On April 30th, Elsevier updated its policies regarding how Elsevier papers may be used to more closely align with the STM Association principles and to address usage on social networks, which have become popular since the last time the policy was updated (yeah, it was that old!) For Mendeley and other sites on which research is shared, the main thing is that there are fewer restrictions on what sorts of use are permitted, but we also get some technical help with a new article tagging proposal.
What it means for a Mendeley user
The day-to-day experience of a researcher using Mendeley won’t change. We plan to use the new machine-readable information in the PDFs to improve our catalog search, recommendation features, and article-level information available via the Mendeley API. We would also like to encourage researchers to add the new author manuscripts to their researcher profiles.
While we continue to dream of and work towards a world where all research is available to anyone without restriction, this is a welcome step forward. At Mendeley, we worked closely with Elsevier to ensure these changes help the whole scholarly communications ecosystem – researchers, publishers, librarians, and developers of new technology – and found Elsevier a willing and forthcoming partner in our work to meet the changing needs of of researchers. For any new startups that have bold new ideas about how to make research better, get in touch with Alicia or Alexandra – they don’t bite!
What we like about the policy
- We like that the policy is much simpler to understand. The old policy was complicated and had all sorts of exceptions. Simpler policies allow us to provide a better user experience.
- We like that the policy is not too prescriptive re: sharing platforms. The online world changes rapidly and it’s good that Elsevier is signaling willingness to work with existing sites and whatever YikYak-for-research might be yet to come.
- We like that author manuscripts have a CC license applied. This helps remove the uncertainty about reuse permissions.
- We like that the policy isn’t just words – a proposed new standard for article tagging, to be developed in collaboration with sharing platforms and other publishers, will make it easier for us to build advanced search and discovery features, as well as to provide better article usage stats to Scopus, Altmetric.com, Plum Analytics, etc. Importantly for stats, the machine-readable tags will now include information such as article license & document version.
The above changes aren’t just good for us, they’re good for everyone – Mendeley user or not. We understand that researchers need a range of tools and services to support their work, so we worked hard to ensure these changes help the whole scholarly communications ecosystem – researchers, publishers, librarians, and developers of new technology. Of course, we’re on the progressive end of things at Mendeley, so there are some parts of the policy we don’t feel goes far enough.
What we don’t like about the policy
Overall, we think the positives outweigh the negatives. Though there’s bound to be some cases where one particular part of the policy has an outsized and unforeseen effect – this is inevitable when trying to restrict use of digital content – they are not presenting this policy as cast-iron and immutable for the next decade, so please let them know if some part of the policy is really ill-suited to your particular application.
There’s one other thing we’d like to mention. It’ll do no good if this overture from Elsevier is ignored or repudiated, so we’d also like to suggest that criticism of the policy be done with a fresh set of eyes. We’re not suggesting that the past be forgotten and we’re certainly no stranger to grand-standing and revolutionary rhetoric, but we also think good behavior should be rewarded if there is to be more of it. Embargo aside, this does lift the burden somewhat on those trying to innovate in the scholarly communications space, so that’s why it is, on balance, a positive step forward in our eyes.