Earlier today, SPARC joined with our colleagues from the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) and 22 other international organizations to raise serious objections to the latest revisions to Elsevier’s article sharing policy. The revisions mark 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.
While the stated purpose of the new revision is, at least 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 this new policy is greater restrictions on sharing articles.
Rather than reverting back to its original policy of allowing immediate self- archiving, the new policy imposes unacceptably long embargo periods of up to 48 months for some journals. It also requires authors to apply the most restrictive CC license — a “non-commercial and no derivative works” license — for each article deposited into a repository, greatly inhibiting the re-use value of these articles. Any delay in the open availability of research articles curtails scientific progress and places unnecessary constraints on delivering the benefits of research back to the public.
Additionally, the policy appears to apply to content retrospectively, noting that “all articles previously published and those published in the future” are subject to these new restrictions, making it even more punitive for both authors and institutions. This may also lead to articles that are currently available being suddenly embargoed and inaccessible to readers.
This policy represents a giant step backwards in the collective progress that has been made towards the open sharing of critical research articles. As an organization committed to the principle that access to information advances discovery, accelerates innovation and improves education, SPARC has long supported the adoption of policies and practices that enable the immediate, barrier-free access to and reuse of scholarly articles. Elsevier’s new policy is in direct conflict with the global trend towards Open Access and serves only to dilute the benefits of openly sharing research results.
Along with our colleagues around the globe who have signed onto this statement, we strongly urge Elsevier to reconsider these latest revisions, and return to their original policy, which supported repositories as a crucial, cost-effective mechanism to provide the community access to scholarly and scientific articles.