Cybermath column NZMS Newsletter 2019/Apr

A very short column this time, with only two topics, but each of them fairly important and timely.

After my criticism of the state of the New Zealand Journal of Mathematics in the last column, I have been invited to put my money where my mouth is and do something about it, as a member of the editorial board and the oversight board (the journal is owned jointly by NZMS and the University of Auckland Mathematics Department – I will represent the former). Expect substantial changes in the website (among other things) by the end of 2019. The domain name (not yet live) will change to nzjmath.org.

Not long before the deadline for this column, news came that the University of California had ended negotiations with Elsevier and cancelled all journal subscriptions. UC had been trying for months to achieve a “publish and read” deal by which papers written by their researchers would be made open access. I (and many others) feel that such deals (which have been struck with several publishers by national consortia in the last few years) are far too generous to the large commercial publishers, but apparently Elsevier wanted even more. According to UC, the final straw was that Elsevier communicated directly with UC researchers, omitting key points about he negotiation, in an attempt to influence the negotiations. See https://osc.universityofcalifornia.edu/open-access-at-uc/publisher-negotiations/uc-and-elsevier/ for more information.

It is very clear that large and profit-hungry corporations of this type are simply incompatible with scholarly publishing. My prediction is that after a short transition period no one will miss, or even notice, that they are not subscribed. UC has several contingency plans in place involving fancy inter-library loans. I hope that the money saved (in the tens of millions of dollars per year) will be put to good use, for example by supporting community-controlled infrastructure such as arXiv.org and free journals of the NZ J. Math. type.

I am not holding my breath, but I really hope that the NZ university libraries (who pay tens of millions annually for subscriptions) can follow UC’s lead. Such cancellations are becoming increasingly common – see SPARC’s list.

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