See green, not red

June 11, 2015

It seems as though Stevan Harnad and Michael Eisen are confused about what Elsevier’s new open access policy actually does (“Elsevier’s OA edict exposes friction between green and gold advocates”, News, 4 June). I have a different perspective as, at Mendeley, I was involved in the policy’s development and helped to make it more friendly for sharing platforms. I have no problem putting some blame on Elsevier for not clearly communicating what the policy is, but I also think that arguments may keep those who stand to benefit – institutional repository managers, researchers and sharing platforms such as Mendeley – from being able to take advantage.

All the heated exchanges and emotion obscure the fact that sharing research is much more permissive under the new policy. Whatever your feelings about Elsevier, if you take an objective and informed look at the policy, it’s better in a number of ways.

Private sharing on social platforms is now explicitly allowed. Everyone was doing it before, but now Elsevier is officially in support, clearing the way for institutional adoption of new research tools and services.

Repositories can now systematically ingest Elsevier content without an agreement in place. This dismantles the very odd bit of the prior policy that allowed this only if your institution did not have a policy encouraging it.

There are no requests for retroactive removal. The embargo applies uniformly to everyone, but you can immediately and publicly post everything that you could before. There’s a new category of author manuscript, one that comes with Elsevier-supplied metadata, that specifies the licence and the embargo expiration date. The version that the author sent to the journal, even after peer review, can be posted publicly and immediately, which was not always the case before. Having these tags will make a repository manager’s job easier because the software itself will publish the Elsevier-branded accepted version after the embargo is lifted.

That is why, even for an open access advocate like me, the new policy is a step forward for open access, and when the rams stop locking horns and the dust clears, the whole herd will realise that the pasture is indeed greener.

William Gunn

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