Monday, 30 January 2012

The Elsevier Backlash

For some time there has been disquiet in the academic community about the publishing model of many scholarly journals.  The issue is basically that academic research work, often funded ultimately by the taxpayer, is given, for free, with a transfer of copyright, to a publisher who will send it out for unpaid peer review, and then publish it, charging libraries enormous sums for the privilege.

The argument goes, or at least went, that it is actually rather expensive to prepare, typeset, proof-read and print scientific articles in relatively small volumes.  This is surely becoming year-on-year less and less the case.  For some time, those writing the articles provide effectively camera-ready copy, and articles can be most conveniently distributed electronically.

The low-level antipathy towards some publishers seems to have become stronger recently particularly due to their support of some legislation in the US that will negatively impact researchers' ability to disseminate open-access versions of articles they write, as increasingly required by funding agencies.   There is an informative blog post about it here, with many comments, and a pledge campaign not to publish in, or referee for Elsevier publications has started.

I am pro-open access.  In some areas of physics, the ArXiv has become the standard means of producing final publications and academic debate.  That hasn't happened in nuclear physics, but I'm more than happy to send my papers to e.g. APS or IoP journals.  The most recent paper I sent off was to EPL in part because all nuclear and particle physics papers published there were open access, though I think that deal has ended.

There has been much discussion on the web about this issue, but I'd be interested to know what, in particular, the nuclear physics community thinks.