Elsevier and Article Sharing

Image of chains and a padlock.

Is Elsevier loosening or tightening the chains on their authors?

Any author who publishes in an Elsevier journal and has used the Sherpa Romeo database to check their sharing rights (vital now for the new HEFCE REF open access policy) may have observed that the advice there can be clear as mud due to the complexity of Elsevier’s policies. It may therefore have been a relief when Elsevier announced a new article sharing policy on 30 April 2015:
They presented this as follows:
“The deeply rooted culture of sharing in the research community is one of the driving forces behind scientific advancement. At Elsevier, we’re working with the research community to make sharing simple and seamless while being consistent with access and usage rights associated with journal articles”
So what does the policy cover?
“We make it clear that authors may share their research at each stage of the publication process: before submission, from acceptance, upon publication, and after embargo. We differentiate policies for private sharing from those for public sharing. We’ve also made it easier for institutions to implement green open access policies via institutional repositories by eliminating the need for them to have a formal agreement. Recognizing that many researchers are choosing to share on commercial platforms such as social collaboration networks, we have added hosting policies to support sharing on these platforms too.”
Each type of document (pre-print, accepted version, published version) has a clear set of rights for sharing – generous for the pre-print, not so good for the other versions unless you have paid for Gold open access.
Another interesting point is that:
“In the coming months, we will take steps to ensure that from the point of acceptance all manuscripts and articles are tagged with this information, including a non-commercial Creative Commons user license (CC BY NC ND) on all accepted manuscripts”
This licence permits sharing with attribution on non-commercial sites and is the most restrictive of the licence types. The HEFCE REF policy does not include any licensing requirements – these have been a feature of other funder policies – so this will not affect any REF elibility.
Regarding the green open access deposit in an institutional repository required for the REF open access policy you need to look beyond the “After Acceptance” section of the new policy (the REF policy requires the Author Accepted manuscript) which makes no mention of being able to share it on a repository. However, in the section “Our services to help repositories and other hosting platforms” they state they will be embedding key information (embargo date, in particular) in the PDF of the accepted manuscript. There is no link or mention of how to discover the relevant embargo period – Elsevier have had conflicting lists available on the web for different circumstances and this information is hard to discover (no links on their Green Open Access page, for example). Any claims that the new policy is a clarification are slightly dented by this!
Since the policy was announced, there have been detractors – in his latest reaction to Elsevier’s statements, Stevan Harnad accuse them of “empty jargon and double talk”, for example. The Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) issued a statement on 20 May (“Global coalition of organizations denounce the policy and urge Elsevier to revise it“):
“Despite the claim by Elsevier that the policy advances sharing, it actually does the opposite. The policy imposes unacceptably long embargo periods of up to 48 months for some journals. It also requires authors to apply 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.
Elsevier have responded to this in the comments.
For Swansea authors, the advice is as follows:
  1. Familiarize yourself with the new sharing policy and take advantage of any opportunities to promote your work.
  2. Expect the accepted manuscript soon to feature a CC-BY-NC-ND licence and have sharing-related data embedded in the PDF.
  3. Use Sherpa Romeo to discover the embargo period that may be required for green open access deposit in RIS / Cronfa and contact us if this is not clear (iss-research@Swansea.ac.uk). The Elsevier list we use for the HEFCE REF policy is here.
  4. Check embargo periods before publishing in an Elsevier journal (if you do not have funds to pay for Gold open access) – the HEFCE REF policy sets a limit on the maximum embargo allowed in order to be eligible for the next REF. The relevant Elsevier document is online here. Again, contact us if you are unsure.
  5. We also have a Swansea University Scholar’s Addendum which you can use to assert your rights with a publisher. This would amend their publishing agreement in favour of self-archiving (as per Swansea University’s Open Access Policy).

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