The movie Speed opens with this memorable dialog between two cops:
Harry Temple: All right, pop quiz. Airport, gunman with one hostage. He’s using her for cover; he’s almost to a plane. You’re a hundred feet away... Jack?
Jack: Shoot the hostage.
The strategy of some scientists to take down for profit publishers, notably Elsevier, keeps edging closer to shooting the hostage. Do anything that is bad for Elsevier, even if a few other researchers get harmed along the way.
The Cost of Knowledge website is gaining traction with its call to not “support” Elsevier journals. Jonathan Eisen went even further towards the “shooting the hostage” strategy. He suggested that scientists not “promote” any article in an Elsevier journal: no blogging, no tweeting, no journal club. He was convinced otherwise, as you’ll see by visiting the post. I complement Jonathan for considering other points of view.
You won’t find my name on that boycott list - yet. I’ve written before that I don’t think it’s fair to refuse to review a paper because I don’t like the journal. (Besides, if I put my name on the list but then reviewed for an Elsevier journals, who would know? Reviews are typically confidential.) I still think the best strategy is slow strangulation. Do not submit papers to those journals. Convince colleagues that there are better venues than those journals.
Shooting the hostage makes for great drama, but such a single-minded “get the bad guy by any means necessary” approach may not be desirable. There’s a reason cops don’t shoot hostages outside of action movies.
Update, 26 February 2016: The attention has turned to pre-prints following the ASAPBio meeting this month. I’m disappointed to see people trying to use the same lever of refusing to review manuscripts to try to change journal policy:
From Casey Greene.
Pressuring journals you dislike