Schools Training

Boycotting academic publishers is a career risk for young scientists

30 JAN 2014

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In December 2013, professor Randy Schekman collected his Nobel prizefor physiology and medicine. He also announced his decision to boycott three of the most prestigious scientific journals: Nature, Science and Cell. He accused these “luxury journals” of exerting a kind of “tyranny” over scientific research and invites others to follow his lead.

Schekman suggests that luxury journals’ decisions to publish work, or not, are made according to how fashionable it is, rather than its scientific merit. He argues convincingly that such is the influence of these journals, they actually direct the type of scientific research undertaken. By pursuing their own agenda to publish work that will be cited, these journals encourage the disproportionate investment of resources in fashionable fields.

Schekman is not the first to argue these points, but he is the most prominent to state them so publicly, doing so just one week before collecting his Nobel Prize. It is not, however, the first time that academicshave called for boycotts of the most prestigious journals. In 2012, British mathematician Timothy Gowers proposed a boycott of Dutch publishing house Elsevier, publisher of Cell, due to their practice of selling journals in bundles at great expense to universities.

In regards to Schekman, my experience suggests that many scientists agree with him that Nature, Cell and Science editors are too influential. To hear these views echoed by such a prominent colleague has been refreshing and well received. It is also my experience, however, that appreciation for Schekman’s candour is often qualified by the statement: “It’s easy for him to say that though; he’s just won the Nobel Prize”.

He freely admits that his career, like many others, has benefited frompublishing in these journals. As a result of his success, he now finds himself in a position of great influence, a position that also affords a certain freedom from the tyranny he decries. So, as he calls on others to follow his lead, I wonder if early career researchers can be expected to answer his call?

 

Read full article: The Guardian