Elsevier sharing policy criticised over its open access credentials

But publisher says changes to policy are ‘evidence-based’ and adhere to standard principles on sharing work

May 22, 2015

A major publisher’s new sharing policy creates “unnecessary barriers” to open access, according to an analysis.

Elsevier updated its article sharing and hosting policies in April to broaden the ways that researchers can share their work.

But the Confederation of Open Access Repositories has denounced the changes and urged Elsevier to revise them.

More than 32 organisations and 100 individuals have signed a petition after an analysis by COAR and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition concluded that the policy posed 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”.

Among the signatories of the petition are Research Libraries UK and the University of St Andrews Library.

The changes still allow researchers to share their work when it is at each stage of the publication process, for example the preprint, accepted manuscript and final publication stage. But Elsevier has now added specific guidelines about how papers can be shared at each stage of the process. Institutional repositories, for example, no longer require a formal agreement to host full text content, and authors can share papers on social collaboration networks.

However, the petition claims that the policy also imposes “unacceptably long embargo periods of up to 48 months” before some journals’ articles can be placed in open access repositories.

It adds that the changes also require authors to apply a “non-commercial and no derivative works” licence to articles put into open access repositories, which they claim inhibits their reuse value.

Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC, and Kathleen Shearer, executive director of COAR, said in a joint statement: “Elsevier’s policy is in direct conflict with the global trend towards open access and serves only to dilute the benefits of openly sharing research results.”

“We strongly urge Elsevier to revise it,” they added.

Alicia Wise, director of access and policy for Elsevier, said in a statement that the changes “introduce absolutely no changes to our embargo periods” and are “not intended to suddenly embargo and make inaccessible content currently available to readers”.

She added that Elsevier was “a little surprised” by COAR’s “negative view” because it had received “neutral-to-positive responses from research institutions and the wider research community”.

“Unlike the claims in this COAR statement, the policy changes are based on feedback from our authors and institutional partners, they are evidence-based, and they are in alignment with the STM article sharing principles,” she said.

The STM article sharing principles are set of voluntary principles for article sharing on scholarly collaboration networks.


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Reader's comments (1)

ELSEVIER DOUBLE-TALK Alicia Wise (Elsevier) wrote: http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/1150-Elsevier-updates-its-article-sharing-policies,-perspectives-and-services.html#c32218 "Hi Stevan, We continue to permit immediate self-archiving in an author’s institutional repository. This is now true for all institutional repositories, not only those with which we have agreements or those that do not have mandates. You are correct that under our old policy, authors could post anywhere without an embargo if their institution didn’t have a mandate. Our new policy is designed to be consistent and fair for everybody, and we believe it now reflects how the institutional repository landscape has evolved in the last 10+ years. 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. Libraries understandably will not subscribe if the content is immediately available for free. Our sharing policy now reflects that reality." My reply: Unless I am misunderstanding something, your response seems to be a play on words (double-talk). You say Elsevier permits "immediate self-archiving in... all institutional repositories, not only those with which we have agreements or those that do not have mandates." But "self-archiving" means (and always has meant) Open Access self-archiving. Otherwise it would merely mean "depositing," for which no one needs (or has ever needed) Elsevier's permission. Embargoed depositing is not OA self-archiving (and never was). So what is new is not the (unneeded) permission from Elsevier to deposit, but the very new and regressive embargo on making the deposit immediately OA -- in other words, an embargo on the immediate self-archiving that Elsevier had been officially permitting since 2004. It is shameful to try to justify this flagrant back-pedalling as being done "to be consistent and fair for everybody". It was clearly done solely to sustain subscriptions at all costs (to research access, usage and progress). And Elsever should at least admit that, openly (sic).