Textmining: NaCTeM and Elsevier team up; I am worried

A bit over two weeks ago the following appeared on DCC-associates: http://www.mail-archive.com/dcc-associates@lists.ed.ac.uk/msg00618.html

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 09:16:34 -0800

This press release may be of interest to list members. 


University enters collaboration to develop text mining applications

07 Nov 2011




The University of Manchester has joined forces with Elsevier, a leading 

provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and 

services, to develop new applications for text mining, a crucial research tool.


The primary goal of text mining is to extract new information such as named 

entities, relations hidden in text and to enable scientists to systematically 

and efficiently discover, collect, interpret and curate knowledge required for 



The collaborative team will develop applications for SciVerse Applications, 

which provides opportunities for researchers to collaborate with developers in 

creating and promoting new applications that improve research workflows.


The University's National Centre for Text Mining (NaCTeM), the first 

publicly-funded text mining centre in the world, will work with Elsevier's 

Application Marketplace and Developer Network team on the project. 


Text mining extracts semantic metadata such as terms, relationships and events, 

which enable more pertinent search. NaCTeM provides a number of text mining 

services, tools and resources for leading corporations and government agencies 

that enhance search and discovery.


Sophia Ananiadou, Professor in the University's School of Computer Science and 

Director of the National Centre for Text Mining, said: "Text mining supports 

new knowledge discovery and hypothesis generation. 


"Elsevier's SciVerse platform will enable access to sophisticated text mining 

techniques and content that can deliver more pertinent, focused search results."


"NaCTeM has developed a number of innovative, semantic-based and time-saving 

text mining tools for various organizations," said Rafael Sidi, Vice President 

Product Management, Applications Marketplace and Developer Network, Elsevier. 


"We are excited to work with the NaCTeM team to bring this expertise to the 

research community."


Now I have worked with NaCTeM, and actually held a JISC grant (ChETA) in which NaCTeM were collaborators and which resulted in both useful work, published articles and Open Source software. The immediate response to the news was from Simon Fenton-Jones

Let me see if I got this right.

"Elsevier, a leading provider of scientific, technical and medical

information products and services", at a cost which increases much faster

than inflation, to libraries who can't organize their researchers to back up

a copy of their journal articles so they can be aggregated, is to have their

platform, Sciverse, made more attractive, by the public purse by a simple

text mining tool which they could build on a shoestring. 


Sciverse Applications, in return, will take advantage of this public

largesse to charge more for the journals which should/could have been

compiled by public digital curators in the first instance. 


Hmmm. So this is progress.


Hey. It's not my money!  


[PMR: I think it’s “not his money” because he writes from Australia, but he will still suffer]

PMR: I agree with this analysis. I posted an initial response (http://www.mail-archive.com/dcc-associates@lists.ed.ac.uk/msg00621.html )


No – it’s worse. I have been expressly and consistently asking Elsevier for

permission to text-mine factual data form their (sorry OUR) papers. They

have prevaricated and fudged and the current situation is:

“you can sign a text-mining licence which forbids you to publish any

results and handsover all results to Elsevier”


I shall not let this drop – I am very happy to collect allies. Basically I

am forbidden to deploy my text-mining tools on Elsevier content.




I shall elaborate on this. I was about to write more, because I completely agree about the use of public money and the lack of benefit to the community. However I have been making enquiries and it appears that public funding for NaCTeM is being run down – effectively they are becoming a “normal” department of the university – with less (or no) “national” role.

However the implications of this deal are deeply worrying – because it further impoverishes our rights in the public arena and I will explain further later. I’d like to know exactly what NaCTeM and the University of Manchester are giving to Elsevier and what they are getting out of it.

This post will give them a public chance – in the comments section, please – to make their position clear.