The Publisher-Academic Complex; "put your bodies upon the gears"

[term: tcPublisher - = traditional Closed Publisher such as Elsevier or Nature Publishing Group. oaPublisher, exemplified by PLoS, eLIfe, etc.]

In his final address to the nation, in 1961, President Dwight D Eisenhower coined a new phrase:

we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.

See Wikipedia The phrase may also have originated as "military–industrial–scientific complex" or , even more relevantly "military–industrial–academic complex". There are variants of the A-B (-C) complexes and they are characterised by uncontrolled and of secret feedback loops. Academia feeds the military / industry  with intellectual manpower and exclusive discoveries and they in return provide funding. 10 years ago MIT got 700 M USD- although it's out of scope here. The feedback loops are self-sustaining. There is an element of positive feedback in that each component is fed from and feeds back in increasing amount. It's noteworthy that although taxpayer money fuels this there is no direct control due to the secrecy.

I believe we have a similar, and pernicious, cycle in the close, uncontrolled ties between academia and tcPublishers. The same secrecy exists - fees and income are often governed by secrecy clauses and comparison of costs and prices is largely impossible. The tcPublishers are accountable only to their shareholders. Here's my analysis.


The taxpayer and student (yes students pay large fees) fuel academia who give raw material, reviews and money to the tcPublishers who in return provide academia with typeset versions of the supplied material, sometimes with additions from the academic reviewers. But the main modern return is now glory - branding and standing in the community. The standing is determined by arcane procedures such as impact factors which are secret and inaccurate and largely discredited. However this glory feeds the ability of the universities to recruit money and standing in another feedback cycle.

This cycle is completely uncontrolled. Almost all major industries are controlled. Banks, energy companies, transport, medicine. The scholarly publishing business now approaches 20 Billion USD, and I cannot easily think of other infrastructural industries which are completely unregulated. I compare this to luxury consumer goods where the price is arbitrary - fashion, mineral water, cosmetics. Yet, as I argue, this cycle exerts a pernicious stranglehold on the much larger flow of scientific knowledge. Much re-use is stifled, both by inertia and actual legal controls and the loss can be measured in hundreds of billions.

(Oh yes ; i assert that "Closed access means people die" but I'm accused of being emotive. I was even told that it's irresponsible without a double-blind trial (true)).

Among the problems of uncontrolled feedback loops is that they are uncontrolled. Humans have controlled machines for centuries and they have also controlled their societal creations.


[Credit :]

Here the centrifugal governor rotates faster as the machine speeds up and thereby throttles back the fuel causing the speed to drop. Energy companies, train companies are regulated by government and cannot drive the system to excess [1]

But publishers have no restraints. There costs are low, because the manufacturing cost of glory is very low. True they have costs in lawyers, marketeers, lobbyists, but they can charge universities more each year (we keep getting told of shrinking budgets, but it's not the universities' money - it's ours). And now the system has become established and tcPublishers are driving the universities.

This greed results in waste and injustice. The biggest waste is young people, many of whom are broken in the lottery of the glory chase. But there is an increasing amount of duplication, retraction, and metric-chasing-driven "research".

As the feedback cycle speeds up, the wheels start to come off. This happened 50 years ago, shortly after Eisenhower had identified the Military-Industrial-Academic complex. Students were treated as items on a balance sheet and ultimately they screamed...

Read Mario Savio's story and the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley

And here is his famous speech...

We were told the following: If President Kerr actually tried to get something more liberal out of the regents in his telephone conversation, why didn't he make some public statement to that effect? And the answer we received, from a well-meaning liberal, was the following: He said, 'Would you ever imagine the manager of a firm making a statement publicly in opposition to his board of directors?' That's the answer!

Well, I ask you to consider: If this is a firm, and if the board of regents are the board of directors; and if President Kerr in fact is the manager; then I'll tell you something. The faculty are a bunch of employees, and we're the raw material! But we're a bunch of raw materials that don't mean to be—have any process upon us. Don't mean to be made into any product. Don't mean… Don't mean to end up being bought by some clients of the University, be they the government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone! We're human beings!

