The University of California Libraries are attempting to negotiate a more acceptable agreement with the giant science publisher Elsevier, as they approach the end of the current contract on 31 December 2018. Elsevier is apparently contacting journal editors at some campuses, attempting to mobilize support for the corporation’s position. I support the UC Libraries and, in particular, will not review papers for any Elsevier journal, as suggested by UCLA’s vice chancellor and provost in a letter to the faculty. The Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) gives a useful account of the letter and its context. In the CHE article, a member of Elsevier’s library advisory board believes that “faculty members ‘are likely to have a much more nuanced relationship’ with the company” than the deans and librarians who see directly the transfer of money from university to corporation.
I don’t have a nuanced relationship with Elsevier. I have been boycotting Elsevier across the board since about 2000 — no refereeing, no service on editorial boards, no submission of papers — inspired by Rob Kirby’s early analysis of the exorbitant costs of Elsevier journals. Eventually, I signed up to the public Cost of Knowledge boycott. My feelings on this front are as strong as ever.
In particular, I am unenthusiastic about the “publish and read” style of agreement that the UC Libraries are pursuing with Elsevier. My reaction is that they seem to protect the growing wheelbarrow of money that an institution commits to give Elsevier but simply relabel what the money is said to be buying. However, I accept that I likely take a harder line than many fellow faculty members. The UC Libraries serve us all, and they have judged “publish and read” to be the best approach for their many constituencies.