#rds2013: My reply from Elsevier on publishing supplemental data

Two weeks ago I wrote to Elsevier’s Director of Universal Access about making research data Openly available. /pmr/2013/02/11/i-request-elsevier-to-make-experimental-data-cc0-and-release-crystallography-from-ccdc-monopoly/ – the title is fairly self explanatory. I have just got her reply which I publish in full below. My request was rather long and involved” and “its description of various events do not always align with ours“. (The latter statement is meaningless as there were no events involved). To save readers referring back the essence of my mail was that:

Many closed-access publishers (ACS, RSC, Nature) publish authors’ supplemental data under an apparently licence-free/PD/CC0 approach (though not always explicit). Elsevier either puts data behind a paywall or sends it to the closed database of CCDC based on a subscription model. I asked (I thought clearly)

I am therefore asking you do the following:

·         Announce that all supplemental data accompanying Elsevier papers IS licensed as CC0.

·         Require the CCDC to make all primary CIF data from Elsevier publications CC0. (The author’s raw deposition, not CCDC’s derivative works)

·         Extend this policy to all other experimental data published in Elsevier journals (in chemistry this would be records or synthesis, spectra, analytical data, computational chemistry, etc.). When you agree to this I can give public advice as to the best way to achieve this.

I leave you to judge whether Elsevier has answered any of my requests or (as I read it) sidestepped them and added a list of platitudes. But I am probably very slightly biased as I have tried for 4 years to get any straight answers out of Elsevier. I might just fail to hide my bias when I speak tomorrow.

Dear Peter,

Thank you for your message.  It is rather long and involved, and its description of various events do not always align with ours, but it is an important issue that you raise and I am very happy to respond on behalf of Elsevier. Datasets are sometimes published as supplementary information to journal articles. Authors provide Elsevier with only a non-exclusive license to publish/promote these supplementary datasets and so only the authors can decide to use a CC0 license for these datasets.   

This having been said Elsevier shares your vision for open data and a future in which data are much more broadly managed, preserved, and reused for the advancement of science.  Professional curation and preservation of data is, like professional publishing, neither easy nor inexpensive.  The grand challenge is to develop approaches that maximise access to data in ways that are sustained over time, ensure the quality of the scientific record, and stimulate innovation.

Here at Elsevier we:

  • believe rich interconnections between publications and scientific data are important to support our customers to advance science and health
  • work with others to identify, if needed develop, and deploy standard approaches for linking publications and data.
  • encourage authors to document their data and to deposit their data with an appropriate open
    data centre or service and to make their data available for reuse by others, ideally prior to publication of articles based on analysis of these data, and with a permanent standard identifier to link from the publication to the dataset. 
  • recognise that scientists’ invest substantially in creating and interpreting data, and their intellectual and financial contributions need to be recognised and valued
  • believe data should be accompanied by the appropriate metadata to enable it to be understood and reused. 
  • help to communicate the benefits of data curation and reuse for different stakeholders in the scholarly communication landscape including authors, funders, publishers, researchers, and university administrators.
  • encourage authors to cite datasets that have been used in their research and that are available for reuse via a data curation center or service.
  • deploy our expertise in certification, indexing, semantics, and linking to add value to data
  • champion the importance of long term preservation of data, and accreditation systems/standards for digital curation services. 

You and your readers might find this short video by my colleague, IJsbrand Jan Aalbersberg, of interest.  It is a 5-minute flash presentation from a recent STM Innovation seminar on this topic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KuBToc4Nv0 .

Last but not least, our policies in this space are similar to those of other publishers.  There are two industry position statements that many of us adhere to, and which your readers may find of interest.  They are: http://www.stm-assoc.org/2006_06_01_STM_ALPSP_Data_Statement.pdf and http://www.stm-assoc.org/2012_12_04_STM_on_Data_and_IP_For_Scholarly_Publishers.pdf

In closing, we at Elsevier welcome your thoughts and are committed to working with researchers to realize our shared vision for open data.  I will post this response to your blog comment stream as well.

With very kind wishes,



Dr Alicia Wise

Director of Universal Access

Elsevier I The Boulevard I Langford Lane I Kidlington I Oxford I OX5 1GB

M: +44 (0) 7823 536 826 I E: a.wise@elsevier.com

Twitter: @wisealic


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One Response to #rds2013: My reply from Elsevier on publishing supplemental data

  1. Pingback: Unilever Centre for Molecular Informatics, Cambridge - #rds2013 Managing Research Data « petermr's blog

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