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Academic publishers must work together to enable hassle-free, legal and trustworthy sharing for researchers

The time is now for a solution that works for the research community

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Nothing inspires me more than the commitment and tenacity of the research community. We hear about researchers building prosthetics for Paralympic athletes and developing dressings for children with severe skin disorders, and PhD students whose projects involve research into fast-setting chemicals that will provide rapid treatment for trauma victims. We hear how Mendeley has become indispensable to them as they share research among cross-disciplinary teams, saving time and ensuring everyone involved understands where the cutting edge of research sits.

We hear from people like Polly Compston, a research coordinator for the international charity Brooke, who travels to remote regions of the world building an evidence case for animal welfare. She says Mendeley, Elsevier’s reference manager and researcher network, has become a critical tool for her team to share information. When a paper is in Mendeley, she tells us, the team knows it is a particularly robust piece of evidence that can be shared and cited and used to influence policy.

To support researchers in their mission to create new knowledge, we at Mendeley recognise the value of providing trusted, high quality, peer-reviewed research to Mendeley users. Researchers, as Polly points out, need assurance that they can trust the material they are reading. Only skilled academic publishers can provide that service. That’s why we are not interested in becoming the “Facebook for research”; we don’t think the interests of researchers will be served if our platform starts to become primarily a place to put advertising, or sell access to content that most users will already be entitled to via their institutions.

Instead, our approach has always been to work with publishers, and we have taken care to remain publisher-neutral while being owned by information analytics business Elsevier. We believe this has helped us become a trusted platform for our 8 million registered users, and a trusted partner for publishers in the scholarly information ecosystem. As a leading free social network platform, we want to continue that relationship, and we invite publishers to consider with us how we can all speed up the implementation of technology that will improve how we serve all researchers.

We know that researchers want to access research articles in a convenient way without having to worry about copyright compliance issues or visiting multiple platforms. Hence, in collaboration with publishers, we are happy to agree on how to extend our existing arrangements around private sharing of full-text articles (in line with the STM Private Sharing Principles, of which we are a founding signatory) to “public” sharing use cases such as posting to an author’s profile or sharing in a public group. We will build on recent technology advances to make sure that compliance issues are dealt with between publishers and the Mendeley platform, rather than putting the burden on researchers to deal with fragmented and complex copyright rules.

In this cooperation, we want to help publishers stay connected with their readers by providing usage data. We will continue to provide publishers with information that supports existing data and reporting standards like COUNTER, and with user insights. Being part of Elsevier, we also recognise the importance of providing security and transparency around the use of publishers’ content and data, and of putting users in control with respect to privacy.

Longer term, we believe the industry can go beyond the above example of access to research articles and significantly modernise how we deal with user identity and the infrastructure supporting scholarly information. We’re keen to listen to publishers and think about ways to move forward together.

In doing so, we believe we can provide value to researchers who want to read the articles they need, and support the creation of quality-controlled, peer-reviewed research that scholars and society value.

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