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Open access at Elsevier – 2013 in retrospect and a look at 2014

New collaborations, scaling up gold open access, and exploring opportunities for green open access

At Elsevier, we have been reflecting upon how the open access landscape progressed during 2013 and what 2014 might hold. Key themes during 2013 were multi-stakeholder collaboration and scaling up gold open access publishing. These trends look set to continue for 2014, along with a greater focus on the many issues and opportunities that green open access offers.

Open Access logo2013 was an important year for open access to scientific literature, at Elsevier and well beyond. In areas where there has been real progress in open access, we see strong collaboration among authors, institutions, funders, libraries,and publishers. Of course, that same spirit of collaboration is also required to work through some of the remaining complexities and issues in 2014.

Collaboration advances open access

Here are few examples of productive open access collaborations that have helped move things forward.

United Kingdom

In the UK, we have been helping to support the implementation of the national open access policy, and the new open access policies of the Research Councils UK and Wellcome Trust. Elsevier's contributions have spanned gold open access, green open access,and licensed access. In partnership with JISC Collections, Elsevier has undertaken a number of initiatives focused on affordability for institutions. We launched a gold open access prepayment pilot plan to help participating universities budget during the transition to open access. Elsevier also facilitated the retrospective conversion to open access of 672 articles published in 2012 by authors in UK universities. These agreements were possible because of a focused attention to scale up our gold open access publishing initiatives, which are described more fully below.

United States

In the US, we have spent a great deal of time engaging with the many stakeholders committed to expanding public access. The CHORUS initiative (Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States) enables publishers to work with US government funding agencies to provide public access in a very cost-effective manner and in ways that do not increase administrative and compliance burdens for researchers and universities. CHORUS will help institutions identify and discover articles reporting on federally funded research building upon existing platforms. We explained more about CHORUS in our article "Q&A: Susan King on CHORUS proposal for public access to research." There appear to many synergies between CHORUS and SHARE (Shared Access Research Ecosystem), a similar initiative to leverage networked repositories to expand public access and that will be an important conversation to continue in 2014.

International collaboration

Internationally, Elsevier was an active participant in the SCOAP3 open access initiative for the high- energy physics community, led by CERN. We adjusted library contracts worldwide to reimburse the subscription prices for the two participating Elsevier journals; Physics Letters B and Nuclear Physics Letter B. In turn, libraries redirected these funds to SCOAP3, which centrally supports the open access costs of the flipped journals. This means article publishing charges are paid centrally and not by individual authors. Read more in our article "CERN-driven open access initiative to take off, and Elsevier's on board."

In addition, Elsevier's popular Publishing Connect workshops,  run in collaboration with universities around the world, help educate early-career researchers about open access publishing and the new choices they need to consider. We have also been engaged closely with funders and policy makers around the globe about successful, scalable open access policies. In April, for example, we collaborated with the African Academy of Sciences to discuss "Open access in Africa – changes and challenges," and during the year, we visited funders and other stakeholders on every continent except Antarctica.[divider]

Gold open access

Open access publishing was a major focus at Elsevier this year as we rapidly expanded the number of options authors can choose from when publishing open access. We have worked with editors and society partners to expand these options.

We launched 35 new open access journals in 2013, and also now host over 90 third-party owned open access journals on ScienceDirect. In these, and in our more than 1,600 established journals that offer open access publishing options, we have adapted a wide array of fresh new open access publishing policies since April. For example, we now ensure that authors can choose from a range of Creative Commons user licenses, including both CC BY and non-commercial alternatives. Our open access publishing fees have changed, are now journal-specific, and range from $500 to $5,000, depending on the journal. By widening our selection of journals and offering different price points and user licenses, we are giving authors the flexibility to select the right journal to suit both their research needs and open access preferences.

We also focused on making open access easy: easy to publish, easy to search and easy to understand. A lot of work goes into making things simple. We have made improvements to our ScienceDirect platform to enable users to search, filter and find open access content.

In addition, Elsevier has continued to establish agreements with funding agencies, which helps us streamline our submission systems and enable authors to publish their research without delay by choosing the right open access options for their article, whether green or gold. This year, for example, we focused on arrangements with Research Councils UK, the Wellcome Trust and Parkinson's UK. We are also mindful that many open access terms may be unfamiliar to some researchers, so we have communicated with them a variety of ways, such as with this article on open access license options and issues in Elsevier Connect.

There has been a terrific amount of positive change here at Elsevier to scale our open access publishing initiatives. All of this hard work has resulted in Elsevier publishing more than 6,000 gold open access articles. We are proud of the strides we have taken, many of them prompted by suggestions from, others in the research community and our collaborations with them. We will continue to make progress, for example, on ensuring that end users are crystal clear how they can use open access content.[divider]

Green open access and scholarly sharing

We continued our posting pilots with universities, adding partners in Europe and South America. We also began having more discussions with universities in the United States and are keen to continue these, in particular exploring synergies between CHORUS and SHARE.

