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Elsevier fact sheet

Researchers around the world have signed their names to an Elsevier boycott directed at Elsevier’s pricing practices and their support for legislation that would put limits on open access to research. This fact sheet provides background on Elsevier for those interested in the debate.


Subscription models

  • Many universities subscribe to what is often referred to as “the big deal” or a bundle, which includes a large portion of Elsevier’s journal corpus. While this allows universities access to a large number of titles at a discount, it also means they typically subscribe to and pay for many journals that are less targeted to their communities.
  • MIT does not participate in a big deal with Elsevier. We have instead negotiated title-by-title subscriptions and currently subscribe to nearly 700 titles, about 25% of their complete title list. While this means we are paying more per title than if we bought a “bundle,” the title-by-title model allows MIT to target purchases to those titles of most value to the community. We pay a premium for this flexibility. Our payments to Elsevier are over $2.7 million per year, with an average cost per title of nearly $4K.

Anti-open access legislation

  • In 2011, Elsevier supported the Research Works Act (RWA), a bill that would have made illegal the NIH Public Access Policy, along with any other similar government effort to make taxpayer-funded research openly accessible to the public. Following public outcry, including a boycottElsevier withdrew its support, just hours before the bill’s sponsors declared it dead. In their statement, Elsevier indicated they would still “continue to oppose government mandates in this area.”
  • Elsevier and its senior executives made 31 contributions to members of the House in 2011, of which 12 went to Representative Maloney (NY) one of the sponsors of RWA.
  • The MIT Press was the first to disavow the Association of American Publishers’ support of RWA. Nature and Science and several university presses followed MIT Press’ lead with disavowals of their own.
  • Also in 2011, Elsevier supported the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which threatened free speech and innovation, in part by enabling law enforcement to block access to entire internet domains for infringing material posted on a single web page. In comparison, competitors Springer, Wiley, and Taylor & Francis did not make public statements in support.

Author rights and author agreements

Because publisher agreements and policies do change, MIT authors should carefully read and retain a copy of their copyright agreements.

Contact with any questions about these agreements.

Elsevier in the news 

Page last updated: August 8, 2019