Holy cow is right. In response to a threatened 400 percent increase in institutional subscription fees for 2011, the University of California system is threatening to boycott Nature and its sister journals [PDF].
… unless NPG [Nature Publishing Group] is willing to maintain our current licensing agreement, UC Faculty would ask the UC Libraries to suspend their online subscriptions entirely, and all UC Faculty would be strongly encouraged to:
- Decline to peer review manuscripts for journals from the Nature Publishing Group.
- Resign from Nature Publishing Group editorial and advisory boards.
- Cease to submit papers to the Nature Publishing Group.
- Refrain from advertising any open or new UC positions in Nature Publishing Group journals.
- Talk widely about Nature Publishing Group pricing tactics and business strategies with colleagues outside UC, and encourage sympathy actions such as those listed above.
UC scientists will still get Nature articles—but now via e-mail from colleagues with personal subscriptions or access through non-UC libraries—and NPG will make nothing on those transactions. Refusal of peer review services—free labor provided to journals as a sort of scientific civil duty—also seems like it could reasonably inconvenience NPG. The full text of the memo mentions a similar successful boycott of Elsevier and Cell Press back in 2003, so clearly withdrawing the collective scholarly involvement of the UC scientific community can make a journal publisher take notice.