Friday 21 April 2023

An environmental boycott of Elsevier

Since 2012, thousands of academics have been boycotting the academic publisher Elsevier, whom they blame for overpricing its journals, and more generally for resisting open access to the scientific literature. Of course, most major academic publishers are guilty of the same, but Elsevier stands out as the worst offender. For instance, Elsevier was the last major publisher to join the Initiative for Open citations, years after all the others. Elsevier did not join the Initiative for open abstracts, and they play a leading role in the legal persecution of Sci-Hub.

In February 2022, Elsevier was denounced for helping the fossil fuel industry via its publishing and consulting activities. Again, other publishers are doing that too, and Elsevier is only the worst (or more prominent) offender. This has led to a (no longer active) petition by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Elsevier was not impressed, and now there is a campaign called Stop Elsevier.

This campaign includes a boycott. Participants may commit to

  • Refuse to Review

  • Refuse to Submit

  • Write to Editors

  • Refuse to Edit

  • Take Direct Action

  • Share Boycott on Social Media

There are also various options for allowing these commitments to be publicly shared, as in the original Cost of Knowledge boycott. For the moment, they are still kept private, though.

The new boycott won’t sink Elsevier by itself, but it could strengthen its well-deserved reputation for unprincipled greed. This would help discourage academic institutions from doing business with Elsevier.