Hated Science Publisher Elsevier To Help EU Monitor Open Science – Including Open Access
from the conflict-of-interest,-what-conflict-of-interest? dept
Techdirt has written many stories about the publisher Elsevier. They have all been pretty negative: the company seems determined to represent the worst of academic publishing. It’s no surprise, then, that many academics loathe the company. Against that background, news that the EU “Open science Monitor” will use Elsevier as a subcontractor is surprising, to say the least. The official notice of the contract has some details of what the project involves:
the contractors will design, draft, execute and deliver a full-fledged monitoring system in order to determine open science scope, nature, impacts on science and scientific knowledge, and its socio-economic impacts. In turn, this will provide an evidence-based view of evolution of open science. It should be able to facilitate policy making.
One of the main academic participants in the project, the Centre for Science and Technology Studies at Leiden University — which “stresses the importance of the collaboration with Elsevier” — explains what is meant by open science in this context:
Open Science is an umbrella concept that embraces the ideas of different open movement such as open source, open access and open data, while embracing trends of open distributed collaboration, data-intensive science and citizen science. Governments are quickly moving towards the open science paradigm (see for instance the Dutch plan on Open Science), while asking for evidence about its reality and impact in the different domains.
An important element of Elsevier’s contract will therefore be to help monitor open access. The core aim of open access is to make publicly-funded knowledge freely available to everyone, in a way that is as cost-efficient as possible given the limited resources that can be brought to bear on the problem. One of the issues with the current academic publishing system is the high level of costs for educational institutions, reflected in the level of profits notched up by companies like Elsevier. For many years these have typically been in the 35% to 40% range, well in excess of most other industries.
The fact that Elsevier will be paid to help monitor the dysfunctional publishing world it has helped to create and strives to sustain seems an insensitive decision. Moreover, the contract specifically calls for the “socio-economic impacts” to be evaluated in order to “facilitate policy making”. This means that Elsevier will be providing data to guide EU policy decisions that it stands to gain from materially in significant ways. The obvious conflict of interest here should have disqualified the company immediately. But the main contractors seem to have no issues with ignoring this glaring problem, or with the fact that many EU researchers will regard Elsevier as the last organization on the planet that should be involved in any way.