Greed of Elsevier Drives 40 Scientific Editors of NeuroImage to Quit En Mass—Launch a Competitive Journal
The corporate greed at a major scientific journal has become too great to bear anymore for a collection of 40 leading scientists serving on an editorial board. The group, including tenured professors from Oxford University, King’s College London and Cardiff University resigned collectively from the editorial board of the journal Neuroimage protest wanton greed at the publishing giant of Elsevier in what academics around the world hope is a rebellion against corporate capture and associated greed. The move was recently announced Tweet / Twitter on Twitter by Professor Chris Chambers, head of brain stimulation at Cardiff University, and one of the resigning team members, and in a piece for The Guardian authored by Anna Fazackerley. These intensified chatter across the scientific academic community lamenting of profit margins in academic publishing that are purportedly richer than big tech such as Apple, Google and Amazon. Recently covered as well by Katharine Sanderson writing for the journal Nature, a movement builds against open access charges. The collective issued a statement on April 17, declaring their new direction.
Professor Chris Chambers, head of brain stimulation at Cardiff University, and one of the resigning academics on the editorial board tweeted the unfolding drama, declaring at one point, “Elsevier preys on the academic community, claiming huge profits while adding little value to science.”
A Mega-Corp controlling much of the journal business
A Dutch-based publishing giant, Elsevier specializes in scientific, technical and medical content. Some of the top medical and scientific journals are owned by this multinational corporation, from The Lancet and Cell to ScienceDirect and a collection of electronic journals from Trends and the Current Opinion to online citation databases such as Scopus, the SciVal tool for measuring research performance, the ClinicalKey search engine and the CriticalPath evidence-based cancer care service. As described on the company’s Wikipedia page, they offer a range of products and services covering digital tools for data management, instruction, research analytics and assessment.
Publicly traded, by 2021, Elsevier reported over 600,000 articles annually across over 2,700 journals containing over 17 million documents and 40,000 e-books. Over a billion downloads occur with their content per year.
Called RELX, the company is traded on the New York Stock Exchange with a $58.53 market capitalization on $8.55 billion in annual turnover, and $1.63 billion in net income.
These healthy numbers anger growing numbers of academic authors given that a lot of the research Elsevier publishes is in fact publicly funded. With mounting costs, critics charge “rent-seeking,” calling for boycotts and alternative publications to disseminate scientific information such as preprint servers and shadow libraries. Aggressive copyright practices also had fuel to the rebellious academic-driven fire.
Greed drives serious collective resignation, move to launch a competitor
Anna Fazackerley reports in The Guardian that while Neuroimage, a leading journal focused on brain-imaging research has gone “open access,” meaning the content is not solely accessible via a subscription-based paywall, authors must now pay over £2,700 ($,3,414) to get their paper published. What’s behind the steep price? As The Guardian notes, it is the journal’s “prestige.” Former editors are outraged, declaring the move “unethical.” They point out the cost increase has nothing to do with the underlying cost structure to produce the content.
Now, academics are increasingly turning to submitting papers to a nonprofit open-access journal which a team is setting up instead.
Professor Chambers told The Guardian that “all Elsevier cares about is money and this will cost them a lot of money. They just got too greedy. The academic community can withdraw our consent to be exploited at any time. That time is now.”
Importantly, while costs are often borne on the academic, often through various grants typically either the public sector through universities or via private grants or at times industry grants, the author(s) can spend inordinate amounts of their own time to produce scientific pieces.
Elsevier capitalizes on this model, continuously raising the fees they charge authors to access their journals, meaning the company is maximizing their profits.
Movement for alternatives
An Oxford University biomedical engineering professor told The Guardian for the recent piece while many authors have felt “powerless” given the leverage and size of Elsevier, Stephen Smith however declared, “Enough is enough. By taking the entire set of editors across to start the new journal, we are taking the reputation with us.”
As reported by Nature, the new journal launched by the breakaway editors at Neuroimage will be hosted by MIT Press.
Call to Action: See the breakaway editors' announcement.
The breakaway editors include: Stephen Smith (Oxford, UK), Til Ole Bergmann (Johannes Gutenberg, Mainz, Germany), Birte Forstmann (Amsterdam, Netherlands), Alain Dagher (McGill, Montreal, Canada), Shella Keilholz (Emory / Georgia Tech, USA), Kristen Kennedy (UT Dallas, USA), Sonja Kotz (Maastricht, Netherlands), Cindy Lustig (University of Michigan, USA), Bruce Pike (University of Calgary, Canada), Marc Tittgemeyer (Cologne, Germany), Mark Woolrich (Oxford, UK), Thomas Yeo (NUS, Singapore), Andrew Alexander (Madison, Wisconsin, USA), Janine Bijsterbosch (Wash U, St Louis, USA), Tjeerd Boonstra (Maastricht, Netherlands), Mallar Chakravarty (Quebec, Canada), Chris Chambers (Cardiff, UK), Catie Chang (Vanderbilt, USA), Bradley Christian (Madison, Wisconsin, USA), Sarang Dalal (Aarhus, Denmark), Nai Ding (Zhejiang, Hangzhou, China), Audrey Duarte (UT Austin, USA), Audrey Fan (UC Davis, USA), Alexandre Gramfort (Paris-Saclay, France), Gesa Hartwigsen (University of Leipzig and MPI-CBS Leipzig, Germany), Mbemba Jabbi (UT Austin, USA), Ulrike Krämer (Lübeck, Germany), Martin Lindquist (Johns Hopkins, USA), Jean-Francois Mangin (NeuroSpin, France), Kevin Murphy (Cardiff, UK), Jonathan Polimeni (Harvard, USA), Emma Robinson (KCL, UK), Monica Rosenberg (University of Chicago, USA), Sepideh Sadaghiani (UIUC, Illinois, USA), Mohamed Seghier (Khalifa University, UAE), Yen-Yu Ian Shih (UNC Chapel Hill, USA), Axel Thielscher (TU Denmark, Denmark), Lucina Uddin (UCLA, USA), Dimitri Van De Ville (EPFL and UNIGE, Switzerland), Wim Vanduffel (KU Leuven, Belgium), Chao-Gan Yan (CAS, Beijing, China), Anastasia Yendiki (Harvard, USA).