Mass walkout at global science journal over ‘unethical’ payments
Academics from all over the world praise what many believe to be the beginning of a revolt against the enormous profit margins in scholarly publishing.
In protest of the "greed" of publishing behemoth Elsevier, more than 40 eminent scientists have all left the editorial board of a renowned science publication.
After Elsevier declined to lower publication fees, the entire academic board of the journal Neuroimage resigned, including professors from Oxford University, King's College London, and Cardiff University.
Academics from all over the world have praised what many believe to be the beginning of a revolt against the enormous profit margins in scholarly publishing, which surpass those of Apple, Google, and Amazon.
One of the publications that are now "open access" rather than being hidden behind a subscription paywall is Neuroimage, the top publication worldwide for brain-imaging research.
However, researchers spend over £2,700 for a research paper to be published. Previous editors argued that this is "unethical" and has nothing to do with the expenses involved.
"Elsevier preys on the academic community, claiming huge profits while adding little value to science," said Chris Chambers, head of brain stimulation at Cardiff University and one of the resigning team, as quoted by The Observer.
Chambers advised other scientists to reject the Elsevier journal and instead submit their works to the nonprofit open-access journal his team is establishing.
Elsevier, a Dutch corporation that says it publishes 25% of all scientific articles published worldwide, reported an increase in sales of 10% to £2.9 billion last year.
However, according to the publishing company's 2019 records, the profit margins, which are close to 40%, are what really infuriate academics. Because academics write up their research—which is often sponsored by charities and the public purse—for free, the major scientific publishers can keep expenses down.
Academic editors compile scientific research for free or for a modest fee, and they "peer review" each other's work to make sure it is worth publishing for free. Universities typically pay very expensive subscription fees, or academics get paid thousands of pounds to get their work published in open-access journals.
Stephen Smith, professor of biomedical engineering at Oxford University and former editor-in-chief at Neuroimage, said that "academics really don’t like the way things are, but individuals feel powerless to get the huge publishers to start behaving more ethically."
"Researchers put up with it because they want to publish in prestigious journals that will help their careers and ensure their work is widely read and cited," Smith explained.
University libraries are also upset about the price of online textbooks, as they are frequently far more expensive than their paper equivalents.
"We are facing a sustained onslaught of exploitative price models in both teaching and research," underlined Chris Pressler, the director of the Manchester University Library.
Manchester University provided a recent example of being offered £75 for a well-known plant biology textbook in print but £975 for a three-user ebook license, according to a spreadsheet of fees quoted to university librarians.
Another example the university cited is Routledge's textbook for aspiring teachers, Learning to Read Mathematics in the Secondary School, which costs £35.99 in print and £560 digital for one user.