There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part! You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

[I spoke about this at #opencon2014 - see my slides recalling the 1960's and 1970's

I think we've come full cycle and that the Publisher-Academic Complex is becoming so odious, so sick at heart that we can't take part. It's not a question of cosmetic changes (like the irrelevant gesture from NPG in giving us back a tiny part of the commons under absurd rules [2]. It's about the injustice, the unanswerability of unrestricted quasi-monopolistic neo-capital.

[1] That's the theory. In the neo-liberal politics of UK they seem intent on removing the controls, which will, of course destroy significant parts of the society we have built up.

[2] The whole NPG #scishare project is flawed, overexaggerated by the Nature publicity machine and I shall deconstruct it in the next blog post.


Scholarly publishing is an Inhuman Machine, Out of Control, Enclosing the Digital Commons

TL;DR Scholarly publishing is an Inhuman Machine, Out of Control. It is pillaging the digital commons.

I've spent the last 2 days lying awake trying to get my thoughts in order about Macmillan's use of ReadCube to distribute "free" copies of closed access scholarly articles. I've blogged it here


There are more comprehensive (and you will probably say more balanced) comments in the excellent post by Scepticemia and links therein.

I am going to use "Macmillan" to cover both "Nature Publishing Group" and "Digital Science" (no WP entry, so see Timo Hannay and  ReadCube) as it owns (or at least controls) all of them. (Actually Macmillan is (?privately?) owned further by .  I've met the then owner some years ago at SciFoo ). I shall use the neologism "tcPublisher" to represent "traditional-closed Publisher". It's ugly but "publisher" is too general. tcPublishers include Macmillan, Science, ACS, Wiley, Springer, Elsevier. Their model is to sell subscriptions to scientific knowledge, protecting their market with legal, political, social, financial and technical barriers. By contrast the recent development of open-access only publishers (oaPublishers) is to generate revenue at the authorship stage and make content freely (Libre) available.

On the face of it Macmillan's action seems a valuable, altruistic, gesture and many people have rejoiced at it. But my analysis is that this is simply offering back a small , very small piece of the commons which has been enclosed by the tcPublishing industry. I use the analogy of the I've written on this before, but in short the Scottish Highlands were ruthlessly appropriated by greedy landowners, houses were burnt, people were effectively killed or driven abroad.


(Credit WP + Geograph)

We love the remoteness now, but that was a community, people's houses. People died in the Clearances.  Frank Fraser Darling, the great naturalist, described the Highlands as  “a devastated landscape” - and a “wet desert”, And it's my contention that, unless we stop it, scientific scholarship - research as well as publications - will similarly become a devastated desert (if we are not already there).

Fundamental to this is the idea of the Commons. The commons is run by society for the benefit of society and traditionally applied to land, water, ecosystem, etc. The fundamental principle is that it's available for everyone (or a societally valuable subset, such as farmers) who use the resources for the benefit of society. This almost always means a system of community managed rules and commons are still in existence today.

However because there is great value in a good commons it is always underthreat of appropriation by non-community entities. Historically these were often privileged invididuals (e.g. aristocrats) but now they include corporations. This is Enclosure; some snippets from Wikipedia:

An anonymous protest poem from the 17th century summed up the anti-enclosure feeling, and has been repeated in many variants since, even being applied to the contemporary privatization of the Internet:[30]

The law locks up the man or woman

Who steals the goose from off the common
But lets the greater felon loose

Who steals the common from off the goose

... George Orwell wrote in 1944

Stop to consider how the so-called owners of the land got hold of it. They simply seized it by force, afterwards hiring lawyers to provide them with title-deeds. In the case of the enclosure of the common lands, which was going on from about 1600 to 1850, the land-grabbers did not even have the excuse of being foreign conquerors; they were quite frankly taking the heritage of their own countrymen, upon no sort of pretext except that they had the power to do so.

