Reclaiming our Scholarship: What should we do when Elsevier crashes?

Dictated into Arcturus

This is the first in a series of posts under the heading “reclaiming our scholarship”. I think we’re at a critical time in scholarly publishing when academia has the opportunity to reclaim the vast digital wealth that it is given away to commercial publishers and from which it has suffered enormous detrimental consequences. I’m not alone in this and will start by highlighting a recent interview by Richard Poynder ( ).

Richard is a well known commentator on open issues and takes a very measured and valuable approach. (I have just spoken at length with him as part of an interview that he has done with Jean-Claude Bradley).

Here he interviews a senior analyst:

In two recent equity research reports on Reed Elsevier, Claudio Aspesi — an analyst based at the sell-side research firm Sanford Bernstein — argues that the company is “in denial on the magnitude of the issue potentially affecting scientific publishing”, and suggests that it is time to “pursue a progressive break-up of the company”. I [RP] emailed Aspesi to find out more.

I’m not going to give you snippets from this because I want you to read it completely. Essentially Aspesi argues that there is no new money in the system for scholarly publishing and there may well be much less. It is an inexorable consequence that Elsevier will start to crash. I am convinced by these arguments though it does not surprise me that the senior management at Elsevier appears to be in denial.

Assuming that there is a cataclysm in scholarly publishing – and there are so many reasons why this should happen – the question is how academia can take advantage. It has been spectacularly unable to react to the opportunities that the Internet and other new technology give, so why do I have any hope that it will do better this time? Probably only because I’m an incurable optimist and people sometimes learn from their mistakes.

Anyway I shall try to offer some simple homespun the ideas about how academia – and in this terms I include their funders – can change scholarly publishing to their own advantage and come back to a situation where it is done on behalf of the community for the behalf of the community.

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One Response to Reclaiming our Scholarship: What should we do when Elsevier crashes?

  1. Chris Rusbridge says:

    Peter, are you aware of the Californian reaction against NPG’s proposed 400% price hike, involving proposed cancellations, resignations, refusal to publish in, or review for NPG titles? It seems very relevant to the idea of reclaiming scholarship, notably in the apparent enthusiastic reception of the suggestions in UC, and also the beginnings of suggestions that we don’t really have to do this any more; good scholarship WILL be found…

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