Since November 2016, more than 2700 members of the academic community in Finland have signed tiedonhinta.fi online petition which called for fair pricing for academic journal subscriptions and increased open access in the ongoing negotiation with international publishers. More than two thirds of those who signed the petition were prepared to abstain from editorial and reviewer duties in journals whose publishers are unwilling to meet the demands of the Finnish negotiators. It’s time to stand by that commitment: no deal, no editing and reviews.
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An open letter to No deal, no review participants

Dear colleagues,

As you have most likely heard, FinELib has reached a deal with Elsevier. For the time being, the only thing we can say for sure is that Elsevier subscriptions will not be cancelled in the beginning of 2018. The original pledge in the No Deal No Review boycott was the recluse from reviewer and editorial tasks for Elseviers journals until a satisfactory deal is reached. We still do not know the exact details of the deal between FinELib and Elsevier have not been disclosed and therefore we cannot comment on whether the deal can be considered satisfactory or not. Ultimately, the decision is naturally up to your own discretion.

Many have asked us what that means for No deal, no review boycott. Is it over now? Did the boycott achieve its goals?

To be completely honest, we don’t know. We apologize for the lack of communication. It has been due to a lack of information on the contractual details and a clear vision on the path forward. We firmly believe the discussion about the accessibility, transparency and accountability of science and scholarship must continue. Less evident is how we, the grassroot level of research community, should best work towards these goals.

This is clear, however: when we act together, we are a force to be reckoned with. The boycott had an impact on Elsevier. How much that is reflected in the results of the negotiations is difficult to say, since we still know very little about the actual contract between FinELib and Elsevier. But we most definitely got Elseviers attention, as well as the attention of policy makers, even the public.

The scientific and scholarly community stands at a crossroads. The open access and open science discussions have been going on for years now, still the progress remains modest, to say the least. There are a mountain of institutional policy documents and statements, but very few researcher champions of openness. Research data is mostly kept behind personal passwords. Sci-Hub, the Napster of academic journals, that among some is the solution to the problem of paywalls, is in reality merely a testament to the vastness of the problem of limited global access to scientific knowledge.

Stated aim of No deal, no review boycott was to support FinELib in its negotiations with Elsevier. Therefore the campaign has to end alongside the negotiations. Individual researchers are more than welcome to continue their boycotts. There is ample justification for doing so, as Elsevier remains the leading force of resistance in terms of openness and fair costs. Not just for publications.

Elsevier has profiled itself as a “global information analytics company” and is trying to create an infrastructure of services that encompass entire research lifecycles, through services such as Mendeley, preprint service Social Science Research Network (SSRN) and current research information system (CRIS) for universities, called Pure. Imagine a world where instead, or in addition to literature, also research data, citation data, infometrics etc. is hosted on proprietary platforms for a sky high price, possibly even behind paywalled access. We should similarly have a watchful eye on other major publishers, as well as the likes of Google, Amazon and Microsoft.

What to do, then? Keep watching were and how you publish, what kind of services you use for professional networking and workflow management. Participate in your institutions discussions about data policy and research infrastructure development, however impenetrable by policy jargon they may seem at first. Demand politicians to take interest in science and evidence. Discuss these issues with your colleagues outside Finland and support campaigns and boycotts similar to Tiedon hinta and No deal no review in other countries. If you feel passionately about these issues, as you should, ample opportunities to contribute, or to receive support for your own initiatives, are available through research communities and networks such as Open Knowledge Finland open science working group.

Thank you for being a part of an important movement. Let’s keep the discussion going!

Best regards and happy 2018,

Heidi, Jessica, Joona, Konsta, Leo, Mikael, Mikko, and Tuuli


Photo by Finn Hackshaw on Unsplash

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