George OrwellAs I Please, Tribune, 18 August 1944[32]


I believe that the same is happening (or has happened) in Scholarly publishing. It's typified by closed access, with social, legal, economic and technical barriers.


"Anytime that someone puts a lock on something that belongs to you but won't give you the key, that lock's not there for you." Cory Doctorow.

Here's my picture of enclosure. commons

The blue line is a society that manages its commons. The red line is enclosure, which is not being done for society's benefit. Enclosure is an unjust process and leads to continuing injustice. Many of today's nation-political problems are caused current or historical colonisation and perpetuated by neo-colonialisation, of which TTIP is a typical manifestation. I argue that we have already lost much of the digital commons and we must reclaim as much as we can. Scientific knowledge is, I believe, a basic human right, especially when funded by the commons (nations, societies, charities). tcPublishers have enclosed it.

It's possible to have commercial organizations who make a reasonable income by managing commons for the benefit of society. Management costs money and needs to be recovered. The problem with tcPublishing is that society has very little (if any control) over what is managed, how, and at what cost. Individuals like me have no say. I am an economic chattel regarded by tcPublishers as a free source of manuscripts for their machine, a free source of reviews and with no power in any of this. (Even a large oaPublisher has told me that their raw material is authors and that they market to them, not readers).

I'm going to develop the theme that tcPublishing is now an inhuman machine, out of control, but I will need another post and I have to write some code. [The mess in scholarly publishing is incredibly destructive of our creative abilities.]




STOP TTIP in Cambridge; Great presentation by John Hilary


[AMI and Brenda]

We had a very well attended (full Unitarian Church) of Cambridge people wishing to hear about TTIP ("Tee-tip") the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnershipl. I have been very very worried about this for some time, informed at regular intervals by G;yn Moody's blog and other outlets.

TTIP is awful. I learnt a new word "neo-liberalism" : (   Robert W. McChesney defines neoliberalism as "capitalism with the gloves off" ). The idea is to release all constraints in multinational trade (and thereby multinational corporations who will then generate untold wealth...

for them, not us);

The thing that most concerns me is ISDS ,  This allows multinationals to sue governments if they don't like what they do, and the odds are heavily weighted in favour of companies.

And the negotiations are in secret. 

I am not a historian but TTIP/ISDS seems as catastrophic as the Highland Clearances. where the whole  population and ecology of half of Scotland was destroyed by foreign greed.

The modern problem is worse, because it's invisible. Governments support neo-liberalism, but it will destroy public services, such as the NHS in UK, and it seems irreversible. It has to be stopped now.

1 MILLION Europeans have signed a petition aganist TTIP. The commission has said it will ignore this (European Citizens Initiative). They won't be able to ignore us on the streets.

Go along to hear John when he next speaks. it will be worth it.

And, if you are lucky, you'l get swag like AMI and Brenda.



Some Background Material prior to writing about Nature's SciShare; reprints cost the earth

We've had a long and thoughtful reply from Timo Hannay about the SciShare/ReadCube "free access". I shall reply to it. It gives the impression that Nature is a progressive publisher committed to Open Access. That may be true in parts. But Nature also has a  very strong commercial effort and it's useful to see some of this. Rather than quoting subscription prices, I'm going to look at re-use. Re-use of material that is paid for by subscriptions.

I've looked at today's Nature. I can't read any of it as it's behind a paywall, so there are some guesses. Of the main scientific articles/letters (ca 16 in I don't see any labelled as Open Access or similar.  Let's see if they can be re-used?

I choose a reasonably believable scenario; an NGO in sub-Saharan Africa interested  in human genomic variation. This is likely to be of interest to politicians, medics, historians and citizens-with-curious-minds.

And education.

