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Elsevier's commitment to data privacy: The journey we are on

April 21, 2022 | 5 min read

By IJsbrand Jan Aalbersberg, Helen Gainford

Elsevier's commitment to data privacy: The journey we are on

Respecting and protecting institutional and personal data and privacy are priorities for Elsevier

At Elsevier, our mission is to support researchers and healthcare professionals advance science and improve health outcomes. We do so by combining quality information and data sets with analytical tools to facilitate insights and critical decision-making.  As the volume of research information continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, it is important we provide our customers with relevant, high-quality information efficiently and securely. Maintaining the trust our customers place with us to protect their data is a critical part of this and we are committed to being transparent about the journey we are on.

Elsevier’s Privacy Principles

In providing scientific information, analytics and services to universities, research and healthcare institutions and R&D-led corporations, Elsevier has long recognized the fundamental importance of user privacy.  The Elsevier Privacy Principles reflect our commitment to responsible privacy and security practices in the way we develop our solutions and the way we serve our customers:

  • Value: We collect and use personal information to facilitate efficiency and productivity in research, healthcare, and education.

  • Transparency: We tell users about the personal information we collect, including how and why we will use and share it.

  • Choice: Users are given choice over the collection, use and sharing of their personal information.

  • Anonymization: We depersonalize and aggregate personal information where individual identification is not necessary.

  • Accountability: We are committed to acting as a responsible steward of personal information.

Supporting institutions

In some cases, Elsevier’s solutions help our institutional customers to make data-driven decisions. For example, Pure helps institutions aggregate research information from internal and external sources, and ensures the data is trusted, comprehensive and accessible in real-time. Pure then enables institutions to carry out research evaluation assessments, organize workflows to apply for funding, manage researcher profiles, support research networking and expertise discovery, while minimizing the administrative burden on researchers, faculty, and staff.

Pure is enterprise licensed software, just like an enterprise licensed HR or financial system. This means data posted into the Pure system by a customer belongs to that institution, before, during, and after their use of the software. Clients may, at any time, extract their customer data - Elsevier does not take ownership or use rights.  All access to and processing of customer data in Pure is contractually agreed upon with our customers, to meet their specific data security and privacy obligations. Elsevier appointed a third-party auditor to ensure that international standards for data security are evidenced, which you can read more about here.

Supporting researchers

In other cases, we can make our tools more valuable to individual users through their personal data, like profile and usage data. As an example, ScienceDirect has developed a Personalized Recommender service.

ScienceDirect is the world’s largest platform dedicated to peer-reviewed primary scientific and medical research, hosts over 19 million pieces of content from over 4,400 journals and over 43,000 e-books. To use its Personalized Recommender service, users need to register an account. Powered by a machine learning algorithm, the service learns about an individual’s research interests. It then finds articles on ScienceDirect from the millions available and highlights the ones most relevant to the individual researcher – on the page or in a weekly email if they wish. We know from feedback this feature saves researchers a significant amount of time.

As our solutions have grown, our commitments to safeguarding data and user privacy have become more important than ever.

The Elsevier Privacy Center

The proper handling of personal data is incredibly important and we are acutely mindful of both essential safeguards and respectful of individual preferences; many people are happy to share data, some are not. That’s why we created and continue to develop The Elsevier Privacy Centeropens in new tab/window, a growing online resource that offers transparency on the personal data that Elsevier collects, explains the user value created, and provides control on the collection, use, and sharing of personal data. The Elsevier Privacy Center is part of our commitment to being transparent about personal data. It initially focused on products and selected journals but has since been expanded. It offers and further develops simple transparency and choice with features like:

Even though there are more products that need to be connected to the Elsevier Privacy Center and many more features need to be built, users tell us “the site shows that Elsevier is striving to safeguard personal information.” Some types of data are not manageable in the Elsevier Privacy Center or in individual products. For instance, the collection of activity data that relates to contractual or regulatory obligations, or activity that needs to be monitored for security or operational reasons. No personally identifiable usage data is sold. We maintain a comprehensive information program to safeguard our users, their institutions, and our services against cybersecurity risks, which currently present a very real threat to the research community through cyberattacks and pirate sites. We use a variety of technologies that process user data to identify potential threats, prevent fraud and unauthorized access to, and provide uninterrupted availability of our products and services.  As we do so we ensure that privacy is built into these processes.

Our commitment to engage on this important topic

Our business success depends on the trust our customers place with us to protect their data and we are committed to being transparent about the journey we are on. Elsevier will continue to work closely with the communities that we serve and other stakeholders so that, together, we can improve the safeguarding of institutional and personal data and privacy.


Portrait photo of IJsbrand Jan Aalbersberg, PhD


IJsbrand Jan Aalbersberg

Portrait photo of Helen Gainford


Helen Gainford