Elsevier is a renowned commercial scientific publisher that has been employing modern technologies to improve its business like every other player in this sector. In fact, from the point of view of the use of non-print journals, it can be said that Elsevier has been relying on these technologies (Gowers, 2012), which is typical for modern scientific publishers and is likely to be required for them to stay competitive (Jha, 2012).
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As a result, it is correct to suggest that the development of technology has had a positive effect on Elsevier’s business because it has lead to a noticeable increase in the published materials while also reducing the amount of money required for publishing due to the lack of the need to actually print the articles (Gowers, 2012; Larivière, Haustein, & Mongeon, 2015).
However, these advantages have resulted in certain disadvantages; in particular, the profit margins of Elsevier began to raise questions because of the way the reliance on technology has alleviated the expenses of the business. As reported by Gowers (2012), Elsevier has earned the title of a “gorilla of scholarly publishers” because of the way it manages the business and the knowledge that is available to it, the access to which the publisher controls while putting the development of the science at risk.
The Academic Spring
Researchers have been dissatisfied with several aspects of the Elsevier model, which includes the costs of the articles but is not limited to them. In general, the main issue that modern researchers point out about Elsevier is the way knowledge and research end up distributed, which, in their view, is ineffective as a result of being excessively restricted through the prohibitive costs and the copyright constraints (Jha, 2012). Modern researchers tend to feel that their research needs to be as widely available as possible, but it is apparently against Elsevier’s benefit (Gowers, 2012).
The conflict reached its peak when a distinguished mathematician Timothy Gowers posted his concerns on the matter, and a scientist Mike Taylor started a boycott website (Gowers, 2012). The boycott was defined as “the academic spring,” and it has been fighting against any knowledge privatization, especially if the knowledge is publicly funded, but Elsevier was the first publisher that the “spring” was directed against (“CSOC880: Information Technology and Society. Module 7,” p. 8).
Implications for Elsevier: The Hidden Dangers of Technology Reliance
Naturally, researchers are not the only ones concerned about the price of knowledge and its distribution; the institutions that are involved in knowledge dissemination (universities or libraries) have to negotiate the price, which is why they are even more interesting inaccessible articles. However, researchers are especially familiar with the business model; they are involved in it, and they know how much of the work that is dedicated to journal production is done voluntarily and funded by taxes and charity (Jha, 2012, para. 24). Also, researchers produce value in the field of scientific publishing; Elsevier is only capable of adding it.
In its defense, Elsevier insists that the quality control, which is admittedly necessary to avoid misconduct (Carafoli, 2015), is not cheap and that the existence of the electronic version of Elsevier journals is made specifically to make them searchable and improve access to the knowledge for the population (Gowers, 2012).
Also, Elsevier keeps its reputation advantage, which makes academics keep publishing in its journals (Larivière et al., 2015), especially since the current atmosphere in the field requires publications for an academic career (Carafoli, 2015). In the meantime, researchers suggest that the old model of scientific publication can be modified due to the development of the new technologies and made more effective, which implies that Elsevier’s model of business is likely to need reforms if it wants to stay competitive.
Larivière et al., (2015) insist that since academics create value in the field of scientific research, they are going to decide the future of the business model of organizations like Elsevier. Elsevier acknowledges that changes are in order (Jha, 2012, para. 28), and these changes have been brought along by the reliance on technologies. It is apparent that such a change is a risk and a crisis for the company, which demonstrates the hidden dangers of relying on technology for a company of the kind.
It is worth noting, however, that scientific societies and groups have always posed a certain amount of threat to commercial publishers, including Elsevier, for example, by keeping some publications independent, which implies lost value for the publishers (Larivière et al., 2015). In general, the “academic spring” was only the result of the accumulating displeasure of academics (“CSOC880: Information Technology and Society. Module 7,” p. 8). As a result, it cannot be claimed that technology has created the danger for Elsevier; rather, it has strengthened the danger by providing new alternatives and acting as a part of a system, which involves multiple social and economic elements (“CSOC880: Information Technology and Society. Module 7,” p. 1).
Carafoli, E. (2015). Scientific misconduct: the dark side of science. Rendiconti Lincei, 26(3), 369-382. Web.
CSOC880: Information Technology and Society. Module 7.
Gowers, T. (2012). Trouble for Elsevier, the leading academic publisher. Web.
Jha, A. (2012). Academic spring: how an angry maths blog sparked a scientific revolution. The Guardian. Web.
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Larivière, V., Haustein, S., & Mongeon, P. (2015). The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era. PLOS ONE, 10(6), e0127502. Web.