Disappointing: Elsevier Buys Open Access Academic Pre-Publisher SSRN

from the this-is-bad-news dept

The vast, vast majority of time when we point to new academic research, we end up linking to the research hosted on SSRN, which stands for the Social Science Research Network. SSRN has been around for a long, long time, and it's basically the go-to place to post research in the legal and economics worlds -- the two research areas we most frequently write about. At this moment, I have about 10 SSRN tabs open on interesting papers that I hope to write about at some point. Technically SSRN is what's known as a "preprint server," where academics can share papers before peer review is completed and the final papers end up in a locked up, paywalled journal. The kind of paywall run by a giant company like Elsevier.

So it's been quite distressing to many this morning to find out that Elsevier has now purchased SSRN. Everyone involved, of course, insists that "nothing will change" and that Elsevier will leave SSRN working as before, but perhaps with some more resources behind it (and, sure, SSRN could use some updates and upgrades). But Elsevier has such a long history of incredibly bad behavior that it's right to be concerned. Elsevier is not just a copyright maximalist (just last week at a hearing I attended involving the Copyright Office, Elsevier advocated for much more powerful takedown powers in copyright). It's not just suing those who make it easier to access academic info. It's not just charging insane amounts for journals. It also has a history of creating fake peer reviewed journals to help pharmaceutical companies make their drugs look better.

And it also has a history of lobbying heavily against open access, while similarly charging for open access research despite knowing it's not supposed to do this.

So, quite obviously, there is reason to be concerned that Elsevier may make some "changes" to SSRN that make it a lot less valuable for the sharing of academic research and papers in the near future.

Some are already suggesting it's time to build a new service (either as a nonprofit or a trust) to take over what SSRN was doing in the past. Or, alternatively, there's talk of getting other preprint servers, like the famed arXiv to start handling social sciences research as well. Another alternative might be just to see if the Internet Archive is willing to take on this kind of project itself.

Once again, though, it shows just how messed up copyright has become. Copyright is not the reason any of these papers gets written, and now copyright is seen as a weapon against the sharing of knowledge. When copyright was first put in place in the US, we were told it was to encourage the sharing of such educational resources. That may have been a lie at the time (it was designed as a tool for publishers), but if we're going to have a copyright system that claims to be about promoting science, at the very least, we should be able to live in a world where it really is easy to share academic research without fear that a copyright claim is going to destroy everything.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: academic papers, copyright, open access, preprint server, research
Companies: elsevier, ssrn

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 3:45am

    Elsevier is an enemy of the human race

    It's difficult to imagine that kind of incredibly vile people who would work there, but they certainly all deserve to be prosecuted as war criminals, and if found guilty, executed.

Add Your Comment

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

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

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

Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.