Holy poop! They did it! Elsevier withdraws support for the Research Works Act

February 27, 2012

Amazing, but it seems to be true: based on this statement on their own website, Elsevier has withdrawn its support for the Research Works Act!

Could this be evidence that they really are listening?  Two weeks ago I publicly challenged Elsevier to do just this, as a first step towards winning back the support of authors, editors and reviewers who have been deserting them in droves.  It would be nice to think that post had some tinyp art in this decision.  Certainly the no-RWA-support statement does a lot more to persuade me that they can redeem themselves than previous statements arguing that we’re wrong.

Part of me can’t quite believe it.  I’ve archived the announcement on WebCite so that we’ll have a permanent record in case it disappears.

To be clear, this statement doesn’t yet go far enough for me to see Elsevier as a friend: it still has language like “While we continue to oppose government mandates in this area …”.  But “Elsevier is withdrawing support for the Research Work Act itself. We hope this will address some of the concerns expressed and help create a less heated and more productive climate for our ongoing discussions with research funders” seems like a winner.

But if Elsevier really want to win researchers over, then … when, I will restate my original recommendation:

Elsevier should repudiate the RWA and throw themselves behind the Federal Research Public Access Act.

They’ve taken one important step.  Can they find the will to take the other?

Update: Elsevier’s letter to mathematicians

It wasn’t until some time after reading their RWA withdrawal that I came across A Letter To The Mathematics Community.  This mentions the RWA withdrawal but also promises to lower the prices of maths journals to ensure that they are at or below $11 per article, which seems to be around the industry average; and undertakes to make all maths research open access when it becomes four years old.

Real steps.  But why just maths?

Update: discussion around the web

At this point, there are lots of them flooding in and most add little new to the discussion.  So I’ll link a few more but only the ones I find particularly interesting.

I’ll add more as I come across them.

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8 Responses to “Holy poop! They did it! Elsevier withdraws support for the Research Works Act”

  1. Nima Says:

    Well considering the timing, I’d like to think that it was my latest blog post that prompted them to do it…. or maybe it was just the straw the broke the serpent’s back. http://paleoking.blogspot.com/

    So far I’m not ready to trust ElSerpiente just yet, but they seem to at least be realizing the damage has been done. That said, regardless of how sorry Elsevier pretends to be, I would like to see scientists abandon it altogether in favor of open-access journals like PLoS ONE and APP, similar to how they abandoned ScienceBlogs when it started becoming an ad agency for Pepsi. Once you lose credibility in academia it’s gone for good, the same should apply to arms-dealing, journal-faking publishers.

    One blow, but far from a victory. That still leaves Wiley, Springer, GSW, Taylor and Francis (which now has its fingers in JVP) and several others that have NOT withdrawn support for RWA.


  2. One blow, but far from a victory. That still leaves Wiley, Springer, GSW, Taylor and Francis (which now has its fingers in JVP) and several others that have NOT withdrawn support for RWA. – but did they support RWA? I’ve been thinking Elsevier is the only one of the Big Publishers that supported it – and this was why they got so much blame…

  3. Nima Says:

    I doubt that Elsevier was alone in supporting RWA. After all, the other publishers are in much the same position, posting routing 30-40% profits and having no interest in letting scientists freely distribute their own work. Springer still supports it, unless my info is outdated (which could change by the day).

    Wiley, like Elsevier, has apparently withdrawn its support for the RWA, which means they DID support it and ultimately like Elsevier are acting out of pragmatism to attempt to pacify us by offering a little carrot. http://poynder.blogspot.com/2012/02/john-wiley-sons-have-no-plans-to.html It’s not going to work, they’re still up to their old Wiley tricks and we can see right through them.


  4. [...] Holy poop! They did it! Elsevier withdraws support for the Research Works Act [...]


  5. [...] I’ve had most of the day now to digest the news that Elsevier have withdrawn their support of the Research Works Act; and a few hours to get used to the idea that the Act itself is now [...]


  6. [...] The results of the meeting are published in PLoS ONE (#OpenAccess scores again, after Research Work Act withdraw – check out more here). [...]


  7. [...] the iceberg.  Elsevier recognised that supporting the RWA was an appalling tactical misstep, and publicly withdrew their support, resulting shortly thereafter in the RWA’s unlamented [...]


  8. [...] Yes I did; and yes they are.  The thing is, there is nothing Elsevier can do to stop that.  The RWA debacle should have taught them that, if they doubted it [...]


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