November 16, 2017

Sharing Policy Draws Criticism; Elsevier Responds

436px-Elsevier.svgOn April 30 the academic publishing company Elsevier announced that it would be updating its article sharing policies. In a post on its website titled Unleashing the power of academic sharing, Elsevier’s director of access and policy Alicia Wise outlined a framework of new sharing and hosting policies, which include guidelines for sharing academic articles at every stage of their existence, from preprint to post-publication, and protocol for both non-commercial—that is, repository—and commercial hosting platforms.

“This is our first major refresh since [2004],” Wise told LJ. “What we needed to do was to build in greater clarity about how authors could share open access content,” as well as provisions for sharing articles on commercial platforms such as ResearchGate, Academia.edu, and Mendeley (which is owned by Elsevier).

The Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) responded on May 20 with a statement against Elsevier’s sharing policy, which at press time had been signed by more than 2,000 organizations and individuals worldwide, including the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the American Library Association (ALA), and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL). It read, in part: “This policy represents a significant obstacle to the dissemination and use of research knowledge, and creates unnecessary barriers for Elsevier published authors in complying with funders’ open access policies.”

The statement, which urged Elsevier to reconsider its policy, received a number of comments, including several from Wise, who maintained that the new sharing policies were “more liberal in supporting the dissemination and use of research.”

COAR CONCERNS

One concern noted by COAR was Elsevier’s imposition of article embargo periods of at least 12 months, and up to 48 months for some journals. This is a rollback from both Elsevier’s original 2004 policy, which did not specify embargo requirements, and its 2012 policy change, which required embargos only when authors were subject to OA mandates. Changes were made in part, said Wise, because the 2004 policy was “too complex and restrictive.”

The new policy will allow all institutional repositories to immediately ingest manuscripts that have been accepted for publication, she explained; manuscripts that have been published in an academic journal will be subject to embargo restrictions. However, SPARC executive director Heather Joseph pointed out, “The initial practice of Elsevier [in 2004] was to allow not only immediate deposit of authors’ manuscripts and repositories, but immediate accessibility. We’d like them to go back to that.”

In addition, embargo requirements of longer than 12 months may come into conflict with a number of recent government and funding agency mandates. Legislation such as the National Institute of Health Public Access Policy, California’s Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act, and Canada’s Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications stipulate that the results of federally funded research be made publicly available within 12 months of publication. Joseph also noted that in Canada and Europe, six months is the standard maximum embargo period for articles in the biomedical sciences.

“We require embargo periods because for subscription articles, an appropriate amount of time is needed for journals to deliver value to subscribing customers before the manuscript becomes available for free,” Wise stated in a comment on COAR’s site. “Libraries understandably will not subscribe if the content is immediately available for free. Our sharing policy now reflects that reality.”

But Elsevier plans to take a closer look at how its policies may conflict with federal mandates, Wise told LJ. “We are aware that our embargoes were last refreshed in 2013, and we haven’t yet reviewed them in light of the various new open access policies that have come out…. We will be reviewing the embargo list later this year.”

The COAR statement also points out that Elsevier will now require authors to apply a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license—“non-commercial and no derivative works”— for articles deposited into repositories, which would limit their reuse value, as derivative and commercial use are both important aspects of scholarly research. According to COAR, “This type of license severely limits the re-use potential of publicly funded research. ND restricts the use of derivatives, yet derivative use is fundamental to the way in which scholarly research builds on previous findings.”

Elsevier has already made one major change to its policy. An early version used wording that implied the policy would be retroactive as well as proscriptive, applying to “all articles previously published and those published in the future.” COAR objected, noting that “This may also lead to articles that are currently available being suddenly embargoed and inaccessible to readers.” Elsevier has since revised its webpage, and Wise stated in the comments section that “We never intended that institutional repositories and other non-commercial repositories take retrospective action, but based on helpful conversations in the last few days it is clear that we need to make this much more clear and that we will not enforce compliance for older content on these sites.”

RECOMMENDATIONS

COAR followed up its statement with a subsequent posting on May 28, offering a series of specific recommendations for Elsevier from COAR and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). The recommendations are as follows:

  1. Elsevier should allow all authors to make their “author’s accepted manuscript” openly available immediately upon acceptance through an OA repository or other open access platform.
  2. Elsevier should allow authors to choose the type of open license (whether CC-BY or more restrictive licenses like the CC-BY-NC-ND) they want to attach to the content that they are depositing into an open access platform.
  3. Elsevier should not attempt to dictate authors’ practices around individual sharing of articles. Individual sharing of journal articles is already a scholarly norm and is protected by fair use and other copyright exceptions. Elsevier cannot, and should not, dictate practices around individual sharing of articles.

However, it is not only the details of Elsevier’s policy that have mobilized advocacy groups such as COAR and SPARC. “There is a larger and extremely important issue at stake,” COAR executive director Kathleen Shearer said, “and that is control of the scholarly communication system…. [I]t really should be the scholarly community that defines the values and practices around sharing, and up to Elsevier to develop its business model around that—not the opposite, whereby the scholarly community must abide by publishers’ restrictive conditions in order to protect their revenues.”

Joseph added, “For us, the embargo period and the licensing issues are elements of the policy that are visible problems. But the revision of the policy itself was a troublesome move to our community…. The investment that we’ve made in repositories over the last decade is an important way for us to ensure that the academic community is asserting control over its own [intellectual property]. We’re producing these articles, we’re surfacing these ideas, and we’d like to have a say in how and when we share them with people.”

