Elsevier is taking down papers from Academia.edu
December 6, 2013
Lots of researchers post PDFs of their own papers on their own web-sites. It’s always been so, because even though technically it’s in breach of the copyright transfer agreements that we blithely sign, everyone knows it’s right and proper. Preventing people from making their own work available would be insane, and the publisher that did it would be committing a PR gaffe of huge proportions.
Enter Elsevier, stage left. Bioinformatician Guy Leonard is just one of several people to have mentioned on Twitter this morning that Academia.edu took down their papers in response to a notice from Elsevier. Here’s a screengrab of the notification:
And here is the text (largely so search-engines can index it):
Unfortunately, we had to remove your paper, Resolving the question of trypanosome monophyly: a comparative genomics approach using whole genome data sets with low taxon sampling, due to a take-down notice from Elsevier.
Academia.edu is committed to enabling the transition to a world where there is open access to academic literature. Elsevier takes a different view, and is currently upping the ante in its opposition to academics sharing their own papers online.
Over the last year, more than 13,000 professors have signed a petition voicing displeasure at Elsevier’s business practices at www.thecostofknowledge.com. If you have any comments or thoughts, we would be glad to hear them.
The Academia.edu Team
(Kudos to the Academia.edu team, by the way, for saying it like it is: “upping the ante in its opposition to academics sharing their own papers online”. It would have been easy for them to give no opinion on this. Much better that they’ve nailed their colours to the mast.)
I was going to comment on Elsevier’s exceedingly short-sighted and mean-spirited manoeuvre, but happily the Twittersphere is on it already. Here are a few thoughts:
- David Winter wrote: Added value! Subs fees pay for lawyers to stop you sharing your work with colleagues…
- Rich FitzJohn speculated: I wonder what their long game is here; petty harassment like that makes me way less inclined to publish in an Elsevier journal.
- To which Rafael Maia responded: so silly…is it really worth it? its like they are proudly embracing being the dicks of academic publishing
- But Dr. Wrasse was more forthright.
This doesn’t directly affect me, of course, since I’ve had the good fortune not to have published in an Elsevier journal. But it’s another horrible example of how organisations that call themselves “publishers” do the exact opposite of publishing. The good people I know at Elsevier — people like Tom Reller, Alicia Wise and The Other Mike Taylor — must be completely baffled, and very frustrated, by this kind of thing.
Every time they start to persuade me that maybe — maybe — somewhere in the cold heart of legacy publishers, there lurks some real will to make a transition to actually serving the scholarly community, they do something like this. It’s like a sickness with them.
Do scholarly publishers really need to be reminded that “publish” means “make public”? Yes. Yes, they do. Apparently. Remember how I called legacy publishers “enemies of science” back at the start of 2012? Yup. Still true. And, astonishingly, as Rafael Maia noted, Elsevier seem determined to lead the way.
Have they learned nothing? Will they never?