This Kat sometimes wonders whether there is anything new under the sun, or whether history is simply a series of endless recapitulations.
Academics have protested against Elsevier's business practices for years with little effect. These are some of their objections:This reminds this chemical Kat of a story he heard when he was at Oxford.
1. They charge exorbitantly high prices for subscriptions to individual journals.The key to all these issues is the right of authors to achieve easily-accessible distribution of their work. If you would like to declare publicly that you will not support any Elsevier journal unless they radically change how they operate, then you can do so by filling in your details on this page.
2. In the light of these high prices, the only realistic option for many libraries is to agree to buy very large "bundles", which will include many journals that those libraries do not actually want. Elsevier thus makes huge profits by exploiting the fact that some of their journals are essential.
3. They support measures such as SOPA, PIPA, that aim to restrict the free exchange of information.
An organic chemistry journal called Tetrahedron was founded in 1957 by, inter alia, Professor Sir Robert Robinson, Waynflete Professsor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford. It was originally published by a commercial publisher Pergamon Press, famously founded by Robert Maxwell. Ironically, the publisher is now Elsevier. This Kat recalls that the journal was an early pioneer of rapid publication by use of the submission of manuscripts in camera-ready format, avoiding the time and expense of typesetting.
Prof Robinson's successor is rumoured to have been less than impressed by Mr Maxwell. He also, so the story goes, believed that the journals that should be supported are those which are published by learned organisations such as the Royal Society of Chemistry. By what must be the purest coincidence, these journals apparently tend to be cheaper than their commercially published counterparts. Therefore, there was formulated an opposition to Tetrahedron which consisted of a departmental policy that the academics in the department must not publish in commercially published journals, and, if they did, then the department would not reimburse the cost of journal reprints.
Perkin Transactions, then the RSC organic chemistry journal.
And so now, decades later, the same issue has arisen again. It seems to the IPKat that the decades-old solution is still available - learned society journals, such as those published by the RSC, are still going strong. Those opposed to the role of commercial publishers in scientific publishing have alternatives available.
In fact, one thing has changed since those times, providing a further alternative to the disgruntled. Merpel points out that academics now have the option of publishing their works themselves, for example via the internet. Social media and other internet means can be used to promote these publications. Peer-review can be included in such online publishing schemes, which can be organised by groups of academics as well as individuals. This Kat, however, is a traditional moggie (perhaps more so than his fellow felines) and therefore reminds Merpel that the traditional title publications tend to have more academic cachet.
[Thanks to blogmeister Jeremy for teaching Merpel a thing or two on this subject].
As usual, over to you, dear readers.