Elsevier updates its article-sharing policies, perspectives and services

On May 1, 2015, at 7:30 AM, Wise, Alicia (ELS-OXF) wrote:

“Dear Stevan ?

“Elsevier supports the need for researchers to share their research and collaborate effectively. In light of the recent STM consultation on the principles for article sharing, I wanted to reach out to you directly to let you know about some changes we are making which will enable Elsevier published content to be shared more widely. To underpin these efforts we have updated our approach ? informed by very constructive input from institutions, authors and funders we work with – and are now launching new guidelines. I invite you to read our article hosting and article sharing guidelines on Elsevier.com.

“We have published an article on Elsevier Connect, our online communication platform to explain some further details behind the changes and the new technologies and exciting pilots we are deploying to facilitate sharing. As always, we welcome comments or suggestions, and are happy to discuss any questions or concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact me.”

with very kind wishes,


Key highlights:

“We continue to support sharing of preprints, accepted manuscripts, and final publications and provide simple guidelines for authors about how they can share at each stage of their workflow.

“We are providing a range of options for researchers to share their work publicly, including a new Share Links service which provides 50 days free access to the final article on ScienceDirect.

“We are making it clear that we want to work with hosting platforms, such as institutional repositories, to make sharing easy and seamless for researchers. We will no longer require an agreement with institutional repositories and instead clarify that self-archived accepted manuscripts can be used under a CC-BY-NC-ND license and that they can be hosted and shared privately during the embargo and publically shared after embargo.

“We are also providing a wider range of ways for researchers to share their work privately during the journal?s embargo period, such as in private workgroups on sites such as Mendeley and MyScienceWork.”

Dr Alicia Wise
Director of Access and Policy
Elsevier I The Boulevard I Langford Lane I Kidlington I Oxford I OX5 1GB
M: +44 (0) 7823 536 826 I E: a.wise@elsevier.com
Twitter: @wisealic

Dear Alicia,

I’ve looked over the latest Elsevier revision of its policy on author OA self-archiving, as requested.

The essential points of the latest policy revision are two:

I. Elsevier still endorses both immediate-deposit and immediate-OA, for the pre-refereeing preprint, anywhere (author’s institutional home page, author’s institutional repository, Arxiv, etc.).

II. Elsevier still endorses immediate-deposit and immediate-OA for the refereed postprint on the author’s home page or in Arxiv, but not immediate-OA in the author’s institutional repository, where OA is embargoed.
(1) Elsevier should state quite explicitly that its latest revision of its policy on author OA self-archiving has taken a very specific step backward from the policy first adopted in 2004:

An author may post his version of the final paper on his personal web site
and on his institution’s web site (including its institutional respository).
Each posting should include the article’s citation and a link to the
journal’s home page (or the article’s DOI). The author does not need our
permission to do this, but any other posting (e.g. to a repository
elsewhere) would require our permission. By “his version” we are referring
to his Word or Tex file, not a PDF or HTML downloaded from ScienceDirect –
but the author can update his version to reflect changes made during the
refereeing and editing process. Elsevier will continue to be the single,
definitive archive for the formal published version.

Elsevier has withdrawn its endorsement of immediate-OA in the author’s institutional repository. It’s best not to try to conceal this in language that makes it sound as if Elsevier is taking positive steps in response to the demand for OA.

(2) The distinction between the author’s institutional home page and the author’s institutional repository is completely arbitrary and empty. Almost no one consults either a home page or a repository directly. The deposits and links are simply harvested by Google and Google Scholar (and other harvesters), and that’s where users search and retrieve them.

[Hence the worries of Elsevier’s market analysts and legal beagles about “systematic aggregation” (now revised to just “aggregation”) by mandatory institutional repositories are completely misplaced! The aggregation occurs at the level of the harvester (Google, etc.), not at the level of the source (the institution — whether home page or repository). Besides, all an institution need do to oblige and become compliant with Elsevier’s empty distinction is to designate the institutional disk sector containing the author’s publications in the “repository” to be part of the author’s “home page.” — Here’s a clue for the technologically phase-lagged: Aggregation in cyberspace is no longer a matter of physical locus but of metadata tagging. This moots all of Elsevier’s pseudo-distinctions for all practical as well as legal purposes.]

(3) If an author (foolishly) decides to comply with an Elsevier OA embargo, there is the automated copy-request Button, with which the author can provide a copy almost-immediately, with one click from the requestor and one click from the author. (Elsevier’s reputation is not enhanced by the fact that many users and authors will now have to do two extra clicks to get a copy, because Elsevier was not happy to let them do it with one click.)

My advice is accordingly to go back to the original 2004 policy. You had it right the first time. The rest has only muddied Elsevier’s reputation.

