals. They should reward publication in equally well-reviewed open access journals just as much, if not more so, as publication in Elsevier journals.

And because those bureaucrats are often distributing public funds among those researchers, they should also have an interest in the results of that research being accessible to the public, and as many researchers as possible.


Those lists are subject to change, though.


It's not a matter of "stopping reading". Impact factor metrics are based on number of citations. And if I publish a paper on a new method to do X, I am expected to compare to (and thus cite) previous papers that did X. I cannot just decide not to cite relevant previous work because it is published in an Elsevier journal.

Of course, sending papers to OA journals, going the extra mile to cite them, and preferring them to non-OA alternatives when any paper will do (e.g. when you are just providing some examples of applications of X, without being exhaustive, and you can find some in OA and others in non-OA journals) does help.


The sad thing is academy solved this exact problem centuries ago with the tenure system, but academics are still cowards


Tenure only exists in upper levels of academic career.


It would also happen within the same month if the EU and/or the US simply made it illegal to publish publicly funded research behind a paywall. All the content would disappear and the "industry" would reorganize. As a citizen the fact that this has still not been done is outrageous. Explaining that to the general population instead of pretending that this is something that's specific to the scientific community could be a way forward. It's simply a scandal that citizens are not allowed to read for free the research they paid to be performed.


It is already being tried with Plan S. But the problem is to choose the right alternative, of which the alternative pay-to-publish model isn't.

https://gitlab.com/publishing-reform/discussion/issues/86


> If Elsevier is so terrible, and everybody hates them, how is it possible that it's so hard to move away from them?

They own the high IF journals, which scientists need to publish to in order to get cred'.

It's a chicken and egg problem, scientists can't move to OA journals until these provide the high IF they need to get cred' but OA journals can't get high IF without high impact articles being published in them, which requires paying Elsevier huge fees so you can publish in both.


"Their entire business depends on the people who hate them"

Just like telcos, banks, internet behemoths and every other company that finds or builds a suitable set of barriers to entry.


> If Elsevier is so terrible, and everybody hates them, how is it possible that it's so hard to move away from them?

Because researchers either publish or perish, only the work posted in established journals counts, and the likes of Elsevier controls those journals.


Because publishing papers creates personal property for the authors, and the fees are not paid by them. So there is an incentive to leave the system alone. Resistance is building, slowly.


In a lot of fields, most academics just don't care


I'd highly recommend watching this documentary called Paywall [1] which explains the unhealthy dynamic between academia and publishing. TL;DR - academic prestige and career progression depends on being published in highly rated journals.

[1] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HM_nWsdbNvQ


Tragedy of the Commons.


Another fun fact about Elsevier: In their contract with university libraries they exclude the right of fair use as described in the US copyright law. That means one can download papers, but technically mustn't use the data found in them without consent. This is just ridiculous.


Isn't that illegal? Or at least, doesn't that cancel the copyright as it explicitly breaches the copyright contract with the demos.


I was wondering too. The librarian that told me about it, is a copyright expert and was outraged. However, it seems like there was not much they could do. I am guessing the fact that this is happening at an Ivy league university means that lawyers are not useful in this matter. They also said that only Elsevier does that.


> I hope their CEO becomes homeless.

Not having experienced homelessness myself, this still isn't something I would wish in anyone.


Oh I would, and that he may go completely broke too, and die miserable, alone, and in pain. These people's greed has caused enormous harm and cost uncountable lives. That's what keeping this knowledge to yourself does, otherwise our doctors would still be doing bloodletting and sacrificing small animals. And in a certain way, we still are. Which doctor has the money to access all those journals? Lost of clues to a cure for lots of diseases are probably buried somewhere in expensive journals.

But noo, please for the love of money withhold the doctor that information, let him pay thousands of dollars for it, so that he will not read any of it, and let his patients suffer and die. Like they did when we were still doing bloodletting.


I'm not arguing that what Elsevier is doing is good, but I do think desiring terrible things for others however "bad" we may perceive them to be is ultimately not productive.


I have experienced homelessness. I hope the CEO becomes homeless and then gets kicked out of any squats when they find out that he used to run Elsevier, and has to live in a cardboard box full of dogs under a bridge, before finally finding enlightenment in his tranformation into a modern Diogenes. He will then wander the world, providing modest educational services for free and be finally happy.


Mathematicians have for a couple of years now started to rely on preprints on ArXiv and this is a successful change in culture.

However, the related problem of research not being read (and the more subjective "not being worth read") is still unsolved to a large extent. My single paper on ArXiv has probably not been read and despite that my MSc reviewer commented that the work is suitable to be published (apart from the MSc) I now have a full time job outside of academia and little incentive to get the paper into a reputable journal by extensive formatting and layout changes or self-lobbying, if you will.


Are you sure people would read the article just if it were published?

Fields of math are small and narrow. Emailing people and posting to forums might be easier and more effective than publishing in a journal.


How can you tell it is not been read?


I guess I can't.


Honest question: if you hate Elsevier, why are you submitting to their journals?


It would be optimal for all researchers to coordinate to move away from Elsevier, but as long as everyone else (or the majority) is publishing in Elsevier the local optimum for each researcher is to continue publishing in Elsevier.

I know a few researchers who have publicly committed to not publish in Elsevier journals, but there's a career cost to doing this, particularly for early career researchers. Outside of a small number of colleagues who will actually read your work, most people (including funding organizations and tenure review boards) will judge your research by how much you publish and where you publish, and Elsevier owns many of the most prestigious journals.

It varies by field, depending on how many journals Elsevier has managed to capture. I consider myself lucky that Elsevier doesn't own any of the major journals in my specialty, so I've so far been able to avoid them without feeling like I was making career sacrifices to do so.


Why do the well established and well known, successful researchers not boycott it? It could start a chain reaction.


