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Mass Resignation of Scientists from Top Journal Highlights Grievances Against Elsevier’s Publishing Practices


In a groundbreaking move that has sent shockwaves through the academic community, more than 40 distinguished scientists have resigned en masse from the editorial board of the esteemed journal Neuroimage. This unprecedented action stems from profound concerns over the “greed” and excessive profit margins of publishing behemoth Elsevier. The resignations have sparked a wider debate about the ethical implications and financial burdens associated with scholarly publishing, particularly in the context of open-access journals.

Open Access Journals and the Role of Elsevier

Neuroimage, a leading publication dedicated to brain-imaging research, embraced the open-access model, allowing researchers to freely access and share scholarly articles without subscription barriers. However, the journal’s publication charges, reflecting its high prestige, have become a contentious issue. Academics are now required to pay over £2,700 for each research paper published, a fee many consider exorbitant and disproportionate to the actual costs involved.

Ethical Concerns and the Call for Reform

The resigning editors, led by Professor Chris Chambers of Cardiff University, have voiced strong objections to Elsevier’s pricing practices. They argue that the company’s pursuit of profit maximization has created an unethical situation where academics are exploited for their labor and expertise. Professor Chambers passionately urges fellow scientists to reject Elsevier’s journal and contribute to a non-profit open-access journal established by the resigning team.

Elsevier’s Financial Success and Profit Margins

Elsevier, a Dutch company, commands a significant share of the global scientific publishing market, with an estimated 18% of the world’s scientific papers published through its journals. The company’s financial success is undeniable, exemplified by its 10% revenue increase to £2.9bn in 2023. However, it is the company’s profit margins, nearing 40% according to its 2019 accounts, that have drawn the ire of academics. Critics argue that these excessive profits are extracted from the academic community, which contributes its research and editorial expertise without financial compensation.

The Role of Academics in the Publishing Process

The academic publishing process relies heavily on the unpaid contributions of researchers and scholars. Academics typically fund their research through grants and public funding, and they write up their findings in manuscripts, which are then subject to peer review by fellow experts. Academic editors, often working voluntarily or for minimal compensation, collate and organize these manuscripts for publication. Despite their essential role in the dissemination of knowledge, academics are often charged substantial fees to publish their work in open-access journals, while universities face high subscription costs for access to these journals.

The Plight of University Libraries and the Cost of Online Textbooks

The escalating costs of scholarly publishing extend beyond academic journals to include online textbooks. University libraries are facing mounting pressure as the demand for digital textbooks surges among students. However, the prices of ebooks often far exceed those of their print counterparts, creating a significant financial burden for institutions and students alike. For instance, Manchester University Library reported being quoted £975 for a three-user ebook license for a popular plant biology textbook, in contrast to the £75 cost of the printed version. This disparity has led to concerns about creating a digital divide between institutions that can afford these high prices and those that cannot.

Responses from Elsevier and Taylor and Francis

Elsevier expressed disappointment over the resignations and emphasized its commitment to advancing open-access research. The company maintained that its article publishing charges are below the market average relative to quality and that the fee for NeuroImage is lower than that of comparable journals in the field.

Taylor and Francis, the publisher of Routledge textbooks, defended its pricing policies, stating that they strive to ensure that book prices are both affordable and a fair representation of their value. The company highlighted the advantages of ebooks, such as their wider distribution and the ability for multiple users to access them simultaneously.


The mass resignation of scientists from Neuroimage’s editorial board has ignited a crucial conversation about the ethics and economics of academic publishing. The grievances expressed by the resigning editors, coupled with the concerns raised by university libraries, underscore the need for substantial reforms in the scholarly publishing landscape. As the academic community grapples with these issues, it remains to be seen how publishers and institutions will respond to the growing demands for more ethical and sustainable practices in the dissemination of knowledge. The outcome of these discussions will have far-reaching implications for the future of scientific research and the accessibility of scholarly information.