Archive for February, 2012

UW-Madison news item about Elsevier boycott

21 Feb 2012

There’s an article in the UW-Madison newsletter about the Elsevier boycott. I’m quoted as follows:

“The main issue is that scientists want their papers to be read and available, and not just to scientists at well-funded universities. We are spending, collectively, a good amount of money that goes toward profit for these journal companies, and that could be redirected.”

At this point, Broman says scientists are in control. Although Elsevier is a giant among publishers, “Authors have complete control over where they decide to send their papers. If one day, everybody decides not to send to Elsevier, but to open access journals instead, it would be done.”

Collaborative Cross papers

16 Feb 2012

A batch of 15 papers on the mouse Collaborative Cross appeared in Genetics and G3 today, including two of my own:

I just refused an Elsevier review

10 Feb 2012

This afternoon I refused a request from the American Journal of Human Genetics to review a paper, though the abstract was extremely interesting. AJHG is published by Elsevier, and I’d signed the declaration at to not publish or review for Elsevier journals. If only AJHG were still with the University of Chicago Press…

Michael Eisen recently wrote:

The boycott isn’t perfect. I wish they hadn’t focused exclusively on Elsevier – they are hardly the only bad actors in the field. And it’s crucial that the focus be on papers. Nobody views turning down invitations to review to be a big sacrifice – and publishers will just find someone else. Same thing with editors. But papers are their lifeblood.

I agree with him. It’s easy to turn down a review. (I do so several times a week.)

And so I was feeling quite unsure about turning down the review, but also unsure about breaking the pledge regarding Elsevier. Nevertheless, I came down on the side of the pledge, and responded to AJHG with the following:

It sounds like an interesting paper, but…

I recently signed a public declaration to not publish or review for Elsevier journals ( I noticed at the time that Am J Hum Genet was published by Elsevier (if only it were still at U Chicago Press), which could be a problem.

I’m having second thoughts (especially in that refusing a review for this reason seems too easy…I say no to review requests almost every day), but for now I’m sticking to my promise.

I’m not sure whether it was the right decision.

I think the most important thing for me to do is to work to get Genetics to become open-access, or at least encourage discussion along those lines at the Genetics Society of America.

James Crow

6 Feb 2012

James Crow died a few weeks ago. He had definitely slowed down physically over the last few years (though not at all mentally!), but still it was a shock, and I’m sad to think that I won’t talk to him again. Jim was the nicest person I’ve met . It’s been a privilege to get to know him in my time in Madison. His enthusiasm for my work was flattering and uplifting.

I hate reading other people’s code

3 Feb 2012

From Abstruse Goose.

More on open access

3 Feb 2012

I am quite persuaded by Michael Eisen’s recent comments on open access:

…it is simply unacceptable for any scientist who decries Elsevier’s actions and believes that the subscription based model is no longer serving science to send a single additional paper to journals that do not provide full OA [open access] to every paper they publish.

But how can I do that if Genetics isn’t fully open? Genetics charges an extra $1200 to make an article open access. Would it really cost $1200 per article to make the journal fully open?

Paying for scholarly publications

2 Feb 2012

I have a couple of papers that I should be writing, but recent discussion (the whole PIPA/SOPA thing [see Michael Eisen’s OpEd in the New York Times]; the Elsevier boycott) has turned my thoughts to publishing generally.

So I’ll take some time out (way too much time out) to comment on the value and costs of publishing and peer review, how to pay for it, PubMedCentral, etc.

Elsevier boycott

1 Feb 2012

I expect you’ve already heard about the Elsevier boycott, started based on comments from Timothy Gowers. While he focused on his own discipline (mathematics), the boycott site now has people broken down by subject. On 1 Feb, there were 2700+ signatories, including 600+ mathematicians (but only 15 statisticians). There have been a couple of articles about this in the Chronicle of Higher Education: here and here.

I signed the boycott, and will refuse to review papers for Evilsevier journals, and will try to steer my coauthors away from them. (I certainly wouldn’t send my own papers to such journals, but it’s hard to control papers on which I am one lowly author among many.)

Most important to me is that the journals are expensive and publishing companies are reaping an enormous profit. The former head of the library at UW-Madison mentioned recently that they spend $4 million per year on electronic resources (books and journals), and that they are “struggling to pay that Elsevier bill”.

I prefer society-related journals. These days, my own papers all go to my favorite journal, Genetics, which is associated with the Genetics Society of America.