I'm a tenured professor, so my own position is not in danger if I boycott the likes of Elsevier (salary bonuses and grant money still would be, but at least I could still get a reasonable paycheck every month and keep a good standard of living). But the overwhelming majority of my publications are coauthored with PhD students or young postdocs who are fighting for stable positions, and their career depends on high-impact publications. If I decided to boycott for-profit journals, I would be throwing them under the bus.

In mathematics, most publications are single-author, and I suspect this (plus less reliance on funding to buy equipment) is an important factor why they are more successful than other disciplines fighting parasitic publishers, as established tenured professors might as well fight the fight. But for most disciplines, the lock-in is really difficult to escape...


I'm in computer science so fortunately almost everything is open access. Do you know how CS ended up like this and whether it could be replicated in other fields? I suspect the close relations to the math community may be part of the origin of it. Perhaps also the the values of hacker culture.


Because "services" by the likes of E are of no value to CS professors designing some of the much more advanced software. But they are sadly focusing on their own journals and not trying to help the other subjects.


It depends on the subarea of CS where you publish, and especially on the country where you are... I'm also in CS and in my country we still need to publish in (predominantly non-OA) journals if we want tenure, grants, etc.


Because ironically, and despite of all the good words, this is not what is typically rewarded by their universities.


In math they did. In other fields, they depend on funding from government agencies who support Elsevier.


I was waiting for the "but". Reaching the final period of your sentence was deeply satisfying.


The rot starts at the top: https://www.elsevier.com/about/management


In fact, this was referring to one of them: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20641056


Am I supposed to magically understand something from that link? If so, I utterly failed. Mind elucidating?


It is hard to say this, but Russia is helping the world fight against Elsevier and all those money funneling institutions... (with scihub, for anyone not knowing that it is a russian 'service')


The creator of Sci-Hub is Alexandra Elbakyan and she is from Kazakhstan. According to Wikipedia [0] she spend 1 year working for a Moscow company, but that's it. I wouldn't classify it as a Russian service. There is a nice russian service for paywalled ebooks and articles called LibGen [1]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sci-Hub [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library_Genesis


At one point in time she banned the whole of Russia from accessing sci-hub after she felt that some Russian scientists had been insulting when they named a parasitic insect after her. Late last year Russia banned isps from accessing sci-hub.

It may or may not be hosted in Russia, but I agree it is not "Russian".

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandra_Elbakyan

https://www.chemistryworld.com/news/sci-hub-blocked-in-russi...


i would still use it if it was a russian service


> Then when I submit they'll "proofread" and "format" my paper, failing to spot existing errors, introducing their own, and outputting an ugly mess, maybe with two columns to make it really unreadable.

We have been recording their (dis)services here, with everyone warmly welcome to add more:

https://gitlab.com/publishing-reform/discussion/issues/4


This is poetry. Thank you! And exactly what I'd expect of an oligopoly player.


Clearly Elsevier is not playing nice here. But this bit is great: "UC retains perpetual access rights to most Elsevier articles published before 2019." Whoever negotiated that bit for the UC side must be feeling very pleased with themselves.


It's not just Elsevier but also other publishers. They are doing everybody a favor here by forcing the issue. They could just chicken out and make UC pay for open access at a bit lower rate and we'd not be having this debate. But instead they are acting in a rather tone deaf way and are probably accelerating the demise of their business. I actually published a few things with them when I did my Ph. D. back in the day. Given the current debate, I'd probably avoid them and favor other channels these days. Researchers being aware of this is not going to help their marketing.

IMHO all public research funding should be conditional on full open access. If you use public funding, the research results need to be open access for anyone. I'm pretty sure that is becoming standard practice already but in so far it isn't, that should pretty much be non negotiable when getting funding or for any tax money earmarked for research.


Probably standard terms carried over from the print model.


No, it's the opposite: when subscriptions were for printed copies, it's not like Elsevier would send an agent to set fire on your archives as soon as you discontinued a journal.

In the 1990s, electronic access was seen as a cost reduction technique: some publishers would even provide it for free to their subscribers, others for a small fee; libraries would buy less copies of the same journal. Later, publishers offered to terminate the paper copies and replace them with electronic-only access, but libraries sensed a trap: what happens if we terminate access in the future?

By the early 2000s, most universities had learnt to include such a perpetual access clause whenever they switched to electronic-only access. (See EBLIDA advice in 2001: <http://www.eblida.org/Activities/Publication/Licensing_digit...)

All this work was not completed quickly: around 2010 I remember we (the board of directors) still had to approve some such conversions in my university. (Germany status in 2010: <https://www.mpg.de/230683/access__hosting_studie_e.pdf>.)

However, most of these clauses have never been used so far, and for some universities it's a lot of work to invoke such perpetual rights, track the back copies etc. https://oadoi.org/10.1080/0361526X.2017.1383964

Not all universities have a self-hosted archival copy, either. https://www.lockss.org/use-lockss/post-cancellation-and-perp...


I despise Elsevier and am trying not to publish anything with them. However, what impressed me the most here is the tone of the letter: direct, straight to the point, and clear to read and understand, with no trace of legalese. Every time I read something coming out of some academic office, I always expect a long sequence of bureaucratic sentences.


I'll leave this here: https://sci-hub.tw/ FTW


I know we all hate Elsevier, and I do, too. But the assumption in this threat that one could get rid of publishers without any thought and with absolutely no downside is simplifying it slightly too far.

Elsevier currently has a margin of about 35%. That's a lot, and probably too much. But it also means they are spending 65% of revenue on something. Even assuming a decent chunk is marketing and sales, there are a few billion in that industry being spent on editing and coordination tasks.

Going from a final draft to a published, peer-reviewed paper involves quite a few menial tasks, and scientists will either need to fill those roles themselves, or someone needs to pay someone else.