We have been paying close attention to responses to our recent actions related to the public posting of final published journal articles. We have posted a public comment on takedown notices and engaged interested parties by email, phone and social media. We are in contact with many parties to whom we sent takedown notices and are advising them on how we can address their needs in a way that is acceptable to all. We could, for example, provide manuscripts to replace final articles or integrate with our APIs to add article metadata to a repository, and we'd like to run a pilot with a selection of repositories to test a new way for authors to share their final research articles without having to worry about posting compliancy and copyright infringement.

We think it's important for us to continue to emphasize that we support scholarly sharing, while acknowledging we need to do more to communicate how. For example, we were among the first publishers to adopt a formal green open access posting policy acknowledging the right of authors to share earlier versions of their articles. In fact, we believe that the future of researchers sharing and talking about articles is so promising that we acquired Mendeley.

Managing complex transitions around open access and scholarly sharing, including the many developments in social sites and institutional repositories, all require discussion and engagement on best practices. We acknowledge that this is a complex area and that different people and organizations will have different views. Here at Elsevier, we believe that more access to more research is the future. To that end, we will continue to spend time and effort scaling up our open access initiatives, as well as articulating the many positive ways we can facilitate the sharing of scholarly work both directly and working with other stakeholders including libraries. This includes evolving our green open access policies to reflect the feedback we have received and will continue to receive. [divider]

What's new for 2014?

One of the main lessons from 2013 is that open access is not a one-size-fits-all affair. While the broad principle resonates through the scholarly community, people in each subject area have their own thoughts about, and approaches to, making open access work. As a global publisher, Elsevier is really engaged at the community, regional and global levels to make sure access to research is universal and in ways that scale and work for authors, funders, institutions, policymakers, publishers and the public.  

Continued interest in public access initiatives of all kinds will be a continuing theme this year. One launch we are looking forward to in early 2014 is the UK's new Access to Research initiative. This will provide access to research published in journals to UK public library users on a walk-in basis. We're always open to discussing similar initiatives – or other approaches to expand public access - in other parts of the world.

We are also looking ahead to constructive discussions and engagement on challenging issues important to us all. One issue, fundamental to green open access policy discussions, is how to set the right embargo period. Elsevier embargo periods typically range from 12 to 24 months, but there are exceptions. Some exceptions are shorter, such as news-breaking Lancet titles, which can be sustainable with only a six-month embargo period. Some exceptions are longer: for example, some review titles require an embargo of 36 months to be sustainable.

Ideally, embargoes should be set on a title-by-title basis by publishers. However, we recognize that other stakeholders – in particular funders – seek influence over embargo lengths. Those funders are also approached by those who feel that embargos should be as short as possible, often six months or less. Like most other publishers, we do not believe that 12-month embargoes work for all journals or that six-month embargoes work for many titles at all.

If immediate open access is wanted, it can be delivered, but through the gold rather than green open access model.

Conversations about embargos can be heated, and it can bring light to the discussion for evidence to be surfaced and shared. We participated in the Phil Davis study on journal usage, and look forward to discussions about how usage information can be used to help set embargo policies.

We look forward to continuing dynamism in the gold open access publishing landscape. This year, Elsevier is changing seven subscription journals to gold open access and launching others where there is clear and continuing support for open access publishing from authors, funders and the wider community.

We also look forward to continued work with stakeholders on affordability challenges, particularly for research intensive countries and institutions, in a world with more gold open access publishing happens and payments shift from information users to information producers. As these discussions mature, we are beginning to hear acknowledgement that while Elsevier – and many other publishers – do not double-dip, there remain challenges for universities in managing this transition in a flat-cash world and where not all research intensive universities and countries are supporting gold open access equally.

There are many approaches to open access, many moving parts, and many impacted stakeholders. Collaboration is the proven key to success. We continue to believe that partnership and engagement with relevant stakeholders to find consensus solutions is the best way to promote science and manage complex change.

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The Authors

Alicia Wise, PhDRachel MartinAs Director of Access and Policy for Elsevier, Dr. Alicia Wise (@wisealic) is responsible for delivering Elsevier's vision for universal access to high-quality scientific publications. She leads strategy and policy in areas such as open access, philanthropic access programs, content accessibility, and access technologies. Based in Oxford, she has a PhD in anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Rachel Martin (@rachelcmartin) is the Access and Policy Communications Manager at Elsevier, based in Amsterdam. She is responsible for helping to communicate Elsevier's progress in areas such as open access, philanthropic access programs and access technologies.



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1 Archived Comment

David Wojick January 25, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Nice work! Regarding "discussions about how usage information can be used to help set embargo policies" here is some preliminary work of mine, with lots of discussion.

http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2014/01/07/estimating-the-adverse-economic-impact-of-imposed-embargoes/

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