I just refused an Elsevier review

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 http://thecostofknowledge.com 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 (http://thecostofknowledge.com). 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.

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3 Responses to “I just refused an Elsevier review”

  1. Tyler Neylon Says:

    It’s not an easy decision — it seems either way there is some cost to the system of academic publishing. I personally think that the primary value of high-profit publishers is the prestige it provides to authors who meet the high standards of top journals. If we can put that same prestige into free-to-read publishing systems, all researchers benefit. The trouble is that the current system is self-sustaining, and it will take conscious effort to encourage free-to-read journals.

    Thanks for standing by your pledge.

  2. Bernie Says:

    “This afternoon I refused a request from the American Journal of Human Genetics to review a paper, though the abstract was extremely interesting. ”

    You review those that seem interesting rather than those for which you feel competent. A bit of a mercenary attitude. Self interest shouldn’t be a consideration for reviewers.

    • Karl Broman Says:

      I’m asked to review more manuscripts than I can handle competently. So how to decide which to accept? Obviously I say no if I feel I have insufficient expertise. But I still have to choose among the rest.

      I’ve decided to go on (a) I think I’d enjoy reading it, and/or (b) it sounds like it will be easy to review. I also consider whether it will add to my “life list” (of journals I’ve reviewed for).

      I admit this is a selfish approach, but how important is my selection of manuscripts to review relative to my treatment of those manuscript that I agree to review?

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