Boycotting Elsevier: let’s join the efforts of our scientific community!


Below is a very interesting letter from Arieh Iserles about why should we boycott Elsevier:

I strongly encourage you to read the very recent posting of Doug
Arnold on the IMU Journals' blog,

Also, more humbly, my posting on Tim Gowers's blog,

Coming late to this discussion (but not to the issue at hand), allow
me a stab at explaining why from Elsevier’s point of view this
attitude pays – this has a clear operative consequence, namely that
attempting to change their mode of operation by persuasion is bound to
fail in the short term and all that remains is an effective and
principled boycott.

Elsevier makes the really fat, cholesterol-laden portion of its
profits from medical and biology journals. Both medicine and biology
are awash with funding and the cost of journals is incidental to the
very large research expenses they have, hence is not really an issue.
They then force universities to accept very expensive bundles,
inclusive of mathematical journals. The facts on the ground (speaking
from bruised experience) are that medicine and biology department
wield infinitely greater political clout than maths at a typical
university (and even at my, atypical university), hence the bundle is
forced on mathematicians and, realistically, there isn’t much we can
do in the short term.

As a mathematical community, we must play the long-term game. This
means that those who can afford it (it would be morally wrong to
expect this from colleagues early in their career) must be steadfast
in refusing to do anything with Elsevier. Moreover, we must do this
loudly and openly: I have been boycotting them informally for a while
but this counts for little. Only if we, as a community, boycott them,
only if they are stigmatised sufficiently in public to impact on the
flow of papers and quality of editorial boards in their journals
(those two are of course related), only then they might be forced to
take note – and even if they don’t take note, their impact will be
diminished and they will matter less from our point of view. So, not
just boycott them but publicise it among your colleagues, on Facebook
(that’s how I’ve learnt of this discussion), Tweeter, whatsoever!

Incidentally, Elsevier _are_, in my humble experience, considerably
worse than other commercial publishers, certainly worse than Springer.
Most commercial publishers retain some vestige of pride in their
output (this isn’t bad even for commercial purposes). I don’t believe
that Springer will publish something which, while being complete crap,
will generate significant sales: Elsevier will have no such
compunction (see the Chaos etc. journal). I know the main maths
editors of Springer in both Heidelberg and New York and their heart is
at the right place: they are coming from the same stable as LMS, AMS,
SIAM, CUP, OUP, PUP, … maths editors. And no, I don’t know Elsevier
maths editors. One major reason (and yet another reason for a boycott)
is that Elsevier is cutting corners and employs, for very low
salaries, unqualified personnel, treats them badly and the outcome is
huge turnover. (I am speaking from some knowledge a decade ago: in the
unlikely case they have changed, apologies.)

The hierarchy of publishers (here I am speaking wearing multiple
editorial hats) can be best demonstrated by their attitude to copy
a. Academic and learned society publishers copy edit papers as a
matter of course (although standards vary),
b. Springer copy-edits once Managing Editors insist.
c. Elsevier doesn’t spend money on copy editing, seeing this as
authors’ responsibility.

One way or the other, unless you have already done so, join your name
to the list at .

Best regards,

(end of letter)

In the past, I’vepublished quite many papers with Elsevier, but now I’ll support this boycott by refusing any cooperation wth them. In particular, the following list of journals (which concern me) will be coycotted:

Advances in Mathematics

Annales de l’Institut Henri Poincaré (C) Analyse Non Linéaire

Bulletin des Sciences Mathématiques

Comptes Rendus Mathematique

Computational Geometry

Differential Geometry and its Applications

Discrete Mathematics

European Journal of Combinatorics

Expositiones Mathematicae

Indagationes Mathematicae

Journal de Mathématiques Pures et Appliquées

Journal of Algebra

Journal of Approximation Theory

Journal of Differential Equations

Journal of Econometrics

Journal of Functional Analysis

Journal of Geometry and Physics

Journal of Mathematical Analysis & Applications

Journal of Mathematical Economics

Journal of Multivariate Analysis

Journal of Number Theory

Journal of Pure & Applied Algebra

Physica A:

Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena


Topology & its Applications

Too bad I just published a paper with them (in Advances Math) and sent another paper to them (J Math Pures Appliquées) last month :-( I’ll not retract my paper, but will not consider sending anything new to them, until they change completely their attitude.

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6 comments to Boycotting Elsevier: let’s join the efforts of our scientific community!

  • admin MonsterID Icon admin

    More than 4000 scholars have joined the boycott as of this moment. A very good sign !

  • admin MonsterID Icon admin

    Letter by Doug Arnold:

    Community action
    More reasons to support the Elsevier boycott

    Tim Gowers’s excellent blog posting focused the long-standing discontent of the research community with Elsevier and nucleated a boycott which may prove to be a historic moment in scholarly publishing. I urge others to join the thousands of researchers who have signed on at the website Tyler Neylon created at Recent articles in publications like Forbes and The Economist indicate that Elsevier and the rest of the business community are taking note.

    The arguments Gowers laid out focus on Elsevier’s high prices, their bundling arrangements and subscription agreements, and their support for new laws that seem aimed at increasing publishers’ profits at the expense of wide dissemination of scholarly research. These are all very convincing reasons for the boycott. The fundamental mechanism of capitalism, that prices are contained by consumers’ choices not to pay high prices for what is available elsewhere more cheaply, is augmented in this case by the fact that the consumers—researchers and their institutions—also freely donate the most crucial ingredients in Elsevier’s products, that is, papers, referees, and editors.

