Elsevier is taking down papers from Academia.edu

Yet another example of an academic publisher (Elsevier) acting in a manner clearly detrimental to research.

Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week

Lots of researchers post PDFs of their own papers on their own web-sites. It’s always been so, because even though technically it’s in breach of the copyright transfer agreements that we blithely sign, everyone knows it’s right and proper. Preventing people from making their own work available would be insane, and the publisher that did it would be committing a PR gaffe of huge proportions.

Enter Elsevier, stage left. Bioinformatician Guy Leonard is just one of several people to have mentioned on Twitter this morning that Academia.edu took down their papers in response to a notice from Elsevier. Here’s a screengrab of the notification:

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And here is the text (largely so search-engines can index it):

Hi Guy

Unfortunately, we had to remove your paper, Resolving the question of trypanosome monophyly: a comparative genomics approach using whole genome data sets with low taxon sampling, due to a take-down notice from…

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2 Responses to “Elsevier is taking down papers from Academia.edu”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    Will they try it with arXiv? Can anybody find out how arXiv would respond?

  2. “technically it’s in breach of the copyright transfer agreements that we blithely sign”

    Up to a point, Lord Copper.

    Most journals require one to transfer copyright to the publisher (or, in the case of Astronomy and Astrophysics, to ESO) but many allow the author to retain the right to distribute the paper on his own and/or an institutional and/or a public (e.g. arXiv) website. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, in contrast, leaves copyright with the author, but requires that an exclusive license be given to the publisher to publish the paper commercially. However, in this case as well, the author retains the right to distribute the paper on his own and/or an institutional and/or a public (e.g. arXiv) website. In the case of MNRAS, the agreement explicitly recommends posting the paper to arXiv.

    So, whatever the evils of commercial publishing, not all commercial publishers are equally evil.

    There might be publishers whose agreements forbid any or all of the above distribution channels, but I have never published with one.

    In response to Anton’s question, if such an agreement has been signed, then of course arXiv would have to comply.

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