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[BOAI] Call for Boycott of Cell Press Journals

From: Peter Suber <peters AT>
Date: Sun, 19 Oct 2003 14:41:25 -0400

[Forwarding from Peter Walter and Keith Yamamoto of the University of 
California at San Francisco. --Peter.]

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



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