There is a lot happening at the moment in the world of publishing, both internationally and nationally.
Elsevier is a big publishing house with over 2 000 academic journals and at the moment there are over 4 400 (2012-02-08) researchers all over the world protesting and boycotting Elsevier. According to the researchers there are three main reasons for the boycott: 1) journal prices are unreasonably high 2) Elsevier exploits libraries because due to the high journal prices the libraries agree to buy big bundles which all include journals that libraries do not actually want and Elsevier makes a huge profit and exploits their most valuable journals and 3) They support bills like SOPA, PIPA and the Research Works Act (RWA) which all aims to restrict the free exchange of information. You can protest on this page. Here you can read an interesting blog post about the RWA where both publisher’s and researcher’s perspective is taken into account. What is interesting here is that researchers are protesting against Elsevier when most of the big global publishers are acting the exact same way. It is not completely true that Elsevier makes libraries to buy these big bundles to get access to specific journals and they are not the only publishers supporting SOPA, PIPA or RWA. Elsevier is a big and visible part of the publishing world and maybe that is the reason they are the target for the boycott?
COAR (Confederation of Open Access Repositories) is an organisation which works for co-operation between institutional archives and for open access and they think that open access has a big impact on academic publishing. They have written an open letter to Elsevier in which they criticize Elsevier’s business model which complicates open access publishing. They share the opinion of many that Elsevier is actively working against the researcher’s right to parallel publish and therefore are acting as an obstacle to slow down the open access movement. Elsevier demands that those institutions which have an open access mandate must sign a special agreement for the researcher to be able to deposit their post-print work (the accepted version or the article before it goes to print) in their institutional archive.
Most people have probably heard about SOPA and PIPA but there are probably not so many who have heard about the Research Works Act (RWA). It is a bill presented in the House of Representatives in December 2011. The purpose of the bill is to forbid government agencies to demand open access for the research that they finance. RWA aims to forbid the government agencies to do anything that might result in making published research available, although the government agencies finance the research with taxpayer money, unless the publisher agrees to making it openly accessible.
Nationally there is some positive news, especially for people living in Stockholm. Stockolm city who owns the rights to Alva and Gunnar Myrdal’s* literary remains have digitized some of the books and they have decided to make them available as e-books at the Stockholm city library. Later on they will even be print-on-demand. At the moment it is 15 titles that have been digitized and more might come. When the technical solution is done these books will even be available to everyone is Sweden via Libris.
*Alva Myrdal was a Swedish sociologist and politician. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982. Gunnar Myrdal was a Swedish economist, sociologist and politician. He won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1974.
Text: Pieta Eklund