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legal form BV
Seat Amsterdam
Branch Science publisher
Website www.elsevier.com

Elsevier [ˈɛlzəvir] is an originally Dutch science publisher for scientific journals and specialist books . He is part of the RELX Group .


Elsevier shares dated June 15, 1882

The Elsevir family of publishers and booksellers - later Elsevier - was founded by Louis Elsevier , a bookbinder and bookseller from Leuven / Flanders , in 1580 in Leiden , where he published scientific - mainly Latin - books for academic teaching purposes. A branch in Amsterdam followed in 1638 . The family business mainly sold scientific books, among others by Galilei , Descartes , Stevin and Scaliger (all of whom Elsevier knew personally), in various languages. Between 1583 and 1712, at least 14 family members worked as booksellers, bookbinders or publishers. Louis Elsevier's grandson, Isaac , whose business became the Leiden University Printing House, was the first to learn the printing trade, and this branch of business was also appropriated by the family business. Around 1620, Isaac Elsevier designed the company's trademark, which is still in use today - an elm tree, the trunk of which provides support for a vine covered with grapes. From 1622 to 1680 the company developed into a well-known and highly influential European printing and publishing house. As early as the beginning of the 17th century, branches were opened in Frankfurt am Main , Paris , London , Venice and Copenhagen . The group did not consist of a sole proprietorship, but rather a large number of small, autonomous family businesses that worked together. In 1681 the branch in Amsterdam was closed. In 1712 the last member of the family died. The company remained without a successor and had to be closed in 1713.

The current publishing house Elsevier was founded in 1880 by Jacobus George Robbers . Robbers, a Dutch bookseller, took over the name Elsevier and the company logo for his new publishing house in Rotterdam . In 1887 the publishing house moved to Amsterdam , where it is still based today. Publications in these early years include works by Jules Verne and Dekkers Max Havelaar . In the 19th century, the term Elsevier became synonymous with small-format books that you could carry in your pocket. A mainstay of the publishing house was the Winkler Prins Encyclopedia, the first version of which was published by Brinkman in Amsterdam from 1870 to 1882. It often built on the German Brockhaus. In 1883 Elsevier acquired image rights from Brockhaus for the new edition.

International opening and acquisitions

With the translation of German-language works, for example Karrer's Organic Chemistry and that of Victor von Richter into English, Elsevier took account of the fact that English was increasingly establishing itself as the language of science. The project was started by the then head (since 1930) JP Klautz (1929–1990) in the 1930s and it was recognized that there was also the possibility of offering Jewish scientists expelled from Germany the possibility of further publication, also for the German market. He also recognized that there was a market for English-language translations by German science authors. Among other things, a competition project to the Beilstein was created by Jewish members of the Beilstein editorial team who were expelled from Germany. In 1937 the Amsterdam bookseller Dekker & Nordemann (specializing in the mailing of German academic books overseas) opened a publishing house in New York , but it ultimately failed. Klautz von Elsevier was also involved, who tried until 1940 to create his own agency in America. The mainstay of Elsevier was still their encyclopedia and Dutch non-scientific literature.

After the war, like other publishers, they had major problems with foreign exchange restrictions. Klautz Winston Churchill offered 100,000 US dollars for his war memoirs, but was only able to get this through with the central bank after he threatened to publicize it as an affront to the "liberator of the country". The emphasis was still on chemistry, while competitor North Holland was strong in math and physics. Like North Holland, they placed great emphasis on typographic quality and built an international reputation for themselves in this field. Klautz brought in the chemist W. Gaade (from the Rubber Foundation in Delft) for the publication of chemical works and the bookseller HPM Bergmans for the general scientific program. In 1947 they started publishing Biochimica et Biophysica Acta , which became a leading journal. This was followed by the establishment of Analytica Chimica Acta . In 1953 the scientific publishing branch (which was independent so as not to endanger the remaining activities of Elsevier) exceeded the sales mark of 1 million guilders. They founded Brain Research in the late 1950s . From the 1960s onwards, the publishing house, which was already very market-oriented at that time, pursued the strategy of founding new scientific journals for scientific fields, if these had received sufficient research attention. At the beginning of the 1960s, the science division had around 40 employees and heads of departments for biomedicine and geosciences were brought in.

