It’s not just predatory publishers you have to worry about


It has now been a little over four years since Cambridge University Professor, Tim Gowerstook a stand against publishing giant, Elsevier’s, business practices.

His memorable blog post struck a nerve, attracting thousands of readers and commenters. The main source of Gower’s discontent stemmed from the publisher’s charging models (especially for libraries) and the company’s support for initiatives against open access.

Gowerstook isn’t the only unhappy customer. In 2015, Cambridge University postdoctoral student, Ross Mounce, blogged about how Elsevier illegally sold him a Creative Commons non-commercial licensed article.

After more than ten thousand views of his blog post and a lot of international airplay, Elsevier refunded his money. They stated that: ‘This title recently transferred from Wiley to Elsevier and there was some missing metadata for some of the OA articles.’

Elsevier still continues to attract negative coverage. In early September 2016, it was reported that the publishing house had successfully gained a patent for an online peer-review system and method.

It includes a feature that allows articles rejected by one of the company’s 2,500 journals to be automatically referred to another relevant Elsevier journal for consideration, with the authors’ consent.

Concern has been expressed about how much the patent will impact other journals, particularly open access/ open sources ones.

Some organisations have taken a stand against Elsevier. Late last year, a Germany-wide consortium of research libraries announced a boycott of Elsevier journals over open access.

But Elsevier is not alone in alienating the very people who publish in its journals. In August, Imperial College London, PhD paleontology candidate, Jon Tennant, blogged about why he would never publish with Wiley-Blackwell again.

After an unnecessarily long peer review process by the publisher, Tennant says there was a three-month delay in publishing because of a perceived error by the authors. As it turns out, it was an error by the publisher. Tennant finally had the article published seven months after acceptance.