To: Elsevier

Support the UC's "publish & read" proposal to Elsevier

If you edit, review, or author articles in an Elsevier journal and support the principle that all academic research should be openly accessible to academics, PhDs in industry, policy makers, and the general public who funds research, you're invited to sign this petition in support of an Open Letter to Elsevier, co-authored by members of Elsevier editorial boards.

This letter, pasted below and available with links to sources here ( supports a recent proposal by the University of California to renegotiate its terms of subscription with Elsevier, in a deal that would have retained existing journals, editorial teams, and even Elsevier profits, but would have funded Open Access publishing charges for UC authors, making their work openly accessible. Unfortunately, Elsevier rejected this proposal, leaving the UC without an active subscription. We urge Elsevier to reconsider the UC proposal, and we support the University of California's effort to transform our current academic publishing system to one in which journal subscriptions include fees to fund Open Access for all research.


March 19, 2019.

TO: Elsevier Publishing
FROM: Members of The Editorial Boards of Cognition, Cognitive Psychology, Journal of Memory & Language, Social Science Research, Journal of Environmental Psychology, Social Networks, Neuropsychologia, Trends in Neuroscience & Education, Psychoneuroendocrinology, Cognitive Development, Journal of Phonetics, Journal of Research in Personality, Journal of Hydrology, Advances in Water Resources

An Open Letter to Elsevier and the Editorial Boards of Elsevier Journals

Recently, the University of California broke off negotiations with Elsevier and suspended subscriptions to Elsevier journals. We, as members of the Editorial Boards of Elsevier journals, are dismayed by the events that led to this outcome. We urge Elsevier to embrace the core principles of transparency and openness that organize modern science, and to endorse the forward-looking model of Open Access proposed by the University of California.

The UC proposal addresses a profound imbalance in the relationship between academic researchers and the publishing industry. Currently, when researchers publish papers, we use public tax dollars (in the form of grants and public subsidies to universities) to generate intellectual property (research reports), and then transfer these intellectual properties without charge to publishers. Publishers then monetize these goods by selling our collective intellectual property back to universities, in the form of journal subscriptions which are accessible only to universities who can afford the negotiated rates. Critically, these subscriptions also draw in part on tuition fees and tax dollars, incurring a second round of costs to the general public and raising the cost of education (the UC pays $11 million a year for just Elsevier journals). Overall, this model results in a profit margin of 37% for Elsevier, with total profits exceeding $1.1 billion in 2017 alone, of which almost none is returned to researchers who do the work of reviewing and editing papers, often as volunteers. Meanwhile, the general public cannot access the fruits of publicly funded research, including the 25,000 American PhDs who leave academia for positions in government, policy making, and industry every year. For science and academic research to have its fullest impact on human society and decision making, it must be openly accessible to both those who conduct research, and the general public who funds it.

Many in the academic sphere are ready to abandon Elsevier entirely, and some of the undersigned are in agreement with this stance and have resigned their previous positions. Various Editorial teams have decided to leave publishers like Elsevier to create Open Access journals that are funded entirely by publication fees paid by researchers, which make published research accessible to all researchers as well as the general public (e.g., see Glossa, Quantitative Science Studies). However, this is not the UC proposal. Instead, the UC proposal offers a much more modest compromise, which retains our current journals, editorial boards, and role for publishers like Elsevier, while rendering UC intellectual property accessible to the general public. On this cost-neutral proposal, called “publish-and-read”, fees paid by the UC to Elsevier would allow UC researchers to both publish Open Access articles and to access Elsevier journals. No radical change in how researchers, journals, or editorial boards is proposed, and Elsevier would enjoy the same level of revenue it does today. The key change is that library fees paid to Elsevier would not only allow academics to read work, it would also open that work up to others, whether academics, PhDs in industry, policy makers, or the general public.

Troublingly, Elsevier has rejected this proposal, and has countered with a proposal that would only further augment it...

Why is this important?

We support the University of California's effort to transform our current academic publishing system to one in which journal subscriptions include fees to fund Open Access for all research.