This is well proven by the current alternative, Open Access journals: they charge authors fees in the high 3-digit range to cover their costs.

So, for authors, Open Access means going from providing your work for free to actually paying to publish your work. Of course the institutions will usually cover those fees, and they have exceptions for people who can't afford it (payed by those who can).

The research will then be freely available, which is great. But the changeover isn't done with setting up some CMS on some virtual server somewhere.


This argument sounds very much like the arguments I remember hearing in the early 2000s about open source. "Sure, Microsoft is bad, but can random hobbyists on the internet produce something of the same quality?" "There's just no way that this Finnish dude wrote an entire operating system from scratch, he must have stolen work from this commercial UNIX that took years of paid engineering work to develop." "MySQL is good for people setting up websites at home, but professional users are going to prefer Oracle."

Much like with open-source software wasn't so much about it being free as changing the development model (you could see the source, send in patches, and have a direct discussion with the engineers who wrote that code), one of the more interesting changes is how much research progress now happens via preprints or even just blog posts. There is definitely a valuable role for journals as the gatekeepers of what research you should pay attention to and the facilitators of communication, but like account reps that insulate engineering teams from customers and help prioritize what's important, in practice they aren't working well enough any more to justify having them.

(And the implication, then, is that this work is hardly menial; you want a person actually familiar with your discipline to triage bugs or sort through preprints. And it turns out you're in a better spot to find or train up those people than the middlemen are.)


Thats not a valid analogy because reviewers and authors already work for free for closed-access journals. And open-access journals are not of lower quality, just not as popular. The closest analogy would be the App Store which forces programmers to pay an extortionate tax to have their code 'recognized'.


If I'm understanding you right, I think you're saying that open access is even more tenable than open source, which I agree with :)

But the secret of open source is that it was the same people (or at least the same job roles) who were previously writing proprietary software. Companies just decided that it made more sense to have them collectively, collaboratively work in public on infrastructure software than to pay a single vendor for closed-source code. It's not that hobbyists are implementing core OS scheduling primitives like cgroups, it's that the professional engineers doing that are now employed directly by end users like Facebook or Google instead of by vendors like SCO or Sun.


>Sure, Microsoft is bad, but can random hobbyists on the internet produce something of the same quality?

Can they? All pieces of software that are the core part of the Linux desktop (kernel, Xorg, GNOME, Firefox, etc) are backed by big corporations.


"Backed by", sure, but still free and open, which is UC's (and, I believe, the larger academic community's) ultimate goal.


Right - the actual answer here is that the people developing Linux weren't bored hobbyists in their basement at all, but employees of big corporations. (Perhaps employees for big corporations working remotely in their basement.) The development structure was different, in that you had employees from one corporation reviewing code from employees of another mailing lists full of people collectively deciding priorities, customers writing patches for their own needs, etc. And that was incomprehensible to people who expected traditional forms of software development; they couldn't conceive of anything other than what they knew or hobbyists in basements.

No one is saying that we don't need talented scientists writing and reviewing papers or organizing journals. The claim is that the structure of doing this through Elsevier doesn't make sense any more.


Big Corporations contributing manpower to open source means (gasp!) that they must have discovered some profit motive to using, and supporting open source! They're not doing this out of the goodness of their heart; but to increase shareholder value.

Gee, what if open academic publishing could also work, without the likes of Elsevier?


So what's Linux market share for desktops these days?


About 40%, because if you're comparing relative to the early 2000s, mobile devices are now filling the role that only desktops filled them. Drawing a distinction makes about as much sense as distinguishing desktops and laptops.

Plus, given that when folks like Darl McBride said "He can't have written an entire OS" they were clearly not thinking about just the Linux kernel, I think there's a solid argument for counting macOS and iOS too, both of which depend on the assumption that open-source code is of comparable quality to proprietary, commercially-developed code. Everything from their core kernel to the shell to the database for storing contacts (SQLite) is code developed in ways that the McBrides of the world said was untenable. That bumps it to almost 60%.

(Don't try me, I still have my Slashdot-honed debate skills.)


Wow, that comment was misunderstood... I use Linux, don't use Windows, and still think it's obvious that there is a certain feature set, i. e. the classic consumer desktop, that the community tried and failed to compete for. Of course Linux is a perfectly fine OS, but it again took a commercial effort (Android) to reach mainstream adoption on mobile.

Please read this in the context of the analogy: the OS is the science, the UI is typesetting/distribution/etc.


So, yes, GNOME and KDE didn't put a dent in Windows. But that wasn't the argument the anti-Linux folks were making. They were saying that as a process of producing software, open-source development was missing some magical property of the development practice - testing, professionalism, sustainability, security, etc. - that only closed-source proprietary development could provide. The reason Linux desktop failed to displace Windows was none of that: there's no (serious) argument that customers stayed with Windows because it had better stability or security. They stayed with Windows largely for compatibility and because it was free. The only missing feature was 100% compatibility with existing Windows software, which wasn't part of the claim.

As it happens I think that's actually directly analogous to the open access fight now. Universities stick with pricy journals not because those journals provide better typesetting or distribution (or science) but because those journals are the only way to get to existing papers. If Windows had never existed until today, nobody would switch to it; similarly, if Elsevier had never existed until today, nobody would start subscribing to them.


Or you could ask what does the top 500 supercomputers all run... Linux. See: https://itsfoss.com/linux-runs-top-supercomputers/

Or servers, or mobile devices in the form of Android phones. Desktop usage is only one many use cases for Linux.


To be fair, running on anything in the top 500 is a pain in the butt. Cray's are a major pain. I hear the NSCCs computers (TaihuLight and Tianhe) are essentially linpack machines, in reference to their difficulty. But I've never used them. HPC is just overall difficult and frustrating. But it is getting better.

