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Call for Boycott of Cell Press Journals

:: A call for a boycott of Cell Press Journals has been written by two important researchers from UCalifornia San Francisco, Peter Walter and Keith Yamamoto. The call to boycott has made it to the SPARC-OAForum and is being republished on blogs, such as -=(In Between)=-. So far, I have found one response to their plea, from Stevan Harnad, U Southampton, UK.

Here is the text of their letter:

    Dear colleagues and friends,

    We are writing to ask your help with an issue that concerns scientists at
    all University of California campuses. In this century, we all rely on
    electronic access to the literature, not only for speed and convenience,
    but increasingly for supplementary methods and data, videos and the like.
    Moreover, at some sites, such as our new UCSF campus at Mission Bay, we
    rely exclusively on electronic access. UC has successfully negotiated
    contracts for almost every on-line journal. The glaring exceptions are the
    Cell Press titles: Cell, Molecular Cell, Developmental Cell, Cancer Cell,
    Immunity, Neuron.

    Since 1998, UC has tried without success to reach a deal with Cell Press
    for electronic access (1). Cell Press is owned by Elsevier, the largest
    science, technology and medicine journal publisher in the world, reporting
    34% and 26% profits in 2001 and 2002, respectively, for its science and
    medicine enterprise (2). In 2002, the University of California paid
    Elsevier $8 million for online access to its journals, 50% of the total
    budget for all online journals in the UC libraries. Elsevier now seeks a
    new contract with annual increases several times above the consumer price
    index, plus an additional levy for the Cell Press titles that rapidly
    reaches $90,000 per year, with hefty annual increases thereafter. After
    exhaustive negotiation, the UC libraries, with the recent support of the UC
    Council of Chancellors, has declined to accept these rates.

    By denying institutional electronic access for the last five years, Cell
    Press has enjoyed a bonanza of personal subscriptions. They now cite the
    potential loss of personal subscriptions as the basis for setting a high
    institutional price.

    It is untenable that a publisher would de facto block access of our
    published work even to our immediate colleagues. Cell Press is breaking an
    unwritten contract with the scientific community: being a publisher of our
    research carries the responsibility to make our contributions publicly
    available at reasonable rates. As an academic community, it is time that we
    reassert our values. We can all think of better ways to spend our time than
    providing free services to support a publisher that values profit above its
    academic mission. We urge four unified actions until the University of
    California and other institutions are granted electronic access to Cell
    Press journals:

    i) decline to review manuscripts for Cell Press journals,
    ii) resign from Cell Press editorial boards,
    iii) cease to submit papers to Cell Press journals, and
    iv) talk widely about Elsevier and Cell Press pricing tactics and business

    If you agree, please let Cell Press know why you take these actions. Our
    goal is to effect change, but to be effective we must stand together.

    Peter Walter and Keith Yamamoto
    On behalf of the UCSF Mission Bay Governance Committee, Genentech Hall



15 November 2003
  Dear colleagues,

I read with interest The Scientist news article "Researchers boycott Cell Press" and a followup coverage in the Open Access Now section of the The Scientist presented by the Biomedcentral [1]. It was especially interesting to me, a managing editor of an independent open access peer-reviewed scholar journal Neurobiology of Lipids, because the article enlightened the growing distress of the academic world with the conventional publishing system and discussed open access publication model [2, also see Footnote].

The Scientist article says that UCSF faculty Dr. Peter Walter and Dr. Keith Yamamoto urge "their colleagues to resign from the editorial boards of Cell Press, to stop submitting papers, and to refuse to review manuscripts for the journals, which also include Developmental Cell, Cancer Cell, and Immunity" because "publisher charges too much for electronic access to the material" [1, UCSF scientists letter text is available at STLQ scholarly publishing collection].

I would like to add to the argument of the distinguished scientists. I feel that there is a need to globally expand this timely action for another reason, an apparent lack of Elsevier and Cell Press measures to safeguard cardinal tenet of scholar science, an academic integrity.

As a researcher working on neuroscience of Alzheimer's disease and struggling to protect my fields' unbiased development I recently had to react on Neuron (a Cell Press publication) article by Hock et al. [3]. This article provided apparently false statement of the competing financial interest by the authors, but was accompanied by a favoring editorial coverage. There were no action taken thus far by Neuron or Cell Press, as there were no action in response on my earlier correspondence with the journal requesting editorial investigation to punish Dennis J. Selkoe (a Harvard professor and recent member of the NIH National Advisory Council on Aging) non disclosure of competing financial interests (as Athena founder and Elan director and shareholder) in prior Neuron publication, and while serving Neuron editorial board member. This is described and referenced in my letter to Neuron editor Kenneth Blum [3].

I also alerted via e.mail Elsevier's Corporate Relations Director Eric Merkel-Sobotta (see BMJ correspondence [4] for recent response by Eric Merkel-Sobotta on another story that involved Elsevier) that Floyd E. Bloom, AAAS Board of Directors Chair and Scripps Research Institute professor, serving as sole Editor-in-Chief for Elsevier's Brain Research has competing financial interest as founder and CEO of Neurome, Inc. The facts described in my Open letter to Science Editor-in-Chief Donald Kennedy, and the follow up correspondence [5] in my view place Science magazine in an unfortunate circus of the troubled journals.

