I just came across an inspiring blog post by the mathematician Tim Gowers. In this post, which I invite you to read, he calls for a boycott of Elsevier. I share his discontent and so, I hope, will you.
Elsevier is one of the largest academic publishers, and is notorious for charging extremely high prices. This places a considerable financial burden on publicly funded academic institutions, who are, for various reasons, practically forced to buy Elsevier content. Elsevier has also engaged in other dubious practices, such as actively supporting a bill against open access publishing.
Elsevier is not alone in this. In fact, not too long ago there was a similar outrage over price increases by the Nature Publishing Group. But, as Gower points out and as you can read in the overview by White and Creaser, Elsevier is quite simply the worst.
There is now a website, The Cost of Knowledge, which calls on scientists to declare publicly that they will not support Elsevier by publishing in or reviewing/ editing for any of the Elsevier journals. I must admit that, at first, I was a little hesitant to sign this, because preventing myself from publishing in Elsevier journals is not necessarily a booster for my (very young) career. But I have decided that I will sign nevertheless: There are plenty of good, open access alternatives in my branch of research: any of the PLoS journals, Journal of Vision, BioMed central, Journal of Eye Movement Research, to name but a few.
I don't expect that everybody will completely agree with Gowers, even though it's hard not to hear that ring of truth. But I do hope that you will take a moment to consider the current system of academic publishing.
[Update Jan 30 2012] I almost forgot this classic: Elsevier published a number of corporate sponsored magazines, which were made to look like peer-reviewed scientific journals. The most famous one of these is The Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, sponsored by the pharmaceutical giant Merck.
White, S., Creaser, C., (2004). Scholarly Journals Prices: Selected Trends and Comparisons. Retrieved from http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/dis/lisu/pages/publications/oup2.html