But if we look at servers, there's a ton of Linux servers out there. Might be a better metric than computers that a small subset of programmers use. Linux accounts for >30% of this share and Unix like is >60%. Those are really important.

Also a lot of embedded systems run Linux.

Either way I think we pretty much agree. Linux is everywhere. Just not big on desktops. But huge everywhere else (which has a larger share of the computing resources in the world).


Virtually all TVs (especially ones with any type of “smart” functionality) sold today run Linux too.


I agree that they provide some service. That service costs at best $500. I just don't see how they can even ask for $5000 for proofreading articles. I don't value the rest of their pre-publication work at all: It is all done by volunteers, and my experience with their (paid) editors is not good: they do just as much a lousy job on getting reviewers to respond in time as any other journal. They change their minds and are very, very swayed by politics. And , tbh, i don't care about the proofreading. Some journals have extremely detailed authoring guidelines that are useless: Typesetting a subscript in italics doesn't provide value to science, and most typos will be found out by anyone who reads your article. The assumption that a paper must be "print ready" is stupid in the 2010s. Anyone can spot your typos and you can correct them on the spot. Proofreading can in no way be a justification for publishing with elsevier or NPG. I found e-life's editorial process much, much more professional and it's open access too. They value the time of scientists and will reject your paper fast. In fact many other journals are experimenting with new formats. Hopefully the new established science reporting format will be something better.

The key is to get reviewers to stop reviewing articles for them. It's this that keeps them relevant. Whether the end publication is on wordpress or on medium doesn't matter much.

Also, https://www.nature.com/news/open-access-the-true-cost-of-sci...


(Well, if they become the new standard for academic publishing, it's real real easy to imagine Medium becoming Elsevier 2: Electric Boogaloo.)


If they have a margin of 35%, they are wasting 50%. They do not copyedit. If you drop a nonsense sentance into an Elsevier journal after the volunteer editing stage, it'll be there in the published version. I've noticed plenty of typos in my own papers after publication.

> they [open journals] charge authors fees in the high 3-digit range to cover their costs.

Most Elsevier journals charge an ADDITIONAL ~$1500 if you want to open access, supposedly to make up for the lost profits.

EDIT: correction, I just checked the fee for the Elsevier journal JVGR, the last one I published in. It is $2750 per article!!! https://www.elsevier.com/journals/journal-of-volcanology-and...

Oh and don't be confused by "green open access" -- that's not open access. It's just typical smarmy BS marketing. How the hell do we allow these people to be the guardians of science!?

They don't accomplish anything beyond rent-seeking and rubber-stamping. They are as bad as the MPAA and RIAA. I've published papers in Elsevier journals several times, and I'll probably have to keep doing it, because they are the landlord.

They are a major contributing factor to the really serious ignorance problem we have in this country.


> It is $2750 per article!!!

Elsevier and nature charge $5000 for full open access, and not even in their top journals. Cell reports and scientific reports have high impact factor but are considered second-tier compared to Cell and Nature (The editors of the latter will redirect you to pay to submit to those open access journals if rejected)

https://www.cell.com/rights-sharing-embargoes

And this is all paid with taxpayer money. Good thing that taxpayers don't know about this situation or we d have riots


It is public information, how can they not know it?


> Going from a final draft to a published, peer-reviewed paper involves quite a few menial tasks, and scientists will either need to fill those roles themselves, or someone needs to pay someone else.

Which stages are you referring to? In my experiences in CS, publishing a _conference_ paper required:

  - Writing the paper using a publisher-provided LaTeX documentclass (potentially a significant portion of publisher costs went into developing this style)
  - Submitting the paper, via third-party conference management systems
  - Review, performed for free by other researchers
  - Responding to reviews, performed by me
  - Submitting a camera-ready version of the paper. The checks were mostly performed automatically (PDF metadata, page size, fonts, text size, balanced last page, page limits, margins, etc.)
  - Checking of the camera-ready paper (this seems like an actual menial task performed by someone on the publishing side, although I think that this was also contracted out)
  - Assembling the proceedings PDF (again, I assume this was automated, with the menial task of checking TOCs, headers, and footers)
  - Attending the conference itself (I assume the most money goes into this, renting the venue, organising AV teams, large amounts of co-ordination)
Things then get worse, because one specific publisher charges for intstitutional access, again for Gold OA (though Green OA is a free option), and then several hundred dollars for attending the conference.

It seems to me that most of the menial tasks are already automated. A lot of the menial tasks are even contracted out. I have colleagues who go to great lengths to organise local seminar series, run workshops, Perhaps I am missing some, or some of these are much more involved than they appear on the surface.


Cs is different from many science fields. Many if not most fields rely on published papers on journals not a conference. Many of the post-accepted production work still need to be done by human. think about a magazine, they sort of like that for production work


I know a lot of academics in the social sciences and humanities. Many of these pieces are handled by free labor in these disciplines as well. As paper copies have become increasingly disused, we are seeing that projects like sci-hub can handle the distribution - let's say that it gets a 500k grant for operating expenses and is in turn run on open source software contributed by academic professors who can count it as part of their community involvement for tenure considerations.

That means we're talking about the editors and copy editors themselves as the majority of the cost. Solve that by creating a university consortium. Instead of paying Elsevier, they pay a non-profit run at a set of universities who are responsible for a pool of editors.

Academia handles so much of this in-house already - there's nothing saying they couldn't do this as well.


CS conferences still have peer-reviewed papers. Authors do all of the work for making the final paper. CS does have journals, and it's much the same in that authors do almost all of the work. (I have one time seen changes to a journal article I was a co-author on come from people working for the journal. Every other time the literal pdf we provide is what got published.)


Then mathematics must also be different. And physics. And many other areas. How come the journal costs are still as high there?


To consider 35% a lot, it's not considered merely "probable" by most financial folks. It's simply too easy to compare to and see that relatively few businesses are higher. It's really a business dream come true.

