Elsevier rebuffs COAR/SPARC criticism of sharing and hosting policy

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Elsevier has rejected criticism of its new sharing and hosting policy, following a negative analysis by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) and the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR).

Organisations from around the world have denounced Elsevier’s new policy, which was launched in April, saying that it 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'.

'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,' said Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC and Kathleen Shearer, executive director of COAR, in a joint statement. 'Elsevier claims that the policy advances sharing but in fact, it does the opposite. We strongly urge Elsevier to revise it.'

They say the new stance marks a significant departure from Elsevier’s initial policy, established in 2004, which allowed authors to self-archive their final accepted manuscripts of peer-reviewed articles in institutional repositories without delay. According to the analysis, while the stated purpose of the new revision is, in part, to roll back an ill-conceived 2012 amendment prohibiting authors at institutions that have adopted campus-wide open-access policies from immediate self archiving, the net result of the new policy is that Elsevier has placed greater restrictions on sharing articles.

However, Elsevier has rebuffed the comments, posting the following statement on the COAR website comment section:

'We have received neutral-to-positive responses from research institutions and the wider research community. We are therefore a little surprised that COAR has formed such a negative view, and chosen not to feedback their concerns directly to us.  We would like to correct the misperceptions.

'Our sharing policy is more liberal in supporting the dissemination and use of research:

  • 'At each stage of the publication process authors can share their research: before submission, from acceptance, upon publication, and post publication.
  • 'In institutional repositories, which no longer require a formal agreement to host full text content
  • 'Authors can also share on commercial platforms such as social collaboration networks
    We provide new services to authors such as the share link which enables authors to post and share a customised link
  • 'For authors who want free immediate access to their articles, we continue to give all authors a choice to publish gold open access with a wide number of open access journals and over 1600 hybrid titles

'Unlike the claims in this COAR document, 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. They introduce absolutely no changes in our embargo periods.  And they are not intended to suddenly embargo and make inaccessible content currently available to readers – as we have already communicated in Elsevier Connect.'

Some 23 groups put their names to the COAR/SPARC statement, and the COAR website was this morning still calling for more signatories in addition to the following:

  • COAR: Confederation of Open Access Repositories
  • SPARC: Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition
  • ACRL: Association of College and Research Libraries
  • ALA: American Library Association
  • ARL: Association of Research Libraries
  • Association of Southeastern Research Libraries
  • Australian Open Access Support Group
  • IBICT: Brazilian Institute of Information in Science and Technology
  • CARL: Canadian Association of Research Libraries
  • CLACSO: Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales
  • COAPI: Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions
  • Creative Commons
  • Creative Commons (USA)
  • EIFL
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Greater Western Library Alliance
  • LIBER: European Research Library Association
  • National Science Library, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • OpenAIRE
  • Open Data Hong Kong
  • Research Libraries UK
  • SANLiC: South African National Licensing Consortium
  • University of St Andrews Library

The Elsevier rebuttal concludes:

'We have been developing services, in partnership with libraries, to help institutional repositories track research output and display content to their users. This includes:

  • 'Sharing metadata: In order to showcase an institutions’ work, an institutional repository must identify their institution’s research output. By integrating the ScienceDirect metadata API into the repository, this task becomes simple. Even in cases where the repository doesn’t hold the full text manuscript, the article information and abstract can be displayed..
  • 'Sharing user access information and embedding final articles: We are testing a workflow in which a user’s access level to the full text is checked on the fly, and if full text access is available, the user will be served the final published version, instead of the preprint or manuscript hosted by the repository. Users who are not entitled to view the full text of the final article will be led to the version available in the repository, or- if this is not available- to a page where they can view the first page of the article and options for accessing it (including via interlibrary loan). This ensures that users will always be served the best available version. This also enables the repository to display the best available version to their users even if no self-archived manuscript is available.

'We have not only updated our policies, we are active in developing and delivering technology that enables research to be shared more widely.

'COAR states that the addition of a CC-BY-NC-ND license is unhelpful.  Feedback suggests that clarity about how manuscripts can be used is welcome, when asked in surveys often choose NC ND of their own volition (see the T&F study from 2014 at http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/explore/open-access-survey-june2014.pdf ), and it works across a broad range of use cases.

'Our refreshed policies are about green OA, and some elements of this – for example the use of embargo periods – are specifically for green OA when it is operating in tandem with the subscription business model.  Here time is needed for the subscription model to operate as libraries will understandably not subscribe if this material is available immediately and for free.

'In closing, we appreciate an open dialogue and are always happy to have a dialogue to discuss these, or any other, issues further.