Elsevier (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈɛlzəviːr]) is an information and
analytics company and one of the world's major providers of
scientific, technical, and medical information. It was established in
1880 as a publishing company. It is a part of the RELX Group,
known until 2015 as Reed Elsevier. Its products include journals such
The Lancet and Cell, the
ScienceDirect collection of electronic
journals, the Trends and Current Opinion series of journals, the
online citation database Scopus, and the
ClinicalKey solution for
clinicians. Elsevier's products and services include the entire
academic research lifecycle, including software and data-management,
instruction and assessment tools.
Elsevier publishes approximately 420,000 articles annually in 2,500
journals. Its archives contain over 13 million documents and 30,000
e-books. Total yearly downloads amount to more than 900 million.
Elsevier's high profit margins (37% in 2016) and its copyright
practices have subjected it to criticism by researchers.
2 Company statistics
3 Operating structure
3.1 Global conferences
4 Corporate affairs
4.1 Corporate social responsibility
5 Criticism and controversies
5.2 Resignation of editorial boards
5.3 Action against academics posting their own articles online
5.4 Lobbying efforts against open access
5.5 Chaos, Solitons & Fractals
5.6 Sponsored journals
5.7 Shill review offer
5.8 Who's Afraid of Peer Review
5.9 Selling open access articles
5.10 Blocking text mining research
Sci-Hub and LibGen Lawsuit controversy
5.13.1 "The Cost of Knowledge" boycott
5.13.6 South Korea
7 See also
9 External links
Elsevier was founded in 1880 and took the name from the Dutch
publishing house Elzevir which has no connection with the present
company. The Elzevir family operated as booksellers and publishers
in the Netherlands; the founder,
Lodewijk Elzevir (1542–1617), lived
Leiden and established the business in 1580.
The expansion of
Elsevier in the scientific field after 1945 was
funded with the profits of the newsweekly Elsevier, which published
its first issue on 27 October 1945. The weekly was an instant success
and earned lots of money. The weekly was a continuation, as is
stated in its first issue, of the monthly Elsevier, which was founded
in 1891 to promote the name of the publishing house and had to stop
publication in December 1940 because of the Nazi occupation.
Elsevier began publishing its first English-language journal,
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta.
Elsevier acquired Mendeley, a UK company making software for
managing and sharing research papers. Mendeley, previously an open
platform for sharing of research, was greatly criticized for the
acquisition, which users saw as acceding to the "paywall" approach to
research literature. Mendeley's previously open sharing system now
allows exchange of paywalled resources only within private groups.
The New Yorker
The New Yorker described Elsevier's reasons for buying
two-fold: to acquire its user data, and to "destroy or coöpt an
open-science icon that threatens its business model".
In December 2013,
Elsevier announced a collaboration with University
College, London, the UCL Big Data Institute. Elsevier's investment
is "substantial" and thought to be more than £10 million.
In the primary research market during 2016[update], researchers
submitted over 1.5 million research papers to Elsevier-based
publications. Over 20,000 editors managed the peer review and
selection of these papers, resulting in the publication of more than
420,000 articles in over 2,500 journals.
In 2013, the five editorial groups Elsevier, Springer,
Wiley-Blackwell, Taylor & Francis and
SAGE Publications published
more than half of all academic papers in the peer-reviewed
literature. At that time,
Elsevier accounted for 16% of the
world market in science, technology, and medical publishing.
Elsevier breaks down its revenue sources by format and by geographic
region. Approximately 42% of revenue by geography in 2016 derived from
North America, 26% from Europe and the remaining 32% from the rest of
the world. Approximately 79% of revenue by format came from electronic
usage, 20% came from print, and 1% came from face-to-face.
Elsevier employs more than 7,200 people in over 70 offices across 24
countries. It is headed by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ron
Elsevier accounted for 34% of the revenues of RELX group
(₤2.320 billion of ₤6.895 billion). In operating profits, it
represented 40% (₤853 million of ₤2,114 million). Adjusted
operating profits (with constant currency) rose by 2% from 2015 to
Following the integration of its Science & Technology and Health
Sciences divisions in 2012,
Elsevier has operated under a traditional
business structure with a single CEO.
Products and services include electronic and print versions of
journals, textbooks and reference works, and cover the health, life,
physical and social sciences.