Here's the first landing page:


OK - the new "free" access means you can get it without paying IFF:

  • you find a friend to send you the link. I don't know how to do this ATM. But let's say it takes 15 mins on twitter. (actually you'll probably get #icanhazpdf that way, but that's illegal so I won't do it.
  • get the link. I have no idea what happens but I assume it says "do you want to download and install ReadCube and give it permission to read your filestore". (another 10-15 mins).
  • Assume I read it and want my 10 colleague teachers to read it. They don't have Internet (they have mobile phones) so I'll send them paper. Yes, paper is still strong in SubSahara. I am a law abiding citizen and so follow Rights and Permissions


Which charges me 1600 USD to reprint it, even for 10 copies. It's probably 1 page long. That's for PERMISSION. 160 USD for each page reused. It's not for the actual paper.

I'm a non-profit, non-commercial, organization and ten schools have to pay 1600 USD for a paper which is about ME.

SciShare doesn't help, does it?

And who does the copyright belong to. Since I can't read the paper I don't know (it's behind a paywall). But we have the ambiguous "Rights Managed by Nature Publishing Group".

That's new on me. Some of the publishers' copyrights seem deliberately obtuse.

So how would I get a copy of the paper.

On paper?

another 18 USD... which means we don't use ReadCube at all....

Is this fair? you decide...


Can Readcube (Macmillan's fauxpen access client) snoop on readers?

Prof. Henry Rzepa recounts his recent experience with installing and running Macmillan's Readcube; a device to allow DRM'ed access to read-only scholarly literature. [I have not used it myself (and will not) but trust Henry absolutely to give an accurate account. Moreover Henry is not a scaremonger.  He looks for the unusual, and probes relentlessly, but if he was happy he would have said so.

Readcube is (I assume) closed source software so we don't know how it works (and if you try to disassemble it you might end up in criminal court as it's a DRM machine). It appears that you have to install it on your machine and also grant it privileges.

Re ReadCube and harvesting. I thought I might spend a few minutes carefully going through its application preferences searching for anonymity flags or other controls on what information might be sent by the program whilst it is open. I could not find any. I was looking for eg the type of setting in eg the Chrome browser "Send a do not track request with your browsing traffic", the Safari "Ask websites not to track me" or Firefox "Tell sites that I do not want to be tracked".

One might presume then that ReadCube and their greater organisation probably WILL be informed that a particular article has been loaded, along with its title etc. It would be an act of trust that eg the IP address being used has not been tracked. This information of course is not limited just to a particular publisher's journal, but presumably to all content from multiple publishers loaded into ReadCube. Thus when I pointed ReadCube at a folder to see what it might do, I noticed entrained in that folder were flight boarding passes (yes I know they should not have been there), lecture notes, research progress reports, theatre tickets, and even the risk of a bank statement etc. Most of the digital-detritus of modern life! A lot of it inadvertent. All of course no doubt anonymised by ReadCube before statistical processing (a process controlled by an algorithm we know nothing about).

PS After a little effort, I managed to bulk-delete all the bulk-autoloaded entries in my ReadCube library, but probably not before any harvested metadata had been sent.

PMR: This worries me greatly. Why should Readcube be looking at client-side disks in the first place?? I'll wait for other informed comments (I can't investigate myself as I would almost certainly have to sign away rights to Macmillan). By I ask them:

(a) has ANY independent body certified that Readcube is "safe" to use or do we just "trust Macmillan"

(b) has ANY independent body certified that Macmillan's use of community data adheres to acceptable standards.




Why ReadCube is DRMed and unacceptable for science.

