Elsevier’s new sharing policy harmful to authors and access to scholarly research

Today Creative Commons and 22 other organizations published a letter urging the publishing giant Elsevier to alter its newly revised policy regarding the sharing and hosting of academic articles so that it better supports access to scholarly research.

Elsevier’s new policy, announced 30 April 2015, is detrimental to article authors as well as those seeking access to these research papers. The policy imposes an embargo of at least 12 months before authors can self-archive their final manuscripts in an institutional repository–with the option of these embargoes being as long as 48 months. Beforehand, Elsevier allowed immediate deposit of the articles in repositories. The new policy also restricts access once the embargo expires by requiring that articles be shared under the most restrictive Creative Commons license–CC BY-NC-ND–which prohibits commercial use and the creation of derivative works.

From the letter:

This policy represents a significant obstacle to the dissemination and use of research knowledge, and creates unnecessary barriers for Elsevier published authors in complying with funders’ open access policies. In addition, the policy has been adopted without any evidence that immediate sharing of articles has a negative impact on publishers subscriptions.

Kevin Smith, Director of the Office of Copyright and Scholarly Communication at Duke University, calls their updated embargo policies “both complicated and draconian,” and criticizes the requirement that authors apply a restrictive license to their works at the expiration of the embargo period:

This, of course, further limits the usefulness of these articles for real sharing and scholarly advancement. It is one more way in which the new policy is exactly a reverse of what Elsevier calls it; it is a retreat from sharing and an effort to hamstring the movement toward more open scholarship.

Elsevier should reconsider these policy changes in order to support the rights and wishes of academic authors, and to support better access to the research that they publish.

The letter is available here. It has been signed by the following groups, and you can add your organization to as well.

COAR: Confederation of Open Access Repositories
SPARC: Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition
ACRL: Association of College and Research Libraries
ALA: American Library Association
ARL: Association of Research Libraries
Association of Southeastern Research Libraries
Australian Open Access Support Group
IBICT: Brazilian Institute of Information in Science and Technology
CARL: Canadian Association of Research Libraries
CLACSO: Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales
COAPI: Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions
Creative Commons
Creative Commons (USA)
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Greater Western Library Alliance
LIBER: European Research Library Association
National Science Library, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Open Data Hong Kong
Research Libraries UK
SANLiC: South African National Licensing Consortium
University of St Andrews Library