Topology Resignations

Although this was announced over the summer, the New York Sun and now the Chronicle are reporting on the resignations of the entire editorial board of the mathematics journal Topology, published by Elsevier, which charges United States institutions $1,665 per year for the journal.

The Chronicle article links to a math blog, Not Even Wrong with detailed discussion and comment on the resignation by mathematicians. Basically, it’s clear that mathematicians are fed up with Elsevier and the high journal prices. Some report refusing to submit their papers to Elsevier journals.

In the article “The Economics of Professional Journal Pricing” in the January 1996 issue of College and Research Libraries, the authors explain in economic terms why journals in science and engineering cost more than those in other fields:

It is a simple case of maximizing profit by charging higher prices in markets where demand is inelastic.

Which is to say, the publishers charge higher prices because they can. The authors also pointed toward the way out of the problem:

attempt to create and demonstrate high elasticity of demand for journals in any way possible.

Which is to say, librarians, cancel the high priced journals in favor of lesser priced journals any time you can. (For a list of journals in which the editorial board resigned and started a new journal, see Peter Suber’s List of Journal Declarations of Independence.) I have done this recently, cancelling Labor History in favor of Labor. (Anybody want to speak in favor of cancelling Journal of Academic Librarianship in favor of Portal?)

Much progress has been made on journal pricing due to the hard work and cooperation of many groups and people, such as SPARC and ACRL and Peter Suber. But we’ve got a long way to go and more needs to be done. Can we get the mathematicians to talk to the chemists, engineers, and doctors for example? In the meantime, let’s watch to see if a new, lower cost version of Topology appears, and we’ll know what to do.

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