Elsevier editor quits over 'restricted access'

An associate editor of a leading Elsevier journal has resigned, claiming the publisher is “denying developing countries access to research findings”.

May 18, 2012

Winston Hide, associate professor of bioinformatics and computational biology in the department of biostatistics at Harvard School of Public Health, says he has quit the editorial board of the biomedical research journal Genomics because he “cannot stand by any longer while access to scientific resources is restricted”.

However, Alicia Wise, director of universal access at Elsevier, said: “We certainly respect his opinion on open access publishing, but we should make clear that Genomics and all of Elsevier’s other health and life science journals are available through the Research4Life program which offers free or low cost access in over 100 developing countries.”

Professor Hide’s resignation comes after more than 9,000 academics signed up to a boycott of Elsevier, whose journals can cost universities up to £16,500 a year each to access.

“My work on biomedical research in developing countries has shown me that lack of access to current publications has a severe impact,” Professor Hide writes in the Guardian on 16 May.

“The vast majority of biomedical scientists in Africa attempt to perform globally competitive research without up-to-date access to the wealth of biomedical literature taken for granted at western institutions.

“In Africa, your university may have subscriptions to only a handful of scientific journals.”

He adds: “The open access movement in science represents a wind of change – or at least the promise of one.

“Institutions worldwide pay significant and frequently insurmountable fees for bundled access to [Elsevier], and the publisher’s other journals.

“It seems unfair to edit and review articles from scientists who will likely never see their work in the actual journal in which it is published.

“I’d prefer to devote the limited time I have available to an open access journal that provides its work at no cost to researchers who urgently require its contents to improve their environment.”

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

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