As per a report published in The Guardian, over 40 leading scientists have resigned from the editorial board of Neuroimage, a top science journal, in protest of Elsevier’s refusal to reduce publication charges. The entire academic board of the journal, including professors from Oxford University, King’s College London, and Cardiff University, stepped down in a move that many academics worldwide hope will spark a rebellion against the profit margins in academic publishing.
Neuroimage is a leading publication for brain-imaging research that has moved towards open-access publishing, but its charges reflect its prestige. Academics now pay over £2,700 for a research paper to be published, and the former editors consider this fee unethical and have no relation to the costs involved. Professor Chris Chambers, head of brain stimulation at Cardiff University and one of the resigning team, has urged fellow scientists to submit papers to a nonprofit open-access journal that the team is set up instead.
Elsevier, a Dutch company that claims to publish 18% of the world’s scientific papers, reported a 10% increase in revenue to £2.9bn last year, with profit margins nearing 40%. Academics are frustrated by the fact that they write up their research, which is funded by charities and the public purse, for free. They peer-review each other’s work, and academic editors collate it for free or on a small stipend. Academics are often charged thousands of pounds to have their work published in open-access journals, or universities will pay high subscription charges.
Stephen Smith, professor of biomedical engineering at Oxford University and former editor-in-chief at Neuroimage, stated that academics put up with this system because they want to publish in established journals that will be widely read. But he warned publishers that “enough is enough” and that by taking the entire set of editors across to start the new journal, the team is taking the reputation.
Elsevier’s spokesperson said, “We value our editors very highly and are disappointed [with the resignations], especially as we have been engaging constructively with them over the last couple of years.” The spokesperson also said that the company is committed to advancing open-access research and that its article publishing charges are below the market average relative to quality.
University libraries also express their anger over the cost of online textbooks, which they say are often many times more expensive than their print equivalent. Manchester University gave an example of being quoted £75 for a popular plant biology textbook in print but £975 for a three-user ebook license. Learning to Read Mathematics in the Secondary School, a textbook for trainee teachers published by Routledge, was £35.99 in print and £560 for a single-user ebook.
Professor Chris Pressler, director of Manchester University Library, stated they are facing a sustained onslaught of exploitative price models in teaching and research. A spokesperson for Taylor and Francis, which owns Routledge, said that academic publishers provide essential services and that most researchers recognize the value of paying for these services.