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…

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Boycotts are all around us

There has been quite a bit of talk lately about boycotts, in the academic world, in the foreign policy world, and in the consumer world.

Academics are signing on in rather large numbers to a boycott of the journal publisher Elsevier, for practices they view as stifling to creative and innovative thought, and access. The original call to boycott is here, the Chronicle article is here, and if you Google the thing, you’ll find dozens of blogs and articles talking about it. It doesn’t seem to have hit economists too hard yet, but I imagine it’s going that way.

In foreign policy, all the talk is about boycotting oil from Iran in order to ensure that they don’t get the bomb.

Finally comes the Apple boycott, rocking the consumer world. The NYT came out with a an article last week exposing exploitation of workers and unsafe working conditions in China by Apple. Combined with the conflict minerals stuff, some people are hoping to end their iAddictions. Others, of course, want to point out that the whole thing is ridiculous.

Of these, Iran is definitely the silliest. Oil is a fungible commodity. If we don’t buy it from Iran, we have to get it from someone else, say Norway. Thus, another country who formerly bought from Norway, will now buy it from Iran. Iran will sell it to someone else, perhaps at slightly higher transportation costs, but they still will sell it. (Update: Off the wire blog goes into this in a bit more detail here.)

I’m not entirely sure what to make of the Elsevier boycott. I am all for voting with my dollars, and my time, but I guess this feels big because it is inextricably linked to my profession and my sense of self. As graduate students, we are shown over and over again that the path to success is publish, publish, publish, get tenure, and be satisfied. But I can’t help but think that all of this is changing. It’s like the rug is being pulled out from underneath me. It’s not the end of the world surely, but I’m not sure what an open-access academic content world is going to look like. I’m sure that functionally, it won’t change much for most people. But for academics, it’s likely to change a lot. And that’s scary on some level, even if it’s also exciting and desirable.

I’m going to mull over my thoughts on the Apple boycott a bit more, but they certainly seem to be all around us, don’t they?

Update on Fun Wednesday Reading: I’m in the midst of Innes, Rob. “A Theory of Consumer Boycotts Under Symmetric Information and Imperfect Competition.” The Economic Journal, 116 (April) 355-381.

h/t @mflbellemare