“Academic spring” sees widening boycott of Elsevier

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 27 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1469
  1. Keith Epstein
  1. 1Washington, DC

Elsevier has withdrawn its support for controversial US legislation that would have strengthened the company’s online paywall after a growing online boycott by thousands of researchers complaining of profit taking by scientific journals at their expense.

As of 27 February some 7380 academics have signed an online petition ( declaring that they will no longer edit or referee papers to be published in Elsevier’s journals or have their own papers published by them.

Although for years researchers and librarians have voiced concerns about publishers’ profits and the prices of their journals, the latest digital uprising is a response to support by Elsevier and the Association of American Publishers for new legislation that they see as restricting the flow of knowledge. Some people are referring to the protest as an “academic spring.”

Under the legislation, guarantees of free access to publicly funded medical research in the United States could be ended, even when the research is financed by taxpayers (BMJ 2012;344:e452, 17 Jan, doi:10.1136/bmj.e452). Two competing measures, the Research Works Act, proposed in December, and the Federal Research Public Access Act, on 9 February, would undo a 2008 policy adopted by the National Institutes of Health that required articles arising from government funded research to be made free to view on the electronic archives of the National Library of Medicine (BMJ 2007;335:906, doi:10.1136/bmj.39384.638241.DB). A similar policy of free access is being …

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