The major journal publisher Elsevier recently changed its article sharing and hosting policy in ways that severely limit authors’ control of their own intellectual property. Elsevier is the largest publisher of academic journals in the world with nearly 2,500 peer-reviewed titles, and its 2014 profit margin was 37%.
The UC Academic Senate Open Access Policy protects policy-covered faculty from these publisher-imposed restrictions. But all UCLA authors should be aware of these changes and know their rights.
The changes attempt to control when and where authors and institutions can make accepted article manuscripts publicly available. They are a step backward from the publisher’s prior practice since 2004 and are also in direct opposition to trends in the scholarly publishing industry that align with funder mandates for more openness.
The UCLA Library joins its library colleagues including the Association of Research Libraries, Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, Association of College and Research Libraries, and American Library Association in objecting to these changes. Along with other major research institutions around the world, the UC Libraries have collectively signed on to a public statement objecting to the policy, considering it antithetical to the research process.
Controls over Article Sharing
Under the new policy, the publisher allows authors to share manuscripts publicly anywhere without restriction prior to submission to an Elsevier journal. Once a manuscript has been accepted – that is, after peer review but prior to the author signing the publication agreement – the publisher allows public sharing of the accepted manuscript during the embargo period (see below) only on the author’s personal homepage or blog or on institutional repositories limited to internal audiences.
However, all faculty authors covered by the UC Academic Senate policy retain reuse rights to their own manuscripts even after signing publication agreements. That means that UCLA Academic Senate authors can upload accepted article manuscripts to the UC eScholarship repository or other discipline-specific repositories at any time as well as to their own personal web pages.
Extended Embargo Periods
Elsevier has imposed embargo periods ranging from one to four years, depending on journal title, on making accepted, peer-reviewed manuscripts publicly accessible via institutional repositories.
The publisher specified that these newly imposed embargos do not apply to manuscripts made publicly available on a personal web page. But this is an artificial, meaningless distinction when one considers how people find articles via an Internet search, which pays no attention to deposit location, and in view of the networked nature of technological infrastructure.
Restrictive License Terms
Post-embargo, Elsevier requires authors to impose the most restrictive Creative Commons license on accepted, peer-reviewed manuscripts that are made publicly accessible. The non-commercial, no-derivatives conditions this license imposes restrict collaboration among researchers and unnecessarily impede the research process.
What You Can Do
The UCLA Library has librarians and staff who can help you with the following actions and also advise on prestigious open access journals in your field. You can contact them via email.
Authors: if you are covered by the UC Academic Senate Open Access Policy, remember your rights. Your grant of a license to the UC precedes any rights transfer to any publisher, enabling you to make your manuscripts publicly accessible on eScholarship, discipline-specific repositories, or personal web pages.
Editors and peer reviewers for Elsevier journals: contact the publisher and tell them you do not approve of its new article sharing and hosting policy. If you do not receive an acceptable response, withdraw your professional services and offer them to another journal in your field.
Everyone: please share this information with your colleagues and encourage them to take action as well.