Therefore, would I call for a boycott my major concern would be not a high subscription cost but the quality of science that one gets in exchange.


Alexei Koudinov, MD, PhD Neuroscientist and Editor http://neurobiologyoflipids.org http://anzwers.org/free/neurology

Footnote: Not to be mistaken: I doubt, however, that 500$ that major commercial open access publisher BioMed Central (BMC) charges for open access article publication (note that PLoS Biology article publication charge is even higher, 1500$) adequately associated with the real cost of an online publication, the reason Neurobiology of Lipids was NOT started with BMC. Neurobiology of Lipids does not charge authors for article publication and runs at an annual budget of below the cost of one article publication at BMC.

This letter is intended for academic scientists worldwide. It was also e.mailed to media members, and scientists and editors quoted in The Scientist news article, in STLQ news "Open Access under attack" [1], and at length of the above text.

Do not miss a response on a call to boycott Cell Press by Stevan Harnad, University of Southampton, UK.

Competing interest declaration: I do not have any competing financial interest. I aim free information dissemination and an unbiased development of Alzheimer's neuroscience. I observe the Society for Neuroscience Guidelines for Responsible Conduct Regarding Scientific Communication. I am a founding, managing and publishing editor of the Neurobiology of Lipids, an unpaid position. Neurobiology of Lipids (ISSN 1683-5506) has no affiliation with any professional association, publisher, industry member, commercial enterprise, public or government organization. The viewpoint presented in the above letter is my personal view.

[ Inform">Inform">http://stlq.info/archives/001106.html">Inform a colleague ] [ Contact Alexei Koudinov ]


1 McCook A. Researchers boycott Cell Press. The Scientist (Daily News: 23 Oct 2003) [ FullText ]; Editorial. Boycott highlights Open Access alternatives. The Scientist 2003, 17(22), p.A1 [ FullText ] ; UCSF faculty call for a boycott of Cell Press. The Scientist 2003, 17(22), p.A3 [ FullText, scroll down of the screen ].

Also see:

Call for Boycott of Cell Press Journals. STLQ Scholarly Publishing arhive. (Oct. 23, 2003) [ FullText ].

Open Access under Attack. STLQ Scholarly Publishing arhive. (Dec. 2, 2003) [ FullText ].

Cornell and Other Universities to Cancel Elsevier Titles. STLQ Scholarly Publishing arhive. (Nov. 17, 2003) [ FullText ].

Cornell's Statement on its Decision Regarding Elsevier. STLQ Scholarly Publishing arhive. (Nov. 14, 2003) [ FullText ].

A crisis on campus. Interview with Beverlee French, Director for Shared Digital Collections at the California Digital Library. The Scientist 2003, 17 (22), p.A2-A3 [ FullText ].

2 Held MJ. Editorial: Proposed legislation supports an untested publishing model. J Cell Biol. 2003, 162 (2), 171-2 [ PubMed ][ FullText ]; Related online publication: Council News: CSE President: Proposed legislation is an "Irresponsible Act". Council of Science Editors, Inc. web site. (Last viewed 5 Dec. 2003) [ FullText ].

Also see:

Bradley D. Journal publishers to Police themselves. The British Office of Fair Trading deems the journal market unfair. The Scientist 16, 53 (28 Oct. 2002) [ FullText ].

Walgate R. PLoS Biology launches. Open-access journal hits the Web with a splash. The Scientist (Daily News: 10 Oct 2003) [ FullText ].

3 Koudinov AR. Hasta la vista, amyloid cascade hypothesis, OR will academic dishonesty yield Alzheimer's cure? Sciences' SAGE KE (26 May 2003) [ FullText ]; Koudinov AR. 22 May 2003 Neuron article on Alzheimer: 'valid research' or a 'drug company propaganda'? BMJ (31 May 2003) [ FullText ].

4 Merkel-Sobotta E. Article Withdrawal and E-publishing. Br Med J (16 June 2003) [ FullText ]; Related British Medical Journal article: Smith R. Editorial misconduct. BMJ (7 June 2003) 326, 1224-5, doi: 10.1136/bmj.326.7401.1224 [ FullText ].

5 Koudinov AR. Open letter to Donald Kennedy, Science Editor-in-Chief: AAAS, Science, Alzheimer's disease and academic dishonesty. Sciences' SAGE KE (Published 16 June 2003, unpublished [at this URL, along with a follow up commenatary by a SAGEKE member] beginning of August 2003) Freely available at the following link: [ FullText ].

Also see:

Koudinov AR. Amyloid beta road show, or Has the lure of profits corrupted Alzheimer's neuroscience? Sciences' SAGE KE (originally published 5 August 2003) [ FullText ],

Koudinov AR. Letter to Colleagues: Articles on Alzheimer's in Science magazine: amyloid beta road show? (First emailed 4 November 2003) [ FullText ].

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