Elsevier Appears To Be Slurping Up Open Access Research, And Charging People To Access It

from the because-elsevier-is-so-nice dept

Oh, Elsevier. The publishing giant has quite the reputation for its desire to stop people from sharing knowledge unless Elsevier can put up a toll booth. A huge number of academics have signed pledges to boycott Elsevier and not allow their works to be published by the company. Also, in the last few years, there’s been a rapid growth in open access and requirements that research be distributed for free (often under a Creative Commons license).

Almost exactly a year ago, we had a story about Elsevier charging for open access content, and apparently the company hasn’t gotten any better. Ross Mounce recently noticed that Elsevier appeared to be selling a paper on HIV infection for $31.50 + tax (after which you have just 24 hours to download it, or just kiss that money goodbye):

The problem, however, is that the paper was actually published by competing publisher Wiley under an open access Creative Commons license (and is available free of charge on its website). The key author on the paper, Didier Raolt told Mounce that he had no idea why Elsevier was selling his paper, and that he had not given permission. The paper is under a Creative Commons license, but it’s a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. And while I’m not a fan of NC/ND licenses, it’s pretty clear that this license does not allow someone to step in and start selling the paper.

When confronted about this, someone from Elsevier, Alicia Wise, tweeted a nonsensical response:

If you can’t read that, it says:

the journal is in transition from Wiley to Elsevier; will check on transition status

But that’s meaningless. If the paper is being published under an open access license, even if somehow that journal is being transferred, then Elsevier should still be publishing it under open access terms. And, considering that the document was just published recently, you’d think that the author on the paper would know something about this. Once again, it looks like Elsevier is just giving open access a giant middle finger.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: elsevier, wiley

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Elsevier Appears To Be Slurping Up Open Access Research, And Charging People To Access It”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: It's time

No need to go that far, or even spend any money at it at all, all you’d need to do to bring them to their knees would be getting enough academics, both those submitting research for publication, and those purchasing access to it, to boycott them.

Once their profits start hurting, then they’d start paying attention, and all without spending a dime.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It's time

The problem with your approach is that Elsevier controls many important papers that academics need to refer to, and so have control over the base knowledge in many fields. It will take many years for this knowledge to be transferred into open access papers, or be made redundant bu such papers. So even if they get no new papers to publish, they will still be able to extract a large toll from the academics.
Also for academia to win a significant award against Elsevier will be a Pyhrric victory, as their access fees will go up to pay for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 It's time

The papers may be locked up, but the knowledge isn’t
Are you sure? How can you say X is X without saying you know that it is because you read it in paper about X? Therefor I argue that knowledge is blocked by copyright because you can’t prove your knowledge without quoting a paper to verify that knowledge.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It's time

So leave those papers that can’t be found at other places with them, but refuse to give them anything new. It might not be quick, but I’m guessing it would be effective. Elsevier is nothing without papers to charge for, so they direly need academics to submit new research papers if they’re going to try and justify their high prices. Cut off their supply of those, and they are going to be hurting, badly.

Much like surgery, the early parts may be painful and messy, but if you just leave a problem to fester, it’s only going to get worse.

MrTroy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It's time

So leave those papers that can’t be found at other places with them, but refuse to give them anything new.

Isn’t that what happened here? The paper was published with Wiley, not with Elsevier, but the latter has taken the paper and is pretending to be the publisher anyway.

I’d be interested to see what lies behind that transition statement, because if its not true then surely Elsevier is bound for trouble?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It's time

There’s still the problem that big-name journals come with the cachet of peer-review. In fact, this was the only value journals ever really had. It may not be worth much now (as we’ve seen with examples of pure gibberish getting published), but people still think that an expensive, exclusive journal means high-quality content.

Until we stop equating price with value, nothing’s gonna change.

Jeff Green (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It's time

Science almost never says “this is true” that isn’t how it works. Science works the other way about, you make an hypothesis based on evidence and then you attempt to disprove it.
Most people however are not scientists they want to know if x is x and y is y so journalists, being people selling their views to people like to say “Scientists tell us …”

The reason it is vital that papers are available for everyone to read is that the paper should contain the evidence and the reasoning so you can judge for yourself.

M. Alan Thomas II (profile) says:

More seriously, there’s an outside chance that the original author’s deal with the journal may have transferred rights to them without an explicit guarantee that the paper will always publish it under the stated license. In other words, the journal/publisher may have been the one offering the CC license, and it may have been free to stop offering that license at any time (which Elsevier is taking the option to do).

However, even if that’s true, existing licensed copies retain their license, so someone needs to mirror all of the CC content and make sure a free repository for it continues to exist.

RonKaminsky (profile) says:

Re: Who will step up to be the next Aaron Swartz?

so someone needs to mirror all of the CC content and make sure a free repository for it continues to exist

Actually, your previous sarcastic post is very on-topic, here. It should be perfectly legal for someone at an academic institution which pays Elsevier’s blackmail money for this journal to run an automated process which downloads the articles of the journal (which were published by Wiley under a CC license) and puts them up for free on a competing website.

This whole thing smells of complicity between academic publishers to try to undermine the open access trend via “journal swapping”. Or maybe… “journal evergreening”?

Alicia Wise (user link) says:

Elsevier responds

Hi everyone,

We are grateful to Ross Mounce (and thanked him via his blog) for flagging this up to us late Friday, and by Monday afternoon we opened all 27 of the articles and added metadata and license information to the online versions. We never intended to charge for material or rights that should be free, and we will of course reimburse anyone who has purchased access to these articles – our records show there have been only a handful of transactions.

We continually adapt our systems and procedures to strive for zero defects. If for any reason a problem occurs we are committed to deal with it in a fair and efficient manner.

I’ld like to address separately some of the comments that suggest we have no authority to be disseminating these articles or this journal. Authors in this title grant publishing rights to the Society which owns the title, and the Society has the right to sub-license these rights to a publisher. They Society has recently switched from Wiley to Elsevier. We are very happy that Clinical Microbiology& Infection has joined our infectious diseases publishing portfolio (www.clinicalmicrobiologyandinfection.com).


Dr Alicia Wise
Director of Access & Policy

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...