Sinister Moves by Elsevier
I’ve been away at yet another Awayday today so only have time for a brief post before I go home and vegetate. I felt obliged, however, to draw the attention of my readership to the fact that there’s something sinister afoot in the world of academic publishing. It seems that the notoriously exploitative academic publishing company Elsevier has acquired the Social Science Research Network (SSRN), which is the leading social science and humanities repository and online community. The SSRN currently allows readers free access more than 500,000 academic papers for free but that is highly likely to change under Elsevier whose previous practice has always been to squeeze the academic community for every penny it can get. In particular, Elsevier has a reputation for cracking down on academic papers for which it owns licences, so these recent acquisitions look like very bad news.
The Chairman of SSRN is trying to present this as a positive move:
SSRN announced today that it has changed ownership. SSRN is joining Mendeley and Elsevier to coordinate our development and delivery of new products and services, and we look forward to our new access to data, products, and additional resources that this change facilitates.
Like SSRN, Mendeley and Elsevier are focused on creating tools that enhance researcher workflow and productivity. SSRN has been at the forefront of on-line sharing of working papers. We are committed to continue our innovation and this change will enable that to happen more quickly. SSRN will benefit from access to the vast new data and resources available, including Mendeley’s reference management and personal library management tools, their new researcher profile capabilities, and social networking features. Importantly, we will also have new access for SSRN members to authoritative performance measurement tools such as those powered by Scopus and Newsflo (a global media tracking tool). In addition, SSRN, Mendeley and Elsevier together can cooperatively build bridges to close the divide between the previously separate worlds and workflows of working papers and published papers.
We realize that this change may create some concerns about the intentions of a legacy publisher acquiring an open-access working paper repository. I shared this concern. But after much discussion about this matter and others in determining if Mendeley and Elsevier would be a good home for SSRN, I am convinced that they would be good stewards of our mission. And our copyright policies are not in conflict — our policy has always been to host only papers that do not infringe on copyrights. I expect we will have some conflicts as we align our interests, but I believe those will be surmountable.
Until recently I was convinced that the SSRN community was best served being a stand-alone entity. But in evaluating our future in the evolving landscape, I came to believe that SSRN would benefit from being more interconnected and with the resources available from a larger organization. For example, there is scale in systems administration and security, and SSRN can provide more value to users with access to more data and resources.
On a personal note, it has been an honor to be involved over the past 25 years in the founding and growth of the SSRN website and the incredible community of authors, researchers and institutions that has made this all possible. I consider it one of my great accomplishments in life. The community would not have been successful without the commitment of so many of you who have contributed in so many ways. I am proud of the community we have created, and I invite you to continue your involvement and support in this effort.
The staff at SSRN are all staying (including Gregg Gordon, CEO and myself), the Rochester office is still in place, it will still be free to upload and download papers, and we remain committed to “Tomorrow’s Research Today”. I look forward to and am committed to a successful transition and to another great 25 years for the SSRN community that rivals the first.
Michael C. Jensen
Founder & Chairman, SSRN
It sounds like they made him an offer he couldn’t refuse…
I don’t think Elsevier’s involvement in this is likely to prove beneficial to anything other than their own profits. Elsevier is one of the biggest problems in academic publishing and can never be part of the solution.
My main concern, however, is that some day Elsevier might launch a hostile takeover bid for the arXiv, which would be a major setback to the physics community’s efforts to promote the free exchange of scientific papers. That must be resisted at all costs. How did the academic community allow its publishing culture to be hijacked by such companies?