Preamble: A large number of publishers now have “open access” offerings and have been actively promoting them, including on Twitter. I have been checking with several of these to see whether the “open access” is properly and labelled. Some (including Elsevier’s Cell Press and Wiley /pmr/2013/08/01/openaccess-wileys-apc-policy-is-clear-cc-by-what-about-rightslink/ ) are, some aren’t and I have tweeted results. Elsevier promoted a page of Open access publications and I investigated some of these in the same way. I found that several, from more than one journal, were badly labelled (e.g. no indication of Open Access or missing licences or ” © Elsevier All rights reserved”. In all of these I have recorded a minimum link trail, and others have duplicated my findings. I blogged this under /pmr/2013/08/14/elsevier-charges-3000-usd-apc-and-then-retains-all-rights-is-this-openaccess-no-they-then-put-it-behind-paywall-32-usd/
Yesterday I received tweets from Alicia Wise, Elsevier’s Director of Universal Access, which I reproduce and will comment on:
@petermurrayrust Peter, thanks for pointing out these issues although I continue to feel disappointed you do this in such a negative way 1/3
@petermurrayrust Today we have bottomed out 3 inter-related systems issues and are working on a full description and response to each 2/3
@petermurrayrust I will post these to the comments section of your blog when complete and also tweet a note about that post. – Alicia 3/3
There has been some twitter reaction and I include some from Chris Rusbridge one-time Director of the UK Digital Curation Centre.
I await AW’s comments but add some scene-settiing.
I am doing this because the scholarly publishing market is seriously broken, as a market. There is no price sensitivity, no substitutability, no standards, and the customers (University librarians) have been completely ineffective in creating acceptable practice. Rather they accept whatever the publishers offer them. Stephen Curry has recently suggested we need regulation (http://occamstypewriter.org/scurry/2013/08/12/scholarly-publishing-time-for-a-regulator/ and I’ve also been urging this for some time. UK railways (11 B GBP) consumes much public money and only works because it is regulated. Scholarly publishing worldwide is a similar size and problem. If we had a regulator, they would be highlighting the current failings, not me. I am simply showing, among other things, the desperate need for accountability and regulation.
AW’s “I continue to feel disappointed you do this in such a negative way” highlights the problem. CR has agreed that Elsevier has failed massively and that is why I am massively negative. The arrogance of her remark highlights the problem – Elsevier knows it can treat customers with indifference because there is no control. In safety-critical industries such as transport or energy the failings we are seeing would have led to groundings, plant closures, questions in the house, etc. Here failings are treated casually because the industry can get away with it. My dealings with Elsevier are no different in principle from dealing with a bank or an energy supplier and I treat them with the same degree of respect and trust as I do banks and utilities.
We are apparently going to be told about systems issues. I will retain judgment, although the signs appear to be there. This isn’t the first time I have challenged them (/pmr/2013/08/12/elsevier-charges-to-read-openaccess-articles/ ). There is no public justification for systems failures.
These failures have led to:
- Authors being denied what they paid for
- Some customers being charge unnecessarily
In an industry which cares about customers the least that should be done is authors should get their money back and so should customers and they should get letters of apology. Let’s see if it happens.