The Singularity Hub blog reports on the current boycott of scientific publisher Elsevier by academic from around the world. As of March 18, 2012 8,209 researchers have indicated they support the boycott in favour of freer access to scientific scholarship online.
The boycott targets Elsevier, the publisher of popular journals like Cell and The Lancet, for its aggressive business practices, but opposition was electrified by Elsevier’s backing of a bill before the United States Congress titled the Research Works Act (RWA). Though lesser known than the other high-profile, privacy-related bills SOPA and PIPA, the act was slated to reverse the Open Access Policy enacted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2008 that granted the public free access to any article derived from NIH-funded research. Now, only a month after SOPA and PIPA were defeated thanks to the wave of online protests, the boycotting researchers can chalk up their first win: Elsevier has withdrawn its support of the RWA, although the company downplayed the role of the boycott in its decision, and the oversight committee killed it right away.
But the fight for open access is just getting started. The boycott of Elsevier continues on, though with less gusto now that the RWA is dead. It’s important to point out though that the boycott is not aimed at forcing Elsevier to make the journals free, but protesting the way it does its business and the fact that it has profits four times larger than related publishers. The Statement of Purpose for the protest indicates that the specific issues that researchers have with Elsevier varies, but “…what all the signatories do agree on is that Elsevier is an exemplar of everything that is wrong with the current system of commercial publication of mathematics journals.”
As the numbers of dissenting researchers continue to climb, calls for open access to research may translate into new legislation. But let’s hope that some are thinking about breaking free from the journal model altogether and discovering creative, innovative ways to get their research findings out there, like e-books or apps that would make the research compelling and interactive. Isn’t it about time researchers took back control of their work?
If you are passionate about the issue of open access to research, you’ll want to grab a cup of coffee and nestle in for this Research Without Borders video from Columbia University, which really captures the challenge of transition from the old publishing model to the new digital world: