Changes to the Elsevier manuscript sharing policy: how they affect Mendeley & you

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

  • The author manuscript embargo. We believe that libraries and researchers will still value the permanently archived, DOI-linked, more readable and fully-citable version of record, regardless of the prevalence of author manuscripts. We’re not alone in our dislike of this, either. Harnad and Kevin Smith single this out as the main issue. Here’s the thing – it’s entirely reasonable for Elsevier to worry that IR copies might end up substituting for publisher copies. If librarians and researchers do actually value the permanently archived, DOI-linked, and variously enhanced version of record, you need to make your voices heard on this so that we can get policies based on evidence and demand, not worry and risk projections.
  • The NC-ND bit of the Creative Commons license on author manuscripts. The NC license will create confusion about use of the work in academic settings and the ND license will cause uncertainty in applications such as text-mining. For what it’s worth, we have been told the license isn’t intended to restrict use in classrooms or text mining.
  • The distinction between commercial and non-commercial sites. We don’t like that for-profit enterprise is singled out as if we’re somehow more risky to partner with. Mendeley reached out to Academia, ScienceScape, MyScienceWork, Pubchase, Sparrho and others for guidance as we worked with Elsevier, and their feedback has helped shape the policy. We would therefore like to suggest that the disdain we sometimes encounter within academia for for-profit enterprise is misplaced.
  • 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.

    On sharing research and the value of peer-review: Mendeley's response to #SOPA and the Research Works Act.

    UPDATE: The RFIs have now been posted and there’s a petition opposing the RWA on whitehouse.gov.

    The US White House Office of Science and Technology Policy recently issued a Request for Information on their existing policy requiring some federally-funded work to be submitted to Pubmed Central, where it’s freely accessible to the public. We were pleased to have the opportunity to respond and a summary of our response is below. Before getting into that, however, I’d like to take a little detour and talk a little about our mission and how that relates to the scholarly endeavor. Our mission at Mendeley is to help researchers organize research, collaborate easily with colleagues, and discover new research. Read More »

    Channel 4 reports on Mendeley

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “It has been described as internet dating for inventors” – well, here at Mendeley we didn’t know that we were doing this kind of stuff, but in any case it’s fantastic news that yesterday Channel 4 News, one of UK’s leading news channels, reported about Mendeley! The six minute report names James Dyson, probably Britain’s most famous inventor, and Mendeley as exemplary innovators in UK’s recovering economy.
    Besides showing Mendeley in our “tiny office in London” (oh well, start-up life…), Channel 4 News also interviewed Cameron Neylon in front of his mega-super-duper-luxurious four monitor set-up. Thanks Cameron for the nice quotes!
    Here’s the write-up and below you will find the video.

    “It has been described as internet dating for inventors” – well, here at Mendeley we didn’t know that we were doing this kind of stuff, but in any case it’s fantastic news that yesterday Benjamin Cohen from Channel 4 News, one of the UK’s leading news channels, reported on Mendeley! The three minute report names James Dyson, probably Britain’s most famous inventor, and Mendeley as exemplary innovators in the UK’s recovering economy.

    Besides showing Mendeley in our “tiny office in London” (oh well, start-up life…), Channel 4 News also interviewed Dr. Cameron Neylon, Molecular Biologist at the Science and Technologies Facilities Council, and an Open Science advocate, in front of his mega-super-duper-luxurious four monitor set-up. Thanks Cameron for the nice quotes!

    Here’s the write-up, the link to the video, and below you will find the video embedded.

    http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f8/1184614595