Mass resignation by top academics over “too greedy” publisher, as Council of the EU calls for open access

It’s no secret that academic publishers are making fabulous profits by exploiting the work provided free of charge by researchers and funded by taxpayers. This is still happening, despite over two decades of efforts to move to a fairer system based on open access publishing. Now, over 40 of the top researchers in the field of imaging neuroscience have had enough:

NeuroImage’s editorial team has tried to convince [the leading publisher] Elsevier to reduce the publication fee [charged per accepted article] from $3,450, as we believe large profit is unethical and unsustainable. Elsevier is unwilling to reduce the fee; therefore, with great regret, all editors (more than 40 academic editors) of NeuroImage and NeuroImage:Reports have resigned. We are starting a new non-profit Open Access journal, Imaging Neuroscience, intended to replace NeuroImage as our field’s leading journal.

To put that publication fee of $3,450 in context, the academics estimate that the actual cost of publishing is nearer $1,000 per article. That gives Elsevier a profit of over $2,000 per article – a staggering 200% mark-up. No wonder that Professor Chris Chambers, head of brain stimulation at Cardiff University and one of the academics who resigned, told the Observer:

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.

It’s great to see academics taking a stand like this, but realistically, it won’t have much impact on Elsevier. The company publishes so many profitable titles based on the current approach, that it has little incentive to change. Against that background, the following call from the Council of the EU shows movement in the right direction:

the Council calls on the [European] Commission and the member states to support policies towards a scholarly publishing model that is not-for-profit, open access and multi-format, with no costs for authors or readers.

One approach “with no costs for authors or readers” is diamond open access, something that has been advocated here on Walled Culture. In addition, the Council highlights that

immediate and unrestricted open access should be the norm in publishing research involving public funds

In practice, this means that publicly-funded academics should not publish in titles that impose an embargo on free access to their papers. Such embargoes are only possible because researchers too often transfer their copyright to publishers, giving the latter control over when the public can access work it has paid for.

As the above stories show, there is a widespread understanding that the current system of academic publishing is not sustainable, and that we need to move to other, fairer systems. But we’ve been here many times before, with lots of unfulfilled promises from governments and funding agencies that things will be different in the future. Let’s hope that this time they really are.

Featured image created with Stable Diffusion.

Follow me @glynmoody on Mastodon.

Cookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner