How to negotiate with Elsevier
April 25, 2014
Eminent British mathematician Tim Gowers has written an epic post on his attempts to get universities to disclose how much they pay for their Elsevier subscriptions. There is a lot of fascinating anecdote in there, and a shedload of important data — it’s very well worth a read.
But here is the part that staggered me most. Gowers wrote to (among others) Queen’s University Belfast, requesting the subscription cost under Freedom of Information rules. The reply was from Amanda Aicken, Information Compliance Unit (and by the way was addressed to Mr. Gowers, but let it pass). It refused to disclose the price on the basis that:
The disclosure of this information would be likely to have a detrimental effect on Elsevier’s future negotiating position with […] the University.
Now that paragraph is exactly equivalent to:
The disclosure of this information would be likely to have a positive effect on the University’s future negotiating position with Elsevier.
Wouldn’t a decent university administrator think that’s a good thing?