My great collaborator Henry Rzepa has read the last post and delved into Macmillan's ReadCube and found it to be totally flawed and unacceptable ( Here's Henry:

I had a good look at ReadCube, the walled-garden container for articles that is part of the "free access" announcement. It is indeed DRM-armour. If you download the software, it immediately becomes apparent you cannot launch it without either creating an account or using eg Google+ to enter the garden. So, no true anonymity there then? Once in, you can get it to scoop up all your drive-resident PDFs, and it proceeds to harvest the metadata for each of them. Title, authors, keywords, and probably more. This appears to be then sent to the cloud, since you can access it from any device (for which ReadCube is supported). Much like Mendeley. And we presume that Nature/Macmillan has access to this data (the privacy statement, which is available in very small print if you hunt for it, asserts that the metadata is anonymised before being aggregated). What happens to this (meta)data after the individual has (possibly unknowingly) contributed to this aggregation? We might presume that acquiring this data is core to the business plan for launching this project.

"Nature makes the rules for the scientific community. " Well certainly, the user appears to have little control over what a tool such as ReadCube does, silently, when running.

I am certainly with Peter here in wondering quite where the ethos and practice of doing science is going.

Henry says it all - I've nothing to add: "walled garden", "no anonymity", "harvesting your metadata".

I'm very grateful to Henry for doing this. I don't investigate these systems myself (e.g. also Elsevier's TDM API) because I don't want to have signed my rights away or be accused of compromising the systems.

I've previously raised the possibility that Elsevier can use Mendeley to snoop on scientists and control them (by limiting the options they can follow). Macmillan could be even more all-embracing because they have a large share in Figshare, which everyone is now using to manage their data and Universities are buying into.  What actual guarantees are given?

Without public, independent, transparent auditing of these systems how can I trust them. Even Elsevier has "bumpy roads" and how do we know Macmillan doesn't as well.

I look forward to enlightenment.

Nature's fauxpen access leaves me very sad and very angry.

Two days ago Nature/Macmillan (heareafter "Nature") announced a new form of "access" (or better "barrier") to scientific scholarship - "SciShare". It's utterly unacceptable in several ways and Michael Eisen, Ross Mounce ("beggars-access") have castigated it; Glyn Moody gathers these and adds his own, always spot-on, analysis (

Please read Glyn (and Michael and Ross). I won't repeat their analyses.  TL;DR Macmillan have unilaterally "made all articles free to view". The scholarly poor have to find a rich academic and beg them for a DRM'ed copy of a paper. This copy:

  • cannot be printed
  • cannot be downloaded
  • cannot be cut and pasted
  • CANNOT BE READ BY MACHINES (i.e all semantics are destroyed)
  • Cannot be read on mobile devices (which are common in the Global Soutrh)

There are so many reasons why this is odious  - here are some more beyond Michael, Ross and Glyn...

  • It announces, arrogantly, that Nature makes the rules for the scientific community. Publishers have a role (possibly) in the digital age in promoting communication, but Nature has now no role for me. It's now an analogue of Apple in telecoms - unaswerable to anyone (Macmillan is a private company).
  • Like Apple, Nature now intends to sell its "products" as a branded empire. (Recall that the authors write the papers, the reviewers review them, all for free. The taxpayer and the students pay Macmillan for the privilege of having this published. Earlier Nature said it costs about 20,000 USD to publish a paper - it costs arxiv 7 USD and Cameron Neylon's estimate is that it shoudl be about 400 +- 50 %. This huge figure is simply for branding - in the same way that people pay huge anounts for branded H2O+CO2.  Private empires are very very bad for a just society.
  • It is deeply wrenchingly divisive. Some of us are struggling to reach science out to citizens - to create systems where there is joint ownership of the scientific knowledge of the planet - a planet which badly needs it. Nature has created an underclass who are expected to grovel to the academics, some of whom are arrogant enough already. It perpetuates the dea that science is only done in rich Western universities of the global North. This is not a mistake; Timo Hannay of Digital Science (part of Macmillan) wrote recently that there was too much science to publish and the way forward was to have an elite set of journals for the "best" science and an underclass (my word) for the rest. In fact Nature does not publish better science than other journals and actually has a higher retraction rate (Bjorn Brembs' work).
  • It is highly likely to create incompatible platform-empires of the sort we see in mobile phones. ReadCube is a Digital Science company. Will Elsevier or the ACS use it and handing over control of publication to the monopoly of a competitor. Increasingly those who control the means of communication influence the way we work, think and act. ReadCube destroys our freedom. So maybe we'll shortly return to the browser-wars "this paper only viewable on Read-Cube". If readers are brainwashed into compliance by technology restrictions our future is grim.
  • It destroys semantics. Simply, it says that if a sighted human can read it, that's good enough.  This takes us back 30 years. It's been difficult enough to convince scientists that semantics are important - that we should publish our data and text so that machines can't read and understand. At a time when scientific output is increasing too fast for single humans to understand, we desperately need machines to help us.  And Nature says - "get lost".
  • Of course there will be machines to "help" scientists (but not citizens) read science. They'll be controlled by Nature (through Digital Science) or Elsevier (through Mendeley and whoever else it buys up). Their machines will tell us how to think. Or cut us out completely...

