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Elsevier Acquires bepress – The Scholarly Kitchen


In a move entirely consistent with its strategy to pivot beyond content licensing, Elsevier has acquired bepress, the institutional repository provider.

Source: Elsevier Acquires bepress – The Scholarly Kitchen

Of course, this is no longer “news”, being several days old, but the analysis in SK is interesting.  As the greatest perceived “pariah” of scholarly communication, Elsevier’s moves have been keenly watched and predictions of the company’s intentions abound.  Referenced in this article is Lisa Hinchliffe’s blog post from this past February (after Elsevier’s acquisition of SSRN), which I re-read today and found quite enlightening (again).

It is now apparent that Elsevier is shifting from selling articles in journals to more granular information and data.  So, is this something we librarians should be concerned about?  After all, they are making more and more information freely available – isn’t that what we wanted?  And the targets of Elsevier’s sales pitch will no longer be libraries at all, but the campus and organizational administration offices.  Shouldn’t we all breath a sigh of relief?

Two issues concern me – one is Elsevier’s clear attempt to acquire data that is upstream of the research process, with the intent to sell it back to the institution as information.  That is nothing new…isn’t that what journal publishers have been doing all along?  Of course, Elsevier adds value to the information, just as they do with journal articles.  The question is the cost of that value.  It could be that the benefits will be balanced by the cost – the information provided could be used to increase efficiency (driving down overall costs) or funding (in the form of grants or donations or state funds).  But like the journal subscriptions, the cost could be paid to the detriment of other services.  Unlike journal subscriptions, however, the consumers (who pay the bills) would be the primary users of the information (campus administration).  This elimination of the “moral hazard” could be the key difference that would prevent the same kind of “crisis” in pricing that currently afflicts journal subscriptions.

The other issue that concerns me is more fundamental to scholarly communication.  A key service that Elsevier is positioning itself to provide is the a platform for the entire research and scholarly life cycle – from its inception in the labs and grant proposals to its dissemination in the form of articles and the references and citations, to data storage and re-use.  The goal is to improve the efficiency of this process, particularly with the writing, submission, review and publishing of articles.  Their “waterfall” patent would decrease the time required from initial authorship to publication in any journal, even those not owned by Elsevier.  My concern is if such an improvement is ultimately good for the researchers and scholars.  Greasing the wheels of the process may result in research results being published sooner (which is good for sharing), but wouldn’t that add to the problem of information overload?  But, then Elsevier has a solution for that, as well.  Problem solved?

While future problems that may or may not come from Elsevier’s new strategy, the sheer fact that the company is shifting away from journal subscriptions (and perhaps even APC’s) could be considered a victory of the decades of efforts in developing and supporting the Open Access movement.

 

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This entry was posted on August 6, 2017 by in Open Access, Publishing, Scholarly Communication.

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