The target markets are academic and government research institutions,
corporate research labs, booksellers, librarians, scientific
researchers, authors, editors, physicians, nurses, allied health
professionals, medical and nursing students and schools, medical
researchers, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and research
establishments. It publishes in 13 languages including English,
German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Japanese, Hindi,
Flagship products and services include VirtualE, ScienceDirect,
Scopus, Scirus, EMBASE, Engineering Village, Compendex, Cell, SciVal,
Pure, and Analytical Services, The Consult series (FirstCONSULT,
PathCONSULT, NursingCONSULT, MDConsult, StudentCONSULT), Virtual
Clinical Excursions, and major reference works such as Gray's Anatomy,
Nelson Pediatrics, Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary, Netter's
Atlas of Human Anatomy, and online versions of many journals
including The Lancet.
ScienceDirect is Elsevier's platform for online electronic access to
its journals and over 6,000 e-books, reference works, book series, and
handbooks. The articles are grouped in four main sections: Physical
Sciences and Engineering, Life Sciences, Health Sciences, and Social
Sciences and Humanities. For most articles on the website, abstracts
are freely available; access to the full text of the article (in PDF,
and also HTML for newer publications) often requires a subscription or
Elsevier conducts conferences, exhibitions and workshop worldwide,
with over 50 conferences a year covering life sciences, physical
sciences & engineering, social sciences, and health sciences. In
Elsevier conducted 48 conferences attended by 11,328 delegates
from 128 countries.
Corporate social responsibility
Elsevier Foundation supports libraries in developing countries,
women scientists and nursing facilities.
In 2016 Elsevier's not-for-profit
Elsevier Foundation committed $1m a
year, for 3 years, to programmes encouraging diversity in science,
technology and medicine and promoting science research in developing
Criticism and controversies
Reed Elsevier § Controversy
In addition to issues indicated in this section, Elsevier's parent
company (Reed Elsevier) has been criticised for its links to the
weapons industry.
In recent years, the subscription rates charged by the company for its
journals have been criticized; some very large journals (with more
than 5,000 articles) charge subscription prices as high as £9,634,
far above average, and many British universities pay more than a
million pounds to
Elsevier annually. The company has been
criticized not only by advocates of a switch to the open-access
publication model, but also by universities whose library budgets make
it difficult for them to afford current journal prices. For example, a
resolution by Stanford University's senate singled out Elsevier's
journals as being "disproportionately expensive compared to their
educational and research value", which librarians should consider
dropping, and encouraged its faculty "not to contribute articles or
editorial or review efforts to publishers and journals that engage in
exploitive or exorbitant pricing". Similar guidelines and
criticism of Elsevier's pricing policies have been passed by the
University of California, Harvard University, and Duke University.
In July 2015, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands
(VSNU) announced a plan to start boycotting Elsevier, which refused to
negotiate on any
Open Access policy for Dutch universities. In
December 2016, Nature
Publishing Group reported that academics in
Germany, Peru and Taiwan are to lose access to
Elsevier journals as
negotiations had broken down with the publisher. A complaint about
Elsevier/RELX was made to the
Competition and Markets Authority
Competition and Markets Authority in
December 2016 by three UK based Academics.
Resignation of editorial boards
In November 1999 the entire editorial board (50 persons) of the
Journal of Logic Programming (founded in 1984 by Alan Robinson)
collectively resigned after 16 months of unsuccessful negotiations
Elsevier Press about the price of library subscriptions. The
personnel created a new journal, Theory and Practice of Logic
Cambridge University Press
Cambridge University Press at a much lower
Elsevier continued publication with a new editorial
board and a slightly different name (the Journal of Logic and
In 2002, dissatisfaction at Elsevier's pricing policies caused the
European Economic Association to terminate an agreement with Elsevier
European Economic Review as the official
journal of the association. The EEA launched a new journal, the
Journal of the European Economic Association.
In 2003, the entire editorial board of the Journal of Algorithms
resigned to start
ACM Transactions on Algorithms with a different,
lower-priced, not-for-profit publisher, at the suggestion of
Journal of Algorithms founder Donald Knuth. The Journal of
Algorithms continued under
Elsevier with a new editorial board until
October 2009, when it was discontinued.