So I'm very angry. To see corporates who don't care destroyingthe basis of modern scientific information. I'm used to being angry.

But in this case I'm also sad. Sad, because I used to work with Nature; because I respected Timo Hannay's vision. We had joint projects together, they financed summer students and were industrial partners in an EPSRC project. I used to praise them. And I was honoured to be invited 3 times to SciFoo, run by Google, Timo and Tim O'Reilly.

And I was proud that two of my group went to work with Digital Science.

But now it's clear that Digital Science doesn't care about people - only about technology to control and generate income. Nature's New Technology Group used to produce experiments - Coonotea, Urchin, ... that were useful to the community - and they were good experiments.

But no longer. I'm considering whether Nature are in the same position as Elsevier - where we boycott them - refuse to review, to author. It's close, and the decision may depend on whether they take notice of the current criticism.

But what makes me even sadder is that Nigel Shadbolt - who I also know - has praised Macmillan's venture "Sir @Nigel_Shadbolt endorses our #SciShare initiative... @npgnews @digitalsci" . I can't cut and paste what Nigel has said because, like ReadCube, it's an image. It's non semantic. It's useless for blind people. And Nigel has masses of gushing praise for how this advances scientific communication.

Which makes me very very sad.




Informa Health Care charge 54 USD for 2-page Open Access Article and 3USD per page for photocopy

Informa have just published a 2-page article.

The author tells us it's Open Access but Informa charge 54 USD for 1 day's read.

That's right, 27 USD per page (and probably taxes).

How can ANYONE justify this?

Does this not make you very angry?

No doubt Informa will tell us it's "a bump on the road" (Elsevier), "a glitch" (Springer). It's a bump that means they take money they are not entitled to. In my view that's unacceptable trading.

Publishers have a duty to serve authors and readers. Simply saying "oh we made a mistake, please be sorry for us" is unacceptable.

The author is a member of Patients Like Me, a charity devoted to patients. He cares.

Informa doesn't seem to care about patients.

And that's shown by the HUGE charges for reproducing papers.

If you wanted to photocopy it, as a non-profit, and distribute 50 copies it would cost you 3 USD per photocopy page. Try it on Rightslink. Charging huge amounts to non-profits and similar to reproduce articles make me very very angry.


Apparently this was an invited editorial and it was promised as some form of free access (almost certainly not CC-BY). Therefore the implied contract is informal and the publishers have retained the right to charge whatever they like. It's clear that they have no problems calculating a charge of 27USD per page.

The point at issue is not the details but the total lack of concern by the publisher. The extortionate rates announce "We don't care" - to authors - to readers - more effectively than I can.


OpenCon2014 was the Best and Most Important Meeting of My Life; the Revolution is launched

I'm serious.

From start to finish this was a superb three-day meeting of young people who know that current scholarship/publishing/university_practice has so many injustices and so much waste that we cannot go on this way.