There's no way to support your reasoning on even roughly estimating their costs by bootstrap deduction, without more information.

Maybe a single person could have compensation valued at 100 million dollars. Yes, it happens not to founders but to employees.

Cost of sales at a large revenue company like this is usually very high. Top performing sales people are extremely well compensated.

It's possible you've guessed correctly, I'm just saying there no reason to assume it's even roughly accurate from your premise.

The bottom line is their very existence go against the concept of maximizing shared scientific knowledge.

They also apparently consider unethical smear campaigns a standard business tactic.


Elsevier currently has a margin of about 35%. That's a lot, and probably too much. But it also means they are spending 65% of revenue on something.

Elsevier have a lot of products/services other than just publishing journals that they're trying to push. I wouldn't be surprised in most that 65% went to fund those. I suspect even Elsevier sees the writing on the wall is using the massive profits from their publishing arm to try to bootstrap other revenue sources. It's not like the journal publishing side of the business has seen any massive technical improvements over the past decade.


>there are a few billion in that industry being spent on editing and coordination tasks.

I understand why you would think this, but most editing is done by unpaid volunteers. They have 20,000 editors and ~8000 employees. Which means institutions are already "paying" to submit reports, with exceptions for those who can't afford it.


The editing is not done by volunteers, the reviewing process is. Editing, proofreading, layout, and submit related info to different databases need to be done by someone. Editors for academic journals usually did not do the late part.


Editing -> done by authors and reviewers, (paid) editors never make editorial suggestions

Proofreading -> $50 on mechanical turk (this is really just proofreading according to a list of detailed rules, they not validating the text)

Layout -> Completely useless in the internet age. In fact pasting it all in an HTML page makes it easier to read.

Submit related info to different databases -> This should not be a thing at all. It is a thing because their databases are closed-access so they submit data and metadata to paying customers. I dont even think this is covered by subscription/publication costs but from those paying customers.

So yeah, i think most ppl would be happy to pay ~$200 for their paper. It helps to weed out trolls too.


Tell that to math and physics. They seem to be doing just fine.


A few of society journals are doing fine. They are funded by the societies and societies either outsource actual production to the publishers for pay but retain copyright ( and strong arm readers into paying for society membership as the condition of accessing the journal or make authors pay to publish in them ) or produce and publish journals themselves.

Publishers make the most of their money by publishing second/third and fourth tier journals not the first tier because in the view of academia someone having access to "Journal of the Society of Librarians" ( circulation : 320 ), and "Cell" has the same value.


> But it also means they are spending 65% of revenue on something

Who knows if these money ends up in lobbying, manager salaries, etc?


There are some high-quality open access journals (e.g. https://www.emis.de/journals/SIGMA/) that don't charge authors. They use arxiv overlay. It is entirely possible.



In fact, as are all journals from Free Journal Network https://freejournals.org/, of which SIGMA is a member.


I think a lot of people are confused about what it is UC is trying to accomplish here! They are not saying to Elsevier "we demand everything be open access!" They are not even saying "open access should not cost more in fees!"

This is all UC is trying to request:

1) Allow any and all UC research the /option/ of being published open access (by paying the requisite >$1000 fees) --> Elsevier countered by structuring the open access ability such that only about 30% of UC's published output would be able to be open access (i.e. as before, not all journals allow for it still)

2) Allow this, without (massively) changing the total subscription fees UC pays towards the journals --> UC actually proposed a higher subscription cost to cover the transition to open access (based on the current fees associated with open access), and Elsevier countered with a much higher fee with, as stated in (1), 2/3rds of the research not given the option of open access.

3) Allow UC libraries to help cover the cost of the open access fee that researchers must pay to allow the research to be open. --> Elsevier countered with "that's not allowed"

TL;DR UC wants ALL Elsevier journals to allow researchers to opt into open access (rather than a small number of them as is current) and they want that option with a reasonable increase in fees to the UC system.


> ... the current alternative, Open Access journals: they charge authors fees in the high 3-digit range to cover their costs.

Not the current alternative, just one of many and not the best one: https://gitlab.com/publishing-reform/discussion/issues/96

Calling the APC "the OA model" and conveniently forgetting to mention other options has been precisely the common publishers' rhetoric feeding deliberate public confusion in trying to identify OA with APC, which needless to say, helps their business objectives.


How do you know the true margin? They can be employing Hollywood accounting. If they are not, that doesn't mean that they are spending 65% on something worth while either, perhaps a different entity could be more efficient and have a margin of 99%.


Given a choice it's better for the author to pay for typesetting because once they have, it can be distributed to readers for free.


Having published over 50 research papers, I've never experienced any value from the journal's so-called typesetting. In fact, that "value" was typically strictly less than zero with all their newly introduced typos and misleading corrections by someone who has no idea about the subject. So why are forced to accept this kind of service and how does world science benefit from it?


Yup. The right question to ask is "Why would the author not do it?"


Because it's a big upfront cost.


(Actual question:) How is a standard journal-style typesetting a big upfront cost?

Surely the authors do all the hard parts, make the graphs, section, maths markup, footnotes. What's left that can't be automated in almost every situation?


You are seriously giving authors too much credit. The vast majority of the journal papers require enormous amount of production editing -- that's exactly why the EICs and societies sold those journals to publishers.

Things that I have seen : ( wife was a production editor, I briefly helped an EIC of a society journal that was sold to a publisher )

1. Graphs do not fit the page or space allotment - journal is uses two column format, author decided it did not apply to them. Graphs do not fit the color scheme - the author decided that the graph will be blue and the legend would be green. This is a black and white journal. Graph is a photograph of a graph, not a graph. Photo was taken on an iphone.

2. Sections went out of order. Author did not use the numbering system and numbered them by hand. Author cross referenced sections by hand, changed the ordering and did not update all of them, referring to non-existent sections.