The same happened in 2005 to the International Journal of Solids and
Structures, whose editors resigned to start the Journal of Mechanics
of Materials and Structures. However, a new editorial board was
quickly established and the journal continues in apparently unaltered
form with editors D.A. Hills (Oxford University) and Stelios
Kyriakides (University of Texas at Austin).
In August 2006, the entire editorial board of the distinguished
mathematical journal Topology handed in their resignation, again
because of stalled negotiations with
Elsevier to lower the
subscription price. This board then launched the new Journal of
Topology at a far lower price, under the auspices of the London
Mathematical Society. After this mass resignation, Topology
remained in circulation under a new editorial board until 2009, when
the last issue was published.
École Normale Supérieure
École Normale Supérieure has stopped having Elsevier
publish the journal Annales Scientifiques de l'École Normale
Supérieure (as of 2008).
The elevated pricing of field journals in economics, most of which are
published by Elsevier, was one of the motivations that moved the
American Economic Association to launch the American Economic Journal
In May 2015,
Stephen Leeder was removed from his role as editor of the
Medical Journal of Australia after its publisher decided to outsource
the journal's production to Elsevier. As a consequence, all but one of
the journal's editorial advisory committee members co-signed a letter
In October 2015, the entire editorial staff of the general linguistics
journal Lingua resigned in protest of Elsevier's unwillingness to
agree to their terms of Fair Open Access. Editor in Chief Johan
Rooryck also announced that the Lingua staff would establish a new
Action against academics posting their own articles online
Digimarc, a company representing Elsevier, recently[when?] told the
University of Calgary
University of Calgary to remove articles published by faculty authors
on university web pages; although such self-archiving of academic
articles may be legal under the fair dealing provisions in Canadian
copyright law, the university complied.
Harvard University and the
University of California, Irvine
University of California, Irvine also received takedown notices for
self-archived academic articles, a first for Harvard, according to
Months after its acquisition of
Academia.edu rival Mendeley, Elsevier
sent thousands of takedown notices to Academia.edu, a practice that
has since ceased following widespread complaint by academics,
Academia.edu founder and chief executive Richard
Elsevier acquired the repository
SSRN in May 2016 academics
started complaining that some of their work has been removed without
notice. The action was explained as a technical error.
Lobbying efforts against open access
Elsevier have been known to be involved in lobbying against open
access. These have included the likes of:
Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPPA)
The Research Works Act
PRISM. In the case of PRISM, the Association of American
Publishers hired Eric Dezenhall, the so-called "Pit Bull Of Public
Office of Science and Technology Policy
Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)
The European Union's Open Science Monitor was criticised after
Elsevier were confirmed as a subcontractor.
Chaos, Solitons & Fractals
There was speculation that the editor-in-chief of
Chaos, Solitons & Fractals, Mohamed El Naschie, misused his power
to publish his own work without appropriate peer review. The journal
had published 322 papers with El Naschie as author since 1993. The
last issue of December 2008 featured five of his papers. The
controversy was covered extensively in blogs. The publisher
announced in January 2009 that El Naschie had retired as
editor-in-chief. As of November 2011[update] the
co-Editors-in-Chief of the journal were Maurice Courbage and Paolo
Grigolini. In June 2011 El Naschie sued the journal Nature for
libel, claiming that his reputation had been damaged by their November
2008 article about his retirement, which included statements that
Nature had been unable to verify his claimed affiliations with certain
international institutions. The suit came to trial in November
2011 and was dismissed in July 2012, with the judge ruling that the
article was "substantially true", contained "honest comment" and was
"the product of responsible journalism". The judgement noted that El
Naschie, who represented himself in court, had failed to provide any
documentary evidence that his papers had been peer-reviewed. Judge
Victoria Sharp also found "reasonable and serious grounds" for
suspecting that El Naschie used a range of false names to defend his
editorial practice in communications with Nature, and described this
behavior as "curious" and "bizarre".
Main article: Australasian Journal of Bone & Joint Medicine
At a 2009 court case in Australia where Merck & Co. was being sued
by a user of Vioxx, the plaintiff alleged that Merck had paid Elsevier
to publish the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, which
had the appearance of being a peer-reviewed academic journal but in
fact contained only articles favourable to Merck
drugs. Merck described the journal as a "complimentary
publication," denied claims that articles within it were ghost written
by Merck, and stated that the articles were all reprinted from
peer-reviewed medical journals. In May 2009,
Sciences CEO Hansen released a statement regarding Australia-based
sponsored journals, conceding that they were "sponsored article
compilation publications, on behalf of pharmaceutical clients, that
were made to look like journals and lacked the proper disclosures."
