A comment on takedown notices (with update)

Elsevier periodically issues takedown notices. Here’s why — and options for authors if your hosting platform receives one

Tom RellerAt Elsevier, we issue takedown notices from time to time when the final version of published journal articles is posted on unauthorized public websites. This afternoon, I communicated with The Chronicle of Higher Education to explain the reason we do this and point out the various options authors do have to share their published work with colleagues and the public. Their article is here.

Here's the explanation I had sent to The Chronicle:[divider]

We do issue takedown notices from time to time when the final version of the published journal articles has been, often inadvertently, posted. However, there are many other good options for authors who want to share their article. They can share the final published version of the article with colleagues, use it for internal teaching and training, and at conferences or meetings. Any author who publishes in an Elsevier journal can also post and share other versions of their article, following some simple guidelines that vary by the version of the article to be shared.  And of course the final published journal article can be shared whenever an author published open access with us.

Why do we send take down notices? One key reason is to ensure that the final published version of an article is readily discoverable and citable via the journal itself in order to maximize the usage metrics and credit for our authors, and to protect the quality and integrity of the scientific record.  The formal publications on our platforms also give researchers better tools and links, for example to data.

Any authors affected by a takedown notice who would like to self-archive and need help in doing so can contact us at universalaccess@elsevier.com.

Academia.edu (the company referred to in the Chronicle) made final versions of articles publicly available. We've reached out to them to ensure they were aware of our policies and to explore user-friendly options for alignment, but unfortunately they were unwilling to engage with us.

Here is more information about ways that our authors can:


Addendum: Additional comments on why we issue takedown notices; gold and green author options; and Mendeley

Posted on December 12, 2013

This article has been interpreted by some as suggesting that author benefits are the only reason we sent takedown notices. It was not our intent to suggest this was the only reason, although we do serve the research community and are mindful of their perspectives. We know we only succeed in supporting  the research community if we consider and act upon the objectives of all the stakeholders in our community. There is indeed also a business-focused reason for takedown notices. The public availability of final published journal articles is fine for the open access articles we publish because their publishing  costs are covered, for example, through a payment by author or funder. However, it is a problem for subscription/non-Open Access articles, where most publishers' current business model is based on paid access post-publication. Hence we can't allow published journal articles to be freely accessible on  a large scale — especially not through other for-profit companies, who want to benefit from our and other publishers' efforts. What library will continue to subscribe if a growing proportion of articles is available for free elsewhere?

Our view is that no one, including us, wants to spend time and money finding copies of final published journal articles online and asking for their removal. But as interest in scholarly sharing and green open access continues to grow, we do feel it is important  — for researchers and for  our business — to find ways forward that are both scalable and sustainable for all stakeholders. If immediate open access to final articles is wanted, the gold open access publishing model works and Elsevier enables this by publishing more than 70 fully open access and 1,600+ hybrid open access  journals. The immediate availability of final articles published under the subscription model is not sustainable at scale. Elsevier supports authors who want to share their research, and we have simple guidelines to support sustainable approaches to green open access.

We've also been asked if Mendeley is getting special treatment vis–à–vis other platforms, and the answer is no. Elsevier is both a publisher and — even moreso since our acquisition of Mendeley's research collaboration platform in April — a provider of digital tools and services  for researchers and authors. We therefore both send and routinely receive takedown notices and respond to them. In fact, when Mendeley receives a takedown notice, we invite the publisher to craft its own notification to end-users, to give them an opportunity to communicate with their authors, in a friendly  and cooperative way. Mendeley, like Elsevier, has always tried to take a collaborative approach to a wider challenge because we believe it is important to work together across the industry to find sustainable ways forward.


The Author

As VP and Head of Global Corporate Relations at Elsevier, Tom Reller (@TomReller) leads a global team of media, social and web communicators for the world's largest provider of scientific, technical and medical (STM) information products and services. Together, they work to build on Elsevier's reputation by promoting the company's numerous contributions to the health and science communities, many of which are brought to life in our new online community and information resource: Elsevier Connect.

Reller directs strategy, execution and problem-solving for external corporate communications, including media relations, issues management and policy communications, and acts as a central communications counsel and resource for Elsevier senior management. Additionally, he develops and nurtures external corporate/institutional relationships that broaden Elsevier's influence and generate good will, including partnerships developed through the Elsevier Foundation.

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4 Archived Comments

Stevan Harnad December 17, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Tom, I wonder if it would be possible to drop the double-talk and answer a simple question:

Do or do not Elsevier authors retain the right to make their peer-reviewed final drafts on their own institutional websites immediately, with no embargo?

Just a Yes or No, please...


Tom Reller December 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Hello Dr. Harnad. I don’t agree with your characterization of our explanation here, but nevertheless as requested, there is a simple answer to your question – yes.

Thank you.

Stevan Harnad December 20, 2013 at 6:02 am

Tom, thank you. Then I suggest that the institutions of Elsevier authors ignore the Elsevier take-down notices (and also adopt an immediate-deposit mandate that is immune to all publisher take-down notices by requiring immediate deposit, whether or not access to the immediate-deposit is made immediately OA)… Stevan

Stevan Harnad December 20, 2013 at 7:31 am

Paradoxically, publisher take-down notices for the publisher's proprietary PDF version-of-record are a good thing for the adoption of sensible, effective OA policies and practices: Sleep-walking authors and their institutions need to be awakened to the pragmatics and implications of the difference between the author's final, peer-reviewed, revised, accepted version and the publisher's PDF version-of-record: Green OA is all about the former, not the latter.

Carolyn Bailey December 20, 2013 at 9:26 am

Tom, could you please clarify ' The public availability of final published journal articles is fine for the open access articles we publish because their publishing costs are covered'. Does this mean that if we, as an institution, pay the costs for making an article Open Access then we can then add the final publisher version to our Open Access institutional repository?

Tom Reller December 20, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Hi Carolyn. Yes -- we ask that you ensure a CrossMark appears on the article (so it will link back to the citeable version on our platform) and also the end-user license that the author has chosen for their article. If you need any support with this, please do contact universalaccess@elsevier.com

Thank you.

AJD December 21, 2013 at 3:21 am

"Most publishers' current business model is based on paid access post-publication. Hence we can't allow published journal articles to be freely accessible on a large scale."

…I suggest, therefore, that the problem is with the publishers' business model, since authors' only incentive is for their published journal articles to be freely accessible on a large scale. Indeed, "freely accessible on a large scale" is the *only* goal of publication for which the author is not compensated.