More Elsevier Bad Press

You may have caught wind of the latest brouhaha developing online against Elsevier.

Yesterday, Cambridge mathematician Timothy Glowers released data collected from 19 UK universities under a freedom of information act request – the data are what they pay annually to Elsevier for the ScienceDirect journal bundle. Elsevier has always insisted on confidentiality clauses in these licenses. (BTW: Yes, this is the same Tim Glowers that initiated the Cost of Knowledge boycott in 2012).

It is a long, and carefully documented blog post – but well worth the read: http://gowers.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/elsevier-journals-some-facts/

If you don’t have the time, this post nicely summarizes the main points: http://access.okfn.org/2014/04/24/the-cost-of-academic-publishing/

And the Research Libraries UK (RLUK) has already released a statement too: http://www.rluk.ac.uk/news/university-spend-big-deals/

I can’t say I was very surprised or shocked by any of these numbers, but the point is to make these data more transparent to academics who are often blissfully unaware (not to mention the tax-paying public who ultimately fund much of this system).

It will be interesting to see how Elsevier tries to put out this fire.

Funders Getting more Strict on OA Policies

A growing number of major research funding agencies have open access policies. Those of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S. and the Wellcome Trust in the U.K. are perhaps the best known. However, a criticism of many of these policies has always been that they don’t have any “teeth.” This finally seems to be changing.

A recent news article in Nature reports that

“Wellcome Trust says that it has withheld grant payments on 63 occasions in the past year because papers resulting from the funding were not open access. And the NIH, in Bethesda, Maryland, says that it has delayed some continuing grant awards since July 2013 because of non-compliance with open-access policies, although the agency does not know the exact numbers.”

I believe that many researchers support OA in principle but actually getting around to making their publications OA is just another cumbersome task that they simply don’t get around to. The last line of the Nature article quotes a researcher who makes this point:

 “Agreeing with open access is easy — making it happen, less so,” she says.

I actually disagree. Making OA happen is not really that hard. It just needs to be incorporated into the researchers’ usual workflow. Applying for grants and writing up the research is much more difficult. Researchers just need to follow through with that one last step. And now they may not get their next grant if they don’t!