She also noted that such restrictions “[have] an effect when there’s confusion introduced about how and when an individual can utilize the campus digital repository…. [I]t sows those seeds of uncertainty and concern, and that undermines people’s willingness to continue to use the repositories. If they’re unsure if they’re ‘allowed’ to do it because of a publisher policy, then it’s problematic.”

“THERE’S GOING TO BE SOME SHOUTING”

Despite their differences, both Elsevier and the OA advocates agree that the new policies have prompted a valuable public conversation. Wise told LJ, “My sense is that it’s that kind of dialog and close engagement that’s going to move us all forward on the open access front further and faster. There are a lot of complex changes going on here, and all stakeholders need to make changes to make open access scale, and to work for the long term…. We’re listening and we do want to engage with the community.”

“There’s always a danger when you go the route of an open statement like this that there’s going to be some shouting,” Joseph said. “And you know, that’s one way to make sure people see it initially. I’m not going to say it’s a perfect way to dialog, but we do find that at times it’s important to turn up the spotlight on a particular effort like this. It’s a publisher policy that’s very nuanced, and you wouldn’t necessarily see it if you weren’t in the trenches.”

What is important, Joseph told LJ, is that faculty and researchers know they have options, and that all sides acknowledge the changing scholarly publishing landscape. As Shearer noted, “Maybe it is time to ask ourselves whether the legacy system we have inherited from the print environment is optimally serving us in a networked world.”

Lisa Peet About Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Associate Editor, News for Library Journal.

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Comments

  1. We need to update our federal laws so that these embargo decisions are not left up to the publishers alone. Libraries are at a disadvantage in our negotiations with publishers, because we are, in a sense, a captive buyer. In other words, we cannot simply decide to drop Elsevier’s journals because we disagree with their policies. This gives publishers the upper hand, and they know it. While I am in favor of publishers being remunerated enough for their efforts to continue performing their role in the scholarly communication ecosystem, lobbyists should also make the case in Washington that, this scholarly publishing marketplace not being a truly “free’ market any more than the health care market is, we need to have some common-sense federal laws about how it should work. It’s the only way Green OA will ever truly succeed at transforming the system in a way that leverages the benefits of Internet publishing.

  2. KEEP THE REQUESTS REASONABLE AND REASON WILL PREVAIL

    I beg the OA community to remain reasonable and realistic.

    Please don’t demand that Elsevier agree to immediate CC-BY. If Elsevier did that, I could immediately start up a rival free-riding publishing operation and sell all Elsevier articles immediately at cut rate, for any purpose at all that I could get people to pay for. Elsevier could no longer make a penny from selling the content it invested in.

    CC-BY-NC-ND is enough for now. It allows immediate harvesting for data-mining.

    The OA movement must stop shooting itself in the foot by over-reaching, insisting on having it all, immediately, thus instead ending up with next to nothing, as in the past.

    As I have pointed out elsewhere (see links at the end of this posting), the fact that Elsevier requires all authors to adopt the CC-BY-NC-ND license is a positive step. Please don’t force them to back-pedal!

    Please read the terms, and reflect:

    Accepted Manuscript
    http://www.elsevier.com/about/company-information/policies/sharing#acceptedmanuscript

    Authors can share their accepted manuscript:

    Immediately:

    ◦ via their non-commercial personal homepage or blog.
    ◦ by updating a preprint in arXiv or RePEc with the accepted manuscript.
    ◦ via their research institute or institutional repository for internal institutional uses or as part of an invitation-only research collaboration work-group.
    ◦ directly by providing copies to their students or to research collaborators for their personal use.
    ◦ for private scholarly sharing as part of an invitation-only work group on commercial sites with which Elsevier has an agreement.

    After the embargo period:

    ◦ via non-commercial hosting platforms such as their institutional repository.
    ◦ via commercial sites with which Elsevier has an agreement.

    In all cases accepted manuscripts should:

    ◦ Link to the formal publication via its DOI.
    ◦ Bear a CC-BY-NC-ND license – this is easy to do, click here to find out how.
    ◦ If aggregated with other manuscripts, for example in a repository or other site, be shared in alignment with our hosting policy.
    ◦ Not be added to or enhanced in any way to appear more like, or to substitute for, the published journal article.

    How to attach a user license
    http://www.elsevier.com/about/company-information/policies/sharing/how-to-attach-a-user-licensee

    Elsevier requires authors posting their accepted manuscript to attach a non-commercial Creative Commons user license (CC-BY-NC-ND). This is easy to do. On your accepted manuscript add the following to the title page, copyright information page, or header /footer: © YEAR, NAME. Licensed under the Creative Commons [insert license details and URL].

    For example: © 2015, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

    You can also include the license badges available from the Creative Commons website to provide visual recognition. If you are hosting your manuscript as a webpage you will also find the correct HTML code to add to your page

    —————————-

    “Elsevier updates its article-sharing policies, perspectives and services.
    http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/1150-.html

    “Why Doesn’t Elsevier State the Truth, Openly?”
    http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/1151-.html

    “Elsevier: Trying to squeeze the virtual genie back into the physical bottle”
    http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/1152-.html

    “Anticipation and Antidotes for Publisher Back-Pedalling on Green OA”
    http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/1153-.html