3. Footnotes referred to non-existent papers.

4. Author included someone else's figures. Author did not obtain a permission to use them.

5. Accepted paper is written in a monospace font in WordPerfect for DOS. In 2014.


I’m not sure about other fields, but in computer science (or more specifically AI/ML) conference papers are completely free of any “professional” editors — burden is entirely on authors to handle their own editing. But I have noticed 0 disparity between conference and journal papers in terms of copy-editing quality. And my one experience of submitting to a journal matches other descriptions — the “professional” editors introduced spelling, grammatical, and even factual errors that weren’t there in the first place. (Most egregiously, they edited a grad student’s bio to award him a PhD that he didn’t have yet. WTF.)


Finally something useful they did -- helped the student :)


1 is mostly things that the publication team is asking authors to fix by email for modern journals. Most journals will have a template for these emails, or stick them at the back of the reviewer requests.

2 Is something that I have seen caught in peer review twice, and missed once. Again, it would usually go in a batch email to the authors of issues that need to be fixed before publication.

3 is definitely something that reviewers should be catching. I don't know of any journals (especially not open access) that check references for existence. Is the problem the use of footnotes? If so, I could see this legitimately requiring some manual labor / typesetting... But most journals forbid footnotes in their submission guidelines.

4 is quite rare in research articles, and again, would be handled by requesting the authors deal with it.

5. Would be grounds for paper rejection, as it breaks the submission guidelines for most journals. In addition, it seems like an exceptionally rare case.

Overall, I don't think one can justify an average of 10 hours per paper in manual labor (open access fees are always more than 1000 usd) based on these formatting issues...which issues are mostly handled by requesting fixes from the authors.

Then again, maybe your wife worked in the 1 percent of journals which actually print on paper, and carefully proofread for authors.

My background is mostly in medical engineering with journals up to IF10, though.


If this was the case then the journals would not be sold to publishers. They are sold to publishers because EICs and societies that start journals do not want to deal with actually making the manuscript publishable after a year or two.

P.S. Average STEM paper takes about 30 hours to "produce".


This was the case 30 years ago when publishing was expensive. Today this should be a button click in a fully automated system.

Which is not to say, societies don't benefit from the system -- they actually get a lot of $$ from it. The sad part is, they only get a small part from the much bigger $$$ going to publishers.


It is not. Publishing industry, especially academic journal publishing barely changed in last twenty years. At best there's now a workflow management systems that exist inside the publishers.

The bottom line is: if what technies claim publishing is could be was the case then the EIC/Societies would be publishing journals themselves.

Publishers are the AWS/GC/Azures of the world. They get to collect money from those that publish papers and need papers because they provide service that the paper writers can't seem to figure out how to do themselves ( it is not very surprising - quite a few of even the well known authors of well known papers even today insist on proofs being sent to them via fax, correct those with a pen and fax back corrections ).


> You are seriously giving authors too much credit.

Sure, how can we credit someone who did the research and prepared the paper in its publish-ready form :)

> The vast majority of the journal papers require enormous amount of production editing

Absolutely! Such as introducing new errors by people with no subject understanding. :)

> that's exactly why the EICs and societies sold those journals to publishers.

They are sold to them for the very simple reason: $$$ they get from it :)

> Graphs do not fit the page ...

If any of these are not acceptable, the journal is perfectly correct to request changes from the author. Which I as author would prefer over introducing damages by people with no idea what my papers are about.


There's no such things as "a journal" that "goes to authors for requests". It is a job of EIC, which EIC does for a journal that self-publishes. EICs hate doing it. That's why they sell their journals to publishers.


these do not require "enourmous" amount of editing. Still, if sience was published in open access HTML, none of these issues would exist. Graphs could be anything, layout is irrelevant, and the rest can easily be detected with an automated validator.


Scientists who claim to want to publish it as open access HTML do not actually want to do it.

Are you a scientist hating the publishers? I have a great solution for you. Publish it on your blog. Give the journal a limited reproduction right and make them put your blog url in the abstract.


Costs of publishing in a journal are a part of the grant proposal(s).


Which is more headache for the applicant, fewer grants to award and less funds going to science proper.


> Going from a final draft to a published, peer-reviewed paper involves quite a few menial tasks, and scientists will either need to fill those roles themselves, or someone needs to pay someone else.

In computer science, the authors do all of this themselves already. The final pdfs me and my authors produce is what gets published.


I like Elsevier cause they got lotta papers I like to read and I’m not the one who pays the fee anyway so it means nothing else to me


I don't even want to read the article. I am on UC's side whatever happened.

Hearing someone is having a dispute against Elsevier is like hearing someone is fighting polymetis. I just know which side I want to see win.

The fact that no politician ever moved to destroy Elsevier destructive behavior that impairs research shows how little interest they have in scientific research.


> I don't even want to read the article. I am on UC's side whatever happened.

Nothing in particular happened. You should read that article. It's good stuff coming straight from UC.


Elsevier essentially does nothing but funnel money from researchers to rent seekers. They add just about zero to science, indeed everything they done - which includes absolutely ruining good programs like Mendeley - has directly worked against scientific progress.

They are an evil company, through and through.


I haven't used Mendeley in a while. What did they change in it?



Fields Medal winner, Tim Gowers, has written several articles on the level of dysfunction in the academic publishing market. This article is good https://gowers.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/elsevier-journals-so...


It is easy to hate Elsevier, but the real problem is academia. Elsevier is just capitalising on an almost perfect business opportunity - take scientists’ work for free, get other scientists to review it for free then sell it back to all of them. You can’t blame them for doing this, or for being so defensive. We are the fools for participating in this racket.

We need a hard fork. Large prestigious academic institutions should band together and decide not to publish in Elsevier journals, that’s the only way forward. Funding agencies should also be on board.