    However, there is another reason for researchers to disassociate from Elsevier, which I find even more compelling: their many lapses in ethical and quality publishing practices. Here are some examples:

    The Elsevier journal Chaos, Solitons and Fractals published more than 300 papers by the journal’s Editor-In-Chief (58 in a single year). That these papers were not subject to peer review was later confirmed by the EIC’s declaration that “senior people are above this childish, vain practice of peer review.” Although the copious self-publication had begun nearly 20 years earlier, the EIC’s retirement from the journal occurred only in 2009.

    Elsevier journals have repeatedly published plagiarized work and duplicate publications. A search turns up over thirty papers in Elsevier mathematics journals published in the last decade which have had to be formally retracted, mostly for these reasons. On more than one occasion, the same paper has been published in two different volumes of the same Elsevier journal (presumably by accident).

    Elsevier math journals have published a number of papers that make me doubt that they were subject to any peer-review whatever. An egregious example is the 2-page paper “A computer application in mathematics” in Computers and Mathematics with Applications, vol. 59 (2010) pp. 296-297, which purports to prove the parallel postulate (!) with no formulas, no references to other published works except for two papers by the same authors, and, as best as I can tell, no meaningful content whatever. This paper remains unretracted and available for sale on the Elsevier web site.

    On several occasions, entire editorial boards have collectively resigned from Elsevier, usually citing discontent with their pricing. In 1999, the entire 50 person editorial board of the Journal of Logic Programming resigned after 16 months of unsuccessful negotiations with Elsevier over pricing, and created a new journal with a different publisher. In 2003, the entire board of Journal of Algorithms did likewise. A well known-case is that of the journal Topology, whose distinguished editorial board resigned en masse in 2006, again to found a different, less expensive, journal. Elsevier has continued to publish Topology since then, even though the web page for the journal gives no indication of its editorial board or even that the journal has an editorial board!

    From 2000 to 2005 Elsevier published six phony biomedical journals, with titles such as the Australasian Journal of Cardiology, in return for an undisclosed sum from a large pharmaceutical company. The journals’ contents were provided by the pharmaceutical company and published without further review, mostly reporting data favorable to their products. In 2009, after the practice came to light in a law suit against the pharmaceutical company and was reported in the press, Elsevier admitted that they had “published a series of sponsored article compilation publications, on behalf of pharmaceutical clients, that were made to look like journals and lacked the proper disclosure” and expressed regret.

    In 1998, the Elsevier journal Lancet published one of the most significant examples of fraudulent scientific research in recent times, in which evidence was fabricated to link autism to measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, thereby setting off a health scare that led to deaths and severe injuries and which continues to this day. Brian Deer, the award-winning investigative reporter whose articles in the Times of London and the British Medical Journal (BMJ) exposed the fraud and led to the inquiry by the UK General Medical Council which struck Wakefield from the UK medical register, also published a detailed and damning article in BMJ about the response of the Lancet editorial staff when confronted with the evidence of fraud. Deer describes how the Lancet responded to his carefully documented accusations, not with a formal investigation, but rather with a “5000 word avalanche of denials” and “a scramble to discredit my claims”. Lancet’s retraction of the paper did not come until 2010, 12 years after the original publication and for reasons that a British Medical Journal editorial describes as “far narrower misconduct than is now apparent.”

    Of course, Elsevier produces many journals. Without a doubt they publish good articles, as well as bad, and include excellent scientists in their editorial boards, as well as others. But the number and the nature of the incidents like those listed, cause me to doubt their commitment to and/or ability to achieve the quality and ethical standards that I believe crucial. There are many other publishers, including especially scholarly society publishers and university presses, but also some commercial publishers, that have earned my confidence and respect. I will happily dedicate my efforts of authorship and editorial work to them and not to Elsevier.

    Doug Arnold

    My own comment:
    Wow! I didn’t know that the board of Topology resigned in 2006, and Elsevier still publishes it without an editorial board! (I published one serious paper there in 2003 because it was considered a very good journal). One more good reason to boycott Elsevier!

  • admin MonsterID Icon admin

    A list of prices of math journals can be found here:

    In addition to boycotting Elsevier, we should also support low-priced not-for-profit journals, and avoid over-priced for-profit journals.

    For example, we should prefer
    Annals Math ($0.13/page), Acta Math ($0.65/page)


    Inventiones ($1.21/page), Comm Pure Appl Math ($1.74/page)

    Next time, before submitting your work to some journal, check its price (per page), and avoid it if the price is too high !

    Examples low-priced excellent journals to consider:

    Annals Math ($0.13)
    Amer. J. Math. ($0.19)
    Comment Math Helv ($0.48)
    Duke Math J. ($0.51)
    Erg Th Dyn Syst ($0.52)

    By the way, an information for my Vietnamese colleagues: despite its very modest quality, the Vietnam J. Math. costs an outrageous $0.90/page (as of 2008), much more than the above journals. That pricetag may be “advantageous” short-term, but for sure won’t attract readers nor the sympathy of the international community.

  • Leobio MonsterID Icon Leobio

    Có lẽ đã đến lúc phải xem lại toàn bộ hệ thống Journal publication, grant application, tenure application…v.v. Chỗ nào cũng thấy dối trá và bất cập (không chỉ ở Vn).

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