Elsevier boycott update

Here is the list of academics who’ve signed on to the Elsevier boycott. I found it today after re-reading something that @LSEImpactBlog had re-tweeted (I hate it when an outlet changes the name of something and I re-read and don’t realize it). But I was also curious about the number of economists who have signed on.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the absolute number is very small. While mathematicians–of whose one own started the call for the boycott–and physicists are signing on in large numbers, only 41 economists have signed it. This represents less than 1% of the 4676 signers. I don’t have numbers, but economics is a pretty large field. I’m fairly certain we represent more than 1% of academics.

The only field with fewer signers is Statistics, with 29.

I’m curious, naturally, about why this is. Are economists worried that a boycott might hurt them more and more risk-averse and thus not signing on? Are we by nature less likely to participate in boycotts? Are we just not paying attention? Is there a belief that the boycott will be unsuccessful? Are we free-riding?

I have a paper with a coauthor that we’ve been working on for awhile. Before the boycott stuff came out, we had discussed where to send it next and an Elsevier journal was on the list. While neither of us has signed the boycott declaration, we have discussed the decision. Whether or not we decide to boycott officially, others’ decisions about whether to boycott will affect our paper’s publication process. More boycotters mean fewer reviewers available, and might lead to less appropriate reviewers (on average). It might mean longer response times as referees decide whether to join the boycott.

Of course, this could all work in our favor, too, as turnaround times could decrease with fewer submissions. But in turn, this could result in the decline of journal importance, if good papers aren’t going to Elsevier journals.

Maybe we just think about things too much…


5 thoughts on “Elsevier boycott update

  1. Ah, the curse of thinking too much. It seems like you can think about all the possibilities forever, and by the time you come to a conclusion everything is already finished! This is interesting though. It makes me wonder how our own library is faring in its journal purchases…

  2. It’s a good point, Kevin. I’m not sure what Gettysburg has in Elsevier journals. It might be a good question for the librarian next week. Separately, however, I’m sure that we could actually answer the questions I pose with the right data.

    • Yes, you probably could. Between the things we’ve been doing in class, my work on the paper, and the work I am doing in GIS I’m beginning to see questions everywhere. Just this afternoon during GIS I was really interested in looking at school districts’ SAT scores compared to the economic circumstances regarding the district itself and the population it serves.

      Last night I considered how revealing it might be to collect and analyze data from students concerning their academics, drinking habits, and residence locations, then also use GIS to map the data. It’s really interesting to start seeing these relationships in my daily life and considering that there are ways to find real answers!

  3. The question of why more economists haven’t signed on to the Elsevier boycott reminded me of something Paul Krugman has mentioned a few times on his blog: economists rely more on working papers than formal journals. Perhaps because economists don’t depend on journals as much, they don’t place as high a value on them as academics in other fields and therefore have less reason to weigh in. There may be other factors, but this seems a reasonable supposition to start with.



    • It’s true that economists read a lot of working papers and are very likely to promote their work pre-publication through their blogs or websites, and NBER, but doesn’t mean we don’t care about publishing. Tenure, pre-tenure, and annual reviews are still highly dependent on publishing records. It wouldn’t be an interesting boycott if people didn’t have some skin in the game.

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