The statement acknowledged that it "was an unacceptable practice."
The Scientist reported that, according to an
six sponsored publications "were put out by their Australia office and
Excerpta Medica imprint from 2000 to 2005," namely the
Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine (Australas. J. Bone
Joint Med.), the Australasian Journal of General Practice (Australas.
J. Gen. Pract.), the Australasian Journal of Neurology (Australas. J.
Neurol.), the Australasian Journal of Cardiology (Australas. J.
Cardiol.), the Australasian Journal of Clinical Pharmacy (Australas.
J. Clin. Pharm.), and the Australasian Journal of Cardiovascular
Medicine (Australas. J. Cardiovasc. Med.).
Excerpta Medica was a
"strategic medical communications agency" run by Elsevier, according
to the imprint's web page. In October 2010,
Excerpta Medica was
acquired by Adelphi Worldwide.
Shill review offer
According to the BBC, "the firm [Elsevier] offered a £17.25 Amazon
voucher to academics who contributed to the textbook Clinical
Psychology if they would go on
Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble (a
large US books retailer) and give it five stars."
Elsevier said that
"encouraging interested parties to post book reviews isn't outside the
norm in scholarly publishing, nor is it wrong to offer to nominally
compensate people for their time. But in all instances the request
should be unbiased, with no incentives for a positive review, and
that's where this particular e-mail went too far", and that it was a
mistake by a marketing employee.
Who's Afraid of Peer Review
Main article: Who's Afraid of Peer Review?
One of Elsevier's journals was caught in the sting set-up by John
Bohannon, published in Science, called Who's Afraid of Peer
Review? The journal Drug Invention Today accepted an obviously
bogus paper made up by Bohannon that should have been rejected by any
good peer review system. Instead, Drug Invention Today was among
many open access journals that accepted the fake paper for
publication. As of 2014, this journal had been transferred to a
Selling open access articles
Elsevier was found to be selling some articles which should
have been open access, but had been put behind a paywall. A
related case occurred in 2015, when
Elsevier charged for downloading
an open access article from a journal published by John Wiley &
Sons. However, it was not clear whether
Elsevier was in violation of
the license under which the article was made available on their
Elsevier are one of the most frequent publishers who
have been found to be selling open access content. The
Paywall Watch "is a website dedicated to monitoring and
documenting notable problems at academic publishers" which documents
Blocking text mining research
In November 2015
Elsevier blocked a scientist from performing text
mining research at scale on
Elsevier papers, even though his
institution already pays for access to
content. The data were collected via parsing of downloaded
PDF and HTML files, although
Elsevier claimed that the method
used was screenscraping.
Sci-Hub and LibGen Lawsuit controversy
Elsevier filed a lawsuit against the sites
Sci-Hub and LibGen,
which make available copyright protected articles for free. Elsevier
also claimed illegal access to institutional accounts. A
group of researchers, writers, and artists wrote an open letter in
Sci-Hub and LibGen.
Elsevier announced a service called '
Editor' which offered 45 "top editors free access" to their
ScienceDirect platform. This was met with a
Elsevier then launched a rival service to titled
ScienceDirect Topics' with a science definitions service "that
provides encyclopedia-style entries on key scientific
"The Cost of Knowledge" boycott
Main article: The Cost of Knowledge
In 2003 various university librarians began coordinating with each
other to complain about Elsevier's "big deal" journal bundling
packages, in which the company offered a group of journal
subscriptions to libraries at a certain rate, but in which librarians
claimed there was no economical option to subscribe to only the
popular journals at a rate comparable to the bundled rate.
Librarians continued to discuss the implications of the pricing
schemes, many feeling pressured into buying the
without other options.
On 21 January 2012, mathematician
Timothy Gowers publicly announced he
would boycott Elsevier, noting that others in the field have been
doing so privately. The three reasons for the boycott are high
subscription prices for individual journals, bundling subscriptions to
journals of different value and importance, and Elsevier's support for
SOPA, PIPA, and the Research Works Act.