In 1962, after several unsuccessful attempts by Elsevier in the previous decades, the Elsevier Publishing Company was founded in the USA , shortly afterwards a subsidiary in Great Britain. The businessman REM van den Brink, who headed the holding from 1955 and was with the publisher until 1987, played a major role in the expansion. In 1970 they took over their main Dutch competitor North Holland (officially initially in a merger). In 1971 they took over the Excerpta Medica database . In 1970 the entire group had sales of $ 15 million, which increased to $ 1 billion by 2000.

In 1979 Elsevier merged with the Nederlandse Dagbladunie (NDU) to form Elsevier-NDU and thus also became the publisher of two large Dutch daily newspapers.

After extensive restructuring in 1985, when the Oxford-based publishing house Pergamon Press was purchased in 1991, which significantly expanded the number of scientific journals, Elsevier merged with the British media company Reed International to form the Reed Elsevier Group plc in 1993 . In 1998 a planned merger with Wolters Kluwer failed due to antitrust reasons (Elsevier tried to take over Kluwers as early as 1987, which the merger to Wolters-Kluwer prevented). Cell Press was bought in 1999, and in 2001 the science publisher Harcourt . The business areas of the now globally operating media group Reed Elsevier encompass four areas: Science & Medicine (Elsevier), Law (LexisNexis), Education (Harcourt) and Economy (Reed Business International).

In April 2013 Elsevier bought Mendeley , a literature management program with an attached community and recommendation function for scientific articles.

Three years later, in May 2016, Elsevier acquired the leading open access document server in the social sciences and humanities, the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). The takeover was controversially discussed by scientists because the publisher feared that the publisher would restrict access to the working papers that were previously accessible under Open Access.

The trademark (nonsolus imprint)

Galileo Galilei : Discorsi e Dimostrazioni Matematiche Intorno a Due Nuove Scienze (1638) with Elsevier trademark

In the trademark, the elm tree, the trunk of which supports a grapevine-hung vine, every picture element is a symbol: the elm as the tree of life stands for experience; the grape as a sign of knowledge and the scholar as wisdom personified. With the Latin script Non Solus - "not alone" - Isaac Elsevier underlined the statement of his imprint: Only in exchange with others can all elements - experience, knowledge, wisdom - develop in a symbiotic relationship with one another.

Today's core business

Scientific, technical and medical publications are part of the publisher's core business. Elsevier publishes around 3,500 scientific journals and 2,200 books annually . A total of around 20,000 works and titles are available.

The publisher's printed offer is supplemented by commercial online publications. This includes the online portal ScienceDirect as a publication server for the publisher's own products, the databases MDConsult and Embase , as well as the literature database Scopus , which specializes in scientific topics.

Trade journals (selection)

German Elsevier company

With effect from December 31, 2002, the Georg von Holtzbrinck publishing group sold its scientific, technical and medical publishing business to MDL Information Systems GmbH , a wholly owned subsidiary of Reed Elsevier Deutschland GmbH , which is part of the Reed Elsevier Group . Immediately after this sale, MDL Information Systems GmbH was renamed Elsevier GmbH as part of the restructuring .

The specialist publisher Urban & Fischer , Munich / Jena, has been part of Elsevier since January 2003 . The service provider Servicecenter Fachverlage (SFG), Kusterdingen , also belongs to Elsevier Germany .

The Elsevier Academy in Duisburg is independent .

Criticism of Elsevier


Elsevier has been criticized for its pricing policy, especially in the magazine sector. Robert Darnton pointed out in 2010 that, for example, an annual subscription to Elsevier magazine Tetrahedron for institutions cost $ 39,082 and Elsevier's publications division had made a profit of $ 1.1 billion in 2009, while university libraries took drastic budget cuts had to fight. This against the background that the publishing scientists, the editors and the reviewers do not receive any fees from the publisher, but in the case of the authors usually even have to pay hundreds of euros as fees for a publication to the publisher.

This unfavorable price development for the libraries (see magazine crisis ) is also being promoted by other large publishers. The business with scientific journals is very lucrative; In 2005 Elsevier achieved a return on sales of 31%, in 2016 it was 40%.

In 2006 a u. a. Petition supported by the German Research Foundation started demanding free access to publicly funded research results. Scholars and librarians have repeatedly called for a boycott of Elsevier magazines. In 2004, renowned US universities such as Cornell , Harvard and MIT canceled a large part of their Elsevier magazine subscriptions and online packages such as ScienceDirect , with reference to the company's pricing policy. Individual German universities such as Stuttgart and Karlsruhe temporarily canceled all of the publisher's journals in boycott campaigns, but ultimately had to give in to the scientists' demands for further access. At the Technical University of Munich it was publicly announced on May 2, 2012 that the board of directors of the Center for Mathematics had decided "Due to unreasonable costs and subscription conditions [...] to cancel all subscribed Elsevier journals from 2013 onwards."