Note that the more you know about them, the worse it gets. I wrote a report for Education International last year as part of a global campaign against Elsevier. https://www.ei-ie.org/en/detail/16061/elsevier-the-price-of-...

You make it sound so easy, but if it was, don't you think people will have done it already? Monopolies, vendor lock-in, lobbying, divide-and-conquer approaches, all make moving away to a better system quite difficult.

Public funding agencies should be prohibited from giving away funds and copyrights to private entities with 30%+ profit margins. I cannot understand why this is legal.


I hear you. But they aren’t going to turn around and become the publisher we want, that is a fantasy. They have no incentive to change.

It isn’t easy for academia to help itself (for once), but it is the only viable solution imho.


Elsevier is the bouncer to a trendy club. People flock outside, just because they know that the bouncer rejects 92% of the submitted articles (that's the rate for Nature i think). I think an open access publisher must create this artificial scarcity in order to build reputation. In fact i think they have to advertise it. They 'll also need a massive promotion campaign to attract attentin from authors.


I would be hard pressed to believe anything Elsevier says/claims at this point, without extensive and detailed evidence supporting it. Even then I would be fairly dubious, truth be told.


"The UC Libraries do not endorse the use of Sci-Hub for article access.”30 As the UC Berkeley university librarian said in a published interview, “we are unequivocal: it is our understanding (though we are not attorneys!) that Sci-Hub is in violation of U.S. copyright law. We will not advise nor help anyone to use it"

That is probably the best endorsing non-endorcement I have read. It never says they discourage SciHub and suggests only SciHub is breaking copyright law.


At one point, that's a coward's stance.

Alexandra Elbakyan's contribution to scientific research at this stage is probably higher than any university's library.

Recognize that everyone uses it because none of the legal options are acceptable. Say it and urge a long overdue change in copyright laws.

It is abnormal that Elbakyan is the outlaw and Elsevier the respectable institution here.


Endorsing a US-law breaking site like SciHub could place them on the hook for legal repercussions.

This non-endorsement endorsement achieves the same goals without the above liability.


Meanwhile, a courageous girl broke some laws with no gain for her, because she thought research was important.

If the 10 biggest university libraries endorsed sci-hub, yeah, there could be legal repercussions but that could also move the lines much more than this timid non-endorsement endorsement.


She's a superstar now, could make money from ad or bribes with no personal risk. I would have done the same


Yeah, right, no personal risks except being sued out of existence if she ever attempts that in any country that implements copyright laws.

Haven't we learned anything from Aaron Swartz?


>It is abnormal that Elbakyan is the outlaw and Elsevier the respectable institution here.

Rather than abnormal, is an archetype by this point, given the case is viewed almost universally as a Robin Hood vs Sheriff of Nottingham kind of a thing.


Everyone uses sci hub, i dont even think it needs advertising. It is used even more by people who legally have access to subscriptions[1]. I prefer it too - it is faster than the often horribly slow official sites

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/04/whos-downloading-pir...


They're officially not endorsing Sci-Hub, but they're sure to repeatedly call the service they're not endorsing by name on multiple pages.


It is amazing how a leech company like Elsevier can extract so much rent from the academic system. It is ironic how they trick the academic world offering just "prestige" and getting back not only the exorbitant journal prices, but what I suppose are thousands if not millions of PhD+ level man hours for practically free.


Elsevier didn't do this to academia, academia did this do themselves.


Copyright assignments made by authors can be cancelled [1]. For papers and books from before 1994 or so (25 years from present), you can write a letter to the publisher cancelling your grant or assignment of copyright to them. The rules are complex so I might be missing some details. But there are probably a lot of researchers who could take advantage of this to put on some pressure and reclaim their work.

[1] https://www.copyright.gov/docs/203.html


Random thought, with fight club math :) - The only remaining value journals like Elsevier have are their giant stash of papers, it's the sole thing perpetuating the whole absurd organization... so:

  A. How much money do Elsevier take from universities each year?

  B. How many years will it take for Elsevier to go bankrupt without income from said universities?

  C. How much money will it take to buy *all papers* from the auction at the bankruptcy of Elsevier?
If A * B >= C then all universities could save the money they spend on Elsevier to put all of their papers in public domain (Assuming B is not impractically long and assuming Elsevier don't do something evil and down size enough to sustain themselves indefinitely while sitting on a hoard of papers).

Once the content is freed universities can invest their publishing money in something more worth while like open access distribution networks.


But having public domain papers (eg arxiv) does not advance a carrier in the same way. You need papers in high impact factor journals in many fields to look good in evaluations (at all stages in the academic carrier ladder).


That is true in the past, and present out of sheer momentum, but it's clear opinion is changing on the value of these journals, especially in light of various absurd failures of their peer review process. I think they are only "high impact" merely out of critical mass, not any intrinsic quality of the journal itself.

You are correct in pointing out it's a significant factor in the perpetuity of these organisations, and hopefully it's an opinion that enough boycotting will topple.


Sure but academia is pretty traditional and you also need to be good in the eye of others, not just researchers in your field who understand these things. But also administrators and regulators who may not really know or care about "how the sausage is made", they want to tick boxes, and see impressive numbers for impact factors etc. They could be reeducated but convincing and educating governments must also happen.


I read a lot of bad things about Elsevier, so who is supporting them? Why aren't editors moving their publications en masse to some free and open platform?

You'd think a reputation transplant would be possible if you just took the key people.


FWIW, it has happened [1]. I think it's a coordination problem - if everyone moves, you can take the reputation along, but if you alone move, you bear the cost. In the example of the Journal of Algorithms, the whole editorial board resigned to start ACM Transactions on Algorithms with a not-for-profit publisher, but that only happened because the founder of the journal, nestor Don Knuth himself, got so fed up with Elsevier that he managed to prod everyone along.

