Elsevier is the world’s largest academic publisher and by far the most controversial. Over 15,000 researchers have vowed to boycott the publisher for charging “exorbitantly high prices” and bundling expensive, unwanted journals with essential journals, a practice that allegedly is bankrupting university libraries. Elsevier also supports SOPA and PIPA, which the researchers claim threatens to restrict the free exchange of information. Elsevier is perhaps most notorious for delivering takedown notices to academics, demanding them to take their own research published with Elsevier off websites like Academia.edu.
The movement against Elsevier has only gathered speed over the course of the last year with the resignation of 31 editorial board members from the Elsevier journal Lingua, who left in protest to set up their own open-access journal, Glossa. Now the battleground has moved from the comparatively niche field of linguistics to the far larger field of cognitive sciences. Last month, a petition of over 1,500 cognitive science researchers called on the editors of the Elsevier journal Cognition to demand Elsevier offer “fair open access”. Elsevier currently charges researchers $2,150 per article if researchers wish their work published in Cognition to be accessible by the public, a sum far higher than the charges that led to the Lingua mutiny.
In a letter to the judge, Elbakyan defended her decision not on legal grounds, but on ethical grounds. Elbakyan writes: “When I was a student in Kazakhstan University, I did not have access to any research papers. These papers I needed for my research project. Payment of 32 dollars is just insane when you need to skim or read tens or hundreds of these papers to do research. I obtained these papers by pirating them. Later I found there are lots and lots of researchers (not even students, but university researchers) just like me, especially in developing countries. They created online communities (forums) to solve this problem. I was an active participant in one of such communities in Russia. Here anyone who needs a research paper, but cannot pay for it, could place a request and other members who can obtain the paper will send it for free by email. I could obtain any paper by pirating it, so I solved many requests and people always were very grateful for my help. After that, I created Sci-Hub.org, a website that simply makes this process automatic and the website immediately became popular.
The fees they charge libraries to get their publication are astronomical.....I would be shocked if it was as low as 39% actually.Here's an article on the woman who started Sci-Hub, Alexandra Elbakyan. As a researcher in Kazakhstan, she simply couldn't afford the papers she needed to conduct her work.
Not surprisingly academic publisher Elsevier (which publishes The Lancet, among many other scientific journals) has taken her to court.
Researchers and universities around the world have been at war with Elsevier because of exorbitant fees for access to articles. Elsevier makes huge profits (39% is one figure I saw) but pays researchers nothing when it publishes their work.