December 9, 2017

Preprints: Elsevier Acquires Social Science Research Network (SSRN)

As you know, Elsevier is also the owner of bibliographic management tool (and database) Mendeley, a property they acquired in April 2013.

From a Post by Greg Gordon, President and CEO of Social Science Research Network:

For SSRN’s users, the union with Mendeley and Elsevier will create significant short- and long-term benefits. We’ll be able to invest in an updated, more efficient SSRN user interface with add-ons such as a drop-in reference manager from Mendeley. SSRN will benefit from access to Scopus citation data and an ability to link working papers to their published versions with direct forwarding links. We’ll also have access to Elsevier’s broader collection of metrics and data analytics, which we can share with SSRN authors, readers and users.

In time, SSRN will migrate onto the Mendeley technology platform, which will improve our ability to manage academic and research profiles, allow users to follow collaborators and other authors, and develop new journals and curation services.

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SSRN will continue to enable users to “submit for free and download for free.” For SSRN users, you are assured that our ethos will remain intact.

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In the short term, SSRN will remain unchanged, with working papers being posted on SSRN and benefiting the worldwide community. We’ll reach out to community members for additional ideas and feedback about how the platform can be improved using Elsevier’s capabilities. We’ll develop a timeline for eventual integration as a separate community on the Mendeley platform and a more specific product development plan that we’ll share in the coming months.

From a Message by SSRN Founder, Michael Jensen:

We realize that this change may create some concerns about the intentions of a legacy publisher acquiring an open-access working paper repository. I shared this concern. But after much discussion about this matter and others in determining if Mendeley and Elsevier would be a good home for SSRN, I am convinced that they would be good stewards of our mission. And our copyright policies are not in conflict — our policy has always been to host only papers that do not infringe on copyrights. I expect we will have some conflicts as we align our interests, but I believe those will be surmountable.

Until recently I was convinced that the SSRN community was best served being a stand-alone entity. But in evaluating our future in the evolving landscape, I came to believe that SSRN would benefit from being more interconnected and with the resources available from a larger organization. For example, there is scale in systems administration and security, and SSRN can provide more value to users with access to more data and resources.

Coverage

From Nature:

“It seems the obvious direction to take in a context where content is increasingly freely available,” says Michael Jubb, a scholarly-publishing consultant in London. He points to the rise both of open-access publishing and of piracy sites, such as Sci-Hub, as drivers of the trend.

“Elsevier is now getting closer and closer to researchers with business models that don’t involve libraries,” says Joe Esposito, a publishing consultant in New York City. “The positioning is well thought out: lock up revenues to the legacy publishing business, move into areas where piracy is not much of an issue, create deeper relationships with researchers and become more and more essential to researchers even as librarians become less so.”

Read the Complete Article

UPDATE: May 19, 2016: Authors Alliance Publishes 12 Principles For “Reassuring Authors of SSRN-Posted Papers Under Elsevier’s Ownership”

From the Intro

“Despite some reassurances that SSRN policies won’t change post-acquisition, there is reason to be concerned about the willingness of an Elsevier-run SSRN to accommodate the open access preferences of scholars who post there. Elsevier has recognized that displaying some receptiveness to open access is shrewd in the current era, although it has pursued policies that have created obstacles to true open access in the view of many scholars.

How might Elsevier reassure SSRN authors that it will continue to respect the policies that have attracted scholarly authors to post on that site?”

Review 12 Principles

UPDATE: May 19, 2016 In a post on the RePEc (a well-known open repository for economic preprints and other materials) we read:

In light of today’s announcement that Elsevier has bought SSRN, we take the opportunity to clarify whether this could happen to RePEc. The short answer is: no, this is impossible.

The objective of RePEc is not not maximize profit or monetary value. It is to maximize global welfare, to use terminology from economics, by enhancing the dissemination of economic research for the publishers, the authors and the readers. The democratization of dissemination is a crucial part of our mission.

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Furthermore, RePEc is actually just a set of principles of how to organize metadata about publications in economics. The participating publishers simply adhere to those principles to get their metadata included in RePEc.

Read the Complete Blog Post

UPDATE: May 19, 2016 Elsevier Denies it Will Use SSRN to Move Users on to its Services (via Times Higher Education)

Speaking to Times Higher Education, Tom Reller, Elsevier’s head of global corporate relations, said that the publisher was not going to force users to join