With best wishes,


On Fri, May 1, 2015 at 11:21 AM, Wise, Alicia (ELS-OXF) wrote:

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.”

Hi again Alicia,

I am afraid you missed what I was pointing out:

The 2004 Elsevier OA self-archiving policy endorsed immediate-deposit and immediate (unembargoed) OA.

The latest policy embargoes OA in institutional repositories.

You are using “self-archiving” ambiguously. No “permission” is needed to deposit. What is at issue is when the deposit can be made OA.

Nor do institutional mandates to deposit have anything whatsoever to do with anything. What is at issue is when the deposit can be made OA.

So, as I said in my prior posting, “Elsevier should state quite explicitly that its latest revision of its policy on author OA self-archiving has taken a very specific step backward from the policy first adopted in 2004.”

“You are correct that under our old policy, authors could post anywhere without an embargo if their institution didn?t have a mandate.”

No, Elsevier’s original 2004 policy (see below) made no mention of mandates whatsoever (although there were a number of institutional and funder mandates by that time).

Elsevier’s attempt to create a link between the author’s right to make the final draft OA and their institution’s OA policy was made in 2012, after the prior Elsevier policy had been in effect for 8 years.

And then, as now, I maintained that the link with institutional OA policy is absurd and meaningless, and authors should ignore it completely.

“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.”

The current Elsevier policy now removes the absurd link with institutional OA policy, which had been used as a pretext for embargoing OA. Elsevier makes it “consistent” by embargoing OA in all institutional repositories, whether or not they have an OA mandate.

In contrast, the equally absurd attempt to prevent Arxiv authors from continuing to do what they have been doing since 1991 has now been dropped, so unembargoed OA in Arxiv, previously “forbidden” (though authors have been doing it uninterruptedly for nearly a quarter century) is now offically “permitted” — in Arxiv but not in institutional repositories.

So neither consistency nor fairness is at issue — quite the opposite. This is back-pedalling from 2004 (and 2012) being disguised as consistency and fairness, to make it look like a positive rather than a negative step.

“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.”

Although there is still no objective evidence that OA self-archiving reduces subscriptions, I am quite ready to believe that once all journal articles (of all journal publishers) are accessible as immediate OA, subscriptions will become unsustainable. That outcome is inevitable — and it will happen with or without OA mandates and with or without publisher OA embargoes.

What Elsevier’s OA policies are attempting to do is to delay the inevitable for as long as possible, in order to sustain subscription revenue for as long as possible, by embargoing OA.

Fine. There is a fundamental conflict of interest here, between what is best for the publishing industry and what is best for the research community, its institutions, its funders, and the tax-paying public that funds the funders.

OA embargoes impede research. It’s as simple as that. But they also sustain subscription revenue. So publishers are simply impeding research in order to sustain subscription revenue.

It would be nice if publishers stated that honestly, in justifying their embargo policies, rather than trying to disguise it as trying to help research and the research community in any way.

The attempt to embargo OA will of course fail — although it will succeed in slowing OA progress, as it has been doing so far.

What will undermine the attempts to sustain subscription revenue at all costs will be the eventual realization by the research community that all the essential functions of peer-reviewed journal publishing can be provided at far, far lower cost to the research community than either subscription fees or (today’s) inflated Gold OA fees (which I have come to call “Fools Gold”).

And that is via “Fair-Gold” peer-review service fees, paid for out of a fraction of institutions’ windfall savings from cancelling all subscriptions.

And what will make those subscription cancellations possible is exactly what Elsevier and other publishers are trying to prevent, or at least delay as long as possible, by embargoing it, namely universal, immediate, unembargoed Green OA: precisely what the research community is trying to mandate.

Harnad, S (2014) The only way to make inflated journal subscriptions unsustainable: Mandate Green Open Access. LSE Impact of Social Sciences Blog 4/28

Harnad, S. (2010) No-Fault Peer Review Charges: The Price of Selectivity Need Not Be Access Denied or Delayed. D-Lib Magazine 16 (7/8).

Harnad, S. (2009) The PostGutenberg Open Access Journal. In: Cope, B. & Phillips, A (Eds.) The Future of the Academic Journal. Chandos.

Harnad, S. (1997) How to Fast-Forward Serials to the Inevitable and the Optimal for Scholars and Scientists. Serials Librarian 30: 73-81. (Reprinted in C. Christiansen & C. Leatham, Eds. Pioneering New Serials Frontiers: From Petroglyphs to CyberSerials. NY: Haworth Press, and in French translation as Comment Accelerer l’Ineluctable Evolution des Revues Erudites vers la Solution Optimale pour les Chercheurs et la Recherche

The outcome is inevitable, and optimal (for the research community and the public); the only part that is not predictable (because human rationality is not always predictable) is how long publishers will succeed in delaying the optimal and inevitable…

Best wishes,