In its recently released “Sharing and Hosting Policy FAQ”, Elsevier “recognize(s) that authors want to share and promote their work and increasingly need to comply with their funding body and institution’s open access policies.” However there are several aspects of their new policy that severely limit sharing and open access, in particular the lengthy embargo periods imposed in most journals- with about 90% of Elsevier journals having embargo periods of 12 months or greater. This is a significant rollback from the original 2004 Elsevier policy which required no embargos for making author’s accepted manuscripts available; and even with the 2012 policy change requiring embargoes only when authors were subject to an OA mandate.
With article processing charges (APCs) that can cost as much as $5000 US dollars for publishing in one of Elsevier’s gold open access titles or hybrid journals, this is not a viable option for many researchers around the world. Furthermore, the rationale for lengthy embargo periods is to protect Elsevier’s subscription revenue. We do not believe that scientific, economic and social progress should be hindered in order to protect commercial interests. In addition, there is currently no evidence that articles made available through OA repositories will lead to cancellations.
Elsevier’s new policy also requires that accepted manuscripts posted in open access repositories bear a CC-BY-NC-ND license. 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, for example by re-using a part of an article (with attribution) in educational material. Similarly, this license restricts commercial re-use greatly inhibiting the potential impact of the results of research.
Elsevier’s Director of Access & Policy, Alicia Wise states that they “have received neutral-to-positive responses from research institutions and the wider research community.” Yet, since the “Statement against Elsevier’s sharing policy” was published just one week ago (on Wednesday May 20, 2015), it has been signed by close to 700 organizations and individuals, demonstrating that there is significant opposition to the policy.
Elsevier has indicated that they “are always happy to have a dialogue to discuss these, or any other, issues further.” We would like to offer the following concrete recommendations to Elsevier to improve their policy:
- 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.
- Elsevier should allow authors to choose the type of open license (from CC-BY to other 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.
- Elsevier should not attempt to dictate author’s 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.
We strongly encourage Elsevier to revise their policy in order to better align with the interests of the research community. We would also be pleased to meet to discuss these recommendations with Elsevier at any time.
Kathleen Shearer, Executive Director, COAR and Heather Joseph, Executive Director, SPARC