Overall, it is not only a question of unsubscribing as overpriced titles, but also (for example in resolutions of the Senate of the University of California, Santa Cruz from the end of 2003 and the Senate of Stanford University from February 2004), researchers are called to do so, none To submit more articles to Elsevier magazines, to make oneself available for articles that are no longer submitted for peer review and to terminate the work on editorial boards. Such calls sometimes lead to scientists resigning from their activities as editors for Elsevier journals. B. 2015 the journal Lingua or 2006 the publication Topology .

In 2012, mathematician William Timothy Gowers published a call for all scientists to boycott the journals of the Elsevier group. Gowers criticized a. a. Elsevier's practice of only submitting scientific journals as a bundle. In order to be able to subscribe to required journals, libraries with this bundling are forced to also obtain those journals which are not of interest to them. Another point of criticism was that the publisher supports US legislation. The Research Works Act (RWA) , for example, prohibits US public research institutions from freely publishing their results. Elsevier is not the only publisher that is "guilty", according to Gowers, but it is the most aggressive ( English "worst offender" ). The initiative was called The Cost of Knowledge .

In 2016, around 60 German research institutions under the patronage of the German Rectors' Conference began price negotiations with the publisher in order to counter the increased procurement costs for the publisher's magazines. In order to put pressure on Elsevier, these institutions terminated their contracts with the publisher at the end of 2016; full-text access to the publisher's publications has no longer been possible via these institutions since then. At least 110 other German research institutions followed the contract termination on January 1, 2018. The universities that canceled their subscriptions included the major Berlin universities ( HU , FU , TU ), the universities in Heidelberg , Tübingen , Ulm , Freiburg , Frankfurt , Bremen , Kiel , etc. The joint initiative attracted worldwide attention. A comment in the journal Science spoke of a “bold step towards open access that could change the future of scientific publishing”. In the course of 2016 and 2017, more than two dozen German scientists ceased their editorial activities for Elsevier journals for the same purpose. At the same time, three British scientists, Martin Paul Eves, Jon Tennant and Stuart Lawson, filed an investigation with the British Competition and Market Authority against Elsevier for abusing his market power.

No agreement was reached with Elsevier by October 16, 2017, so that more than 200 German universities and scientific colleges let their subscription contracts with Elsevier expire and did not renew them. The negotiations were interrupted in mid-2018 as Elsevier's demands are considered unacceptable by the German Rectors' Conference.

On June 15, 2020, Golem announced that the famous MIT is also letting its contract with Elsevier expire, as the publisher continues to reject the "Open Access model". MIT's decision could have far-reaching consequences for the USA as a research location, as the MIT Framework is supported by more than 100 research institutes and universities. It is to be expected that they will now follow the MIT model and will not renew their contracts with Elsevier either, unless the publisher changes its position.

Copyright transfer

Another point of criticism of Elsevier and other science publishers is that they require the authors to transfer all copyrights to the submitted work. Among other things, the scientist loses the right to offer the published article in digital form for download on the Internet. This refers to Anglo-Saxon copyright ; In copyright law , as it applies in the German-speaking area, only rights of use can be transferred.

In 2004 Elsevier reacted to this with the assurance that authors may use their work, subject to conditions, in the published, citable form on their own homepages and those of their institutes. However, setting up Open Access archives such as the ArXiv or PubMed Central is still prohibited.

Publication of marketing material

In May 2009 it was announced that Elsevier's Australian subsidiary had published six medical marketing journals on behalf of pharmaceutical companies between 2003 and 2005, which looked like trade journals and were not labeled as commissioned work. The company headquarters regretted this and spoke of a breakdown.

Error in the publication process

The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology from Elsevier Verlag was involved in the Séralini affair in 2012/2013. There is also criticism of the publisher's review process, as a study published eight years earlier with the contrary result but the same study conditions was not withdrawn. The reason given is an inadequate study design, which is consequently also inadequate in the study published first.



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Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ In 1955 he had to resign due to differences over the expansion of Elsevier in the USA
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