So, yes, it is possible, and it happens far too rarely, and I wish top people in their field would instigate it more often.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elsevier#Resignation_of_editor...


This has happened: the example I know is that the editorial board of the linguistics journal Lingua resigned en masse to create the open-access Glossa. My impression from the outside (just a friend of linguists) is that Glossa is generally considered "the real Lingua" and "Zombie Lingua" has become significantly less selective.

https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=34106


A hard fork.


Publishing in high impact journals is vital for a scientific career.

Only the very top has enough individual reputation that they can ignore Elsevier & co. And they still like their articles published in Science, Nature, or whatever the most prestigious journal is in their field.

Some top dogs are already boycotting Elsevier and the situation is very slowly changing, but the publishers hold a lot of leverage because of self-imposed academic incentives.


Their model is to leech out public funding through catering at decision maker interests. There are strong incentive to keep the system as it is and no one is paid to organize to fix that problem.

In theory that's when you would like to see politicians put an end to these practices but corruption is legal in US, so...


Everyone here who holds a grudge against Elsevier (and even those who don't yet) should have a look at the group which owns Elsevier (where it only represent a third of the profits). [1]

Truly, a fascinating business combination including science's rent seeker in chief Elsevier, a number of privacy-dubious services under the banner "Risk Analytics" - including for instance your insurer-imposed GPS car tracker, and a service dubbed "Active Insights" that "keeps track of changes in [client's] households" - and another nice looking rent seeker business, LexisNexis, which is if I understand correctly an Elsevier-like gatekeeper to law information and references.

[1] https://www.relx.com/~/media/Files/R/RELX-Group/documents/re...


This fight really reminds me of conversation I had with my CEO.

Me: If we stop bitching and start the project to do X, in a couple of years we would be able to do X and the reason for bitching would become irrelevant

Him: You think it would take two years for them to fix it?

Me: I don't know, but I know that it would take us a year to do it ourselves without impacting the rest so in two years we should definitely solve this problem.

Him: Two years is a lot. We have other things that we would be doing

<two years later>

Him: It is so annoying this is still happening

Me: Remember how I said we should do it two years ago? Let's start it now. In two years we...

Him: You really think it will take two years to do it?

<repeat>

The reality is that Elsevier/T&F/Springer etc are providing service that no one bitching about them wants to do.

Journals are just a collection of papers, elected by EIC, produced and owned ( in case the copyright is transferred to the owners of the journal produced for free ) or just produced ( for a fee, in case copyright is not transferred ) and formatted and printed and hosted. EIC gets an honorarium, gets invited to the conferences, events, gets his or her name on a cred sheet, gets to be on panels, etc. for doing pretty much nothing. If the journal is not owned by Elsevier/T&F/Springer/etc the EIC has to a lot more -- especially for journals that have nearly no circulation that still publish 4-6 times a year.

UC and other organizations have more than enough resources to do it themselves. Sometimes they do. Those are called society journals. After a few years of running them societies typically sell them off ( sometimes for $1.00 ) to the likes of Elsevier/T&F/Springer etc. They do it because production is not sexy.


>EIC ... doing pretty much nothing.

I'm friends with one EIC and a few associate editors and I can assure you they do a LOT of work. The EIC in particular, it's like a full-time job, and that's for a fairly obscure journal. It takes a lot of effort to do the initial evaluation of any given submission, just to initially figure out which associate editor to assign it to. Springer pays her a tiny stipend to cover things like personal printing costs. Think something like $100/month (don't know the exact number but it's around there).


Is there a page which explains how this situation arose, why they get money from universities to access information produced at tax-payers expense, their role as gate-keepers, any work they actually produce which is useful, proposed alternatives etc. As someone outside of academia this is confusing. Why is someone getting stuff produced at tax-payers expense, peer-reviewed for free, and charging for it, and what's stopping this from being overturned?


>Why is someone getting stuff produced at tax-payers expense, peer-reviewed for free, and charging for it, and what's stopping this from being overturned?

They're not. Elsevier doesn't produce the research. They filter it to give you the good bits.

Historically, the value they've provided is 1) to ensure quality (i.e. guarantee readers not just any crank can publish a paper and waste your time, guarantee authors that you'll be published alongside good stuff, so people are less likely to skip over your work), 2) to coordinate operations (recruit authors, recruit appropriate reviewers, negotiate with printers, general SG&A), 3) manage physical printing and distribution.

Arguably, 3 is now somewhat commoditized because distribution is mostly online. Costs have been driven down on 2 because of a glut of PhD's and the general demand for prestige signalling in academia.

I'm genuinely not sure how relevant 1 is. I could imagine either that it's entirely replicable because 2 is now cheap, or that it's the kind of thing you don't know you care about til it's gone the way no one ever said "I love that my local store only sells genuine and high quality goods," but now people complain about how it's tough to know what you're getting from Amazon.


Your (1) is not even the jurisdiction of the publisher. It's done by the editors, who are generally volunteers or, at best, receive a paltry stipend.


The basic problem with the alternative of open access journals seems to be the incentives to get as many articles out as possible to reap the per-article publication fees, which ends up affecting review/editing quality.

Have there been experiments in yet other, more decentralized models of academic publishing? Think something like Arxiv but with more features for discussion/review/endorsments by other researchers in the field, maybe?



Not all open-access journals have publication fees.


This might help to understand E's "logic" :)

"Would you buy the world a drink?" - is there merit to Elsevier logic?

https://gitlab.com/publishing-reform/discussion/issues/104


Is Elsevier really trying to weazel around and lie to literal rooms full of academic types.

Are they actually mad and retarded.



Elsevier's FAQ on California Digital Library and Elsevier: https://www.elsevier.com/about/california-digital-library-an...


Irony is that the CEO of Elsevier is a UC Berkeley alum.


Tail of the snake tries to eat its own head




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