Germany-wide consortium of research libraries announce boycott of Elsevier journals over open access

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'Tis a beautiful thing. Brings a tear to the eye.


Boycott is a bit too strong here. They (DEAL and Elsevier) are in negotiations over a new contract since the old one was running out. The German universities tried to negotiate a contract that would have included automatic open access for all papers published by researchers at the institutions in question - which is a great idea and as far as I know unprecedented. (Up until now, authors or their institutions have to pay for every article they would have wanted to be in open access in most journals, except in the few journals which are open access by default.) However, Elsevier was, naturally, very reluctant and, if at all, wanted it to charge the DEAL institutions dearly. So they let the negotiations fail.

So it’s more of a “passive” boycott (letting the contract run out) rather than an active one. Still, good on them (and I’m proud that my home institution is a part of this)! Of course, not being able to access papers in many major journals across disciplines is tricky but librarians have already made sure that all issues up until the end of 2016 will be available in as straightforward a manner as possible - which is hard considering that most of it is digital and, of course, usually licensed and not owned by the libraries. Sending paper copies around the country is no fun…


Yep. If Elsevier, et al, added some value that might be one thing, but they really don’t appear to add anything other than a high financial barrier to publicly funded research.


Yeah, this is all part of negotiations.

You can access the articles…just not legally.

You absolutely can! If the libraries have the journal in print, German copyright law allows them to send paper copies to other institutions for research and teaching. However, that is of course only true for everything published before 2017…

Who gets journals in print anymore? But the real boycott would be for institutions to not authorize publications in Elsevier journals. My question is to whether US authors* could use their right to terminate transfers after 25 years as a part of their negotiation tactics.

*Of course for “works made for hire” the writers’ employers would probably be considered the authors under copyright law, because the “academic exemption,” is on pretty shaky ground, IMHO.

I remember that years ago when I was in university our department library put journals on the shelf in their shrink wrap because nobody was ever going to read those anyway.


This comment demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of peer review and academic publishing. Lots of things happen between an author submitting a paper to a journal, and the journal publishing that paper. Most of those things are facilitated by working people who need to be paid a salary.

Cory’s posts on Elsevier are consistently disappointing. I expect a professional published author to demonstrate a closer familiarity with field of publishing.

For instance:

This creates a vicious cycle, where the best publicly funded research is published in Elsevier journals, which then claims ownership over the research (Elsevier, like most academic journals, requires authors to sign their copyrights over, though it does not pay them for their writing, nor does it pay for their research expenses).

This is not how copyright works. Copyright applies to the published article, not to the underlying research. Further, Elsevier publishes close to 17,000 journals. All of these have their own individual copyright policies. Many of those journal are not even owned by Elsevier, and so copyright is instead negotiated the third parties that do own the journals. Many Elsevier journals do offer Open Access, and many more are now offering authors Creative Commons licenses.

Full disclosure: I am the managing editor of a health science journal published by, but not owned by, Elsevier.

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These are mostly online subscriptions through Elsevier’s ScienceDirect portal.

and after doing all this “things” and paying all the salaries Elsevier still has a profit margin north of 25 %. greed and extortion are imo fine words to describe the business model.


Again, this is this is the kind of inch-deep outrage that you get from people who don’t really know the field. Elsevier’s profits support charitable programs such as ARDI, HINARI, AGORA, OARE and provides millions in grants through the Elsevier Foundation.

Isn’t most (all?) peer review done for free?


Charity is orthogonal to the topic.


How do you imagine peer review happens? I’m sincerely curious. What do you think happens after you submit a manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal?

It obviously is not, and that is my complaint. Commenters are demonstrating an unfamiliarity with the business of academic publishing. The programs and initiatives cited INCREASE access to scientific information for underserved populations in low- and middle-income countries. They are funded by the profits that Elsevier generates from its publishing activities.


Elsevier are the problem, and their “charity” is not the solution.


I don’t know anything at all about the journal issue, but I was surprised to see Elsevier listed as the bad guy in all of this.

My only exposure to them was when I found an offer to buy ebooks from them for very cheap – I bought a dozen highly technical books for $1.00 each! So I felt pretty good about my interaction with them.

according to your corporate mothership the net profit in 2014 was £1,213m* with £3.4m in cash for the different charity programs.

you need better arguments to convince me.

* the total staff salaries were not that much higher: £1,415m.