Around the Web: Elsevier vs. Academia.edu vs. Researchers

This is a tale of two companies and a bunch of not-so-innocent bystanders.

Both Elsevier and Academia.edu are for-profit companies in the scholarly communications industry. Elsevier is a publisher while Academia.edu is a platform for scholars that, among other things, allows them to post copies of their articles online for all the world to see.

Both are trying to make money by adding value within the scholarly communications ecosystem. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There is plenty of room within that ecosystem for all kinds of players, both for-profit and non-profit. It's all about the value you bring to the table. It's about whether or not you contribute to the overall health of the ecosystem or are a parasite.

Recently Elsevier has begun sending take-down notices to Academia.edu for articles that authors have posted where they are in violation of the copyright transfer agreement that the author has signed. Most authors sign such agreements with publishers.

On the one hand Elsevier is completely justified in enforcing their author agreements. I also have little sympathy for Academia.edu. They are a for-profit company that certainly understands exactly what their customers are doing. On the other hand, this is a stark reminder to authors just who owns their research outputs. It's not the researchers, it's not the repositories where they might post copies of their articles. It's the publishers like Elsevier who own their research outputs.

Authors are caught between these two for-profit companies, one a massive dinosaur trying to protect its profit margins as it recalibrate to a new, more open world. The other a nimble start-up, trying to be a part of that new world. The road to that new world is full of bumps and false starts and blind alleys. Hopefully Elsevier and Academia.edu's troubles will help raise awareness about the fundamental unfairness of the current scholarly communications ecosystem.

Authors, if you don't want to get caught in the middle of this kind of struggle, don't sign away your copyright to publishers. There is another way.

It's not too late to sign the Cost of Knowledge boycott.

Many of the links below are courtesy of the Open Access Tracking Project.

As usual, if I've missed any important posts, please let me know either at jdupuis at yorku dot ca or in the comments.

Update 2013.12.12. Added new posts up to December 11.

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