Must be brief - airport. Search for OpenCon2014 for reports and tweets and pictures. In brief:

  • 175 young passionate people from round the globe (only 5% of applicants could be selected for 80 scholarships)
  • sensational vision and planning from SPARC , RightToResearch, OA Button, etc.
  • Brillaint and inspiring speakers. A+ to everyone.
  • Many people already suffering under the present system.
  • Culminating in a superbly organized day of Advocacy actually on Capitol Hill, Washington. Huge insights into how to get political support and change.

I use the word "Revolution". It needn't be bloody. I'll write more...


Elsevier's French TDM licence conditions

There 's a very useful blog post on Elsevier's content-mining conditions in France. I assume this is layered on the recent French five-year mega-deal with Elsevier.  My school French isn't good enough for technico-legal terms, so I cannot comment authoritatively (and I'm not sure whether G**gl* translate is better).


This is only one clause and there are others that matter. It looks fairly similar to what Gemma Hersh and Chris Shillum pushed at us last month. Reading the rest of the blog post (which doesn't contain the whole contract, but only snippets - maybe that's all you are allowed to read)  it appears:

  • That mining has to take place through the Elsevier API.
  • That non-API crawling/scraping of the website is forbidden.
  • That there are significant restrictions on the re-use of mined material.

Since I and others have highlighted the unacceptability of Elsevier contracts (they change every month, they have unacceptable restrictions (must not disadvantage Elsevier business), are internally inconsistent and unclear) I hope very much that the French authorities signing this were aware of all the problems.

I'd be grateful for an expert view on what is contained and it would be very useful to have a reasonably precise legal translation....

If anyone or any country is about to sign an agreement with any publisher that contains any mention of mining crawling spidering extraction APIs then:




Because otherwise you are likely to betray the trust of 5 years of researchers.



from Fric_Adèle.

Pardon my French, but yours is indeed not subtle enough ;-)
My pleasure to help.

You missed the most important word of the document : “notamment”, standing for “not least”.
It means that the API is one of the way to perform TDM, not the only way.
Fairly interesting, isn’t it ?

Moreover, in the next section about forbidden uses you can read :
“A l’exception de ce qui est expressément prévu dans le présent Contrat ou autorisé par écrit par Elsevier, l’Abonné et ses Utilisateurs Autorisés ne peuvent pas :
- utiliser des robots ou programmes de téléchargement automatisé destinés à, de façon continue et automatique, extraire l’intégralité ou une partie substantielle des Produits Souscrits (sauf exception autorisée pour le TDM) ou destinés à perturber le fonctionnement des Produits Souscrits”
So, another tweak in Elsevier practices : crawling/scraping is forbidden in general EXCEPT for TDM purposes.
TDM is considered as an exception to what is generally forbidden.

To be more precise : this document is the license between Elsevier and each institution. It is an appendix of the general contract, in which the TDM is allowed as follows – you can again read the word “notamment” :
“6.6 Data et text mining
Tous les contenus accessibles et souscrits sur la plateforme du Titulaire dans le cadre de cet accord seront utilisables à des fins de data et text mining notamment via une interrogation des données par une API connectée à la plateforme ScienceDirect®, conformément aux stipulations du Contrat de Licence.”

which you can translate by :
“All content accessible and subscribed through the agreement can be used for TDM purposes, not least using an API connected to ScienceDirect Platform, in compliance with the Licence Agreement.”

All the best,



Thank you so much.

This reinforces the idea that Elsevier contracts change with the phases of the moon... Now any authorised user can carry out TDM either with Elsevier's API or without it. And that robots can only be used for TDM.

TDM is the common phrase in the UK for "data analytics" (Hargreaves legislation). I can't think of many reasons for using robots that wouldn't be classified as data analytics. Indexing, classifcation, usage - these are all data analytics in my understanding. Most non-mining activities would relate to storage and transformation and here the restrictions come from copyright and agreements, not whether robots are used to collect the material.

But maybe I'll be enlightened?