Following this, a petition advocating non-cooperation with Elsevier
(that is, not submitting papers to
Elsevier journals, not refereeing
Elsevier journals, and not participating in journal
editorial boards), appeared on the site "The Cost of Knowledge". By
February 2012 this petition had been signed by over 5,000
academics., growing to over 13,000 by January 2013.
Elsevier disputed the claims, arguing that their prices are below the
industry average, and stating that bundling is only one of several
different options available to buy access to
The company also claimed that its profit margins are "simply a
consequence of the firm's efficient operation".
On 27 February 2012,
Elsevier issued a statement on its website that
declared that it has withdrawn support from the Research Works
Act. Although the Cost of Knowledge movement was not mentioned,
the statement indicated the hope that the move would "help create a
less heated and more productive climate" for ongoing discussions with
research funders. Hours after Elsevier's statement, the sponsors of
the bill, US House Representatives
Darrell Issa and Carolyn Maloney,
issued a joint statement saying that they would not push the bill in
Germany's DEAL project (ProjektDeal) which includes over 60 major
research institutions, including Göttingen University, has announced
that all of its members are cancelling their contracts with Elsevier,
effective January 1, 2017. The boycott is in response to Elsevier's
refusal to adopt "transparent business models" to "make publications
more openly accessible". Horst
Hippler, spokesperson for the DEAL consortium states that "taxpayers
have a right to read what they are paying for" and that "publishers
must understand that the route to open-access publishing at an
affordable price is irreversible". In July 2017, another 13
institutions announced that they would also be cancelling their
Elsevier journals. As of August 2017, at least
185 German institutions have now cancelled their contracts with
Elsevier. As of January 2018, whilst negotiations are ongoing,
around 200 German universities who cancelled their subscriptions to
Elsevier journals have been granted complimentary open access to them
In 2015 a consortium of all of Netherlands' 14 universities threatened
Elsevier if it could not agree that articles by Dutch
authors would be made open access and settled with the compromise of
30% of its Dutch papers becoming open access by 2018. Gerard Meijer,
Radboud University in
Nijmegen and lead negotiator on the
Dutch side notes that "it's not the 100% that I hoped
In Taiwan more than 75% of universities, including the region’s top
11 institutions, have joined a collective boycott against Elsevier. On
7 December 2016, the Taiwanese consortium, CONCERT, which represents
more than 140 institutions, announced it would not renew its contract
In 2015 Finnish research organizations paid a total of 27 million
euros in subscription fees. Over one third of the total costs went to
the Elsevier. The information was revealed after successful court
appeal following a denied request on the subscription fees, due to
confidentiality clauses in contracts with the publishers.
Establishing of this fact lead to creation of tiedonhinta.fi petition
demanding more reasonable pricing and open access to content signed by
more than 2 800 members of the research community. While deals
with other publishers have been made, this was not the case for
Elsevier, leading to the nodealnoreview.org boycott of the publisher
signed more than 600 times.In January 2018, it was confirmed that
a deal had been reached between those concerned.
In 2017, over 70 university libraries confirmed a "contract boycott"
movement involving three publishers including Elsevier. As of January
2018, whilst negotiations remain underway, a decision will be made as
to whether or not continue the participating libraries will continue
the boycott. It was subsequently confirmed that an agreement had
Imprints are brand names in publishing.
Elsevier uses its imprints to
market to different consumer segments. Many of them have previously
been the company names of publishers that were purchased by Reed
Gulf Professional Publishing
GW Medical Publishing
Hanley & Belfus
Morgan Kaufmann Publishers
Pergamon Flexible Learning
Urban & Fischer
Publishing (including Chandos and Horwood)
2collab, a free researcher collaboration tool launched by
2007 and discontinued in 2011
Sci-Hub, a website providing free access to otherwise paywalled
academic papers on a massive scale that is involved in a legal case
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and Amsterdam, The Netherlands: RELAX Group. Retrieved
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Herrmann as editor in chief in 1985 and served in that capacity until
June 2005. During his 20-year tenure the journal grew both in size and
in reputation, becoming one of the premier journals in the field. We
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October 1, 2005, being cognizant of the immense contributions,
leadership, and high standards exercised by our two predecessors on
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