While EMOB typically focuses on issues and databases associated more with the humanities, we have on occasion discussed scientific commercial databases–often in terms of the unwieldy control they exercise and the exorbitant subscription fees they charge. In a post several years ago “The Big Bundle Steal: Open Access and Subscription Databases”, we discussed how some scholars in the scientific community have been working hard to find other avenues that will wrest control from these large firms and place that control back into the hands of those in the academic community.
In this context, EMOB thought it might mention a situation that has recently transpired in Australia involving the country’s leading academic medical publication. When the journals division (AMPCo) of the Australian Medical Association decided to outsource the production of its renowned Medical Journal of Australia to the hugely powerful mammoth Elsevier, its equally well-respected editor, Dr. Stephen Leeder protested that “working with Elsevier was ‘beyond the reach of my ethical tolerance'” (Sydney Morning Herald 4 May 2015). As a result, Leeder, who had not been informed about the decision to outsource until it was a done deal (The Guardian, 4 May 2015) was fired by the AMA from his role as MJA‘s editor. In response 19 of the 20-member editorial board have resigned. While the ultimate fallout over AMPCo’s decision to retain Elsevier and dismiss Leeder remains to be seen, Australian academics in the field are predicting that scholars will shun the MJA. Accusations of Elsevier’s launching “fake” medical journals (ones that appeared too closely aligned with major pharmaceutical firms) in 2009 seemed to have already caused many to question its credibility. Maybe problems of credibility, more than outrageously high subscription fees, will prove to be the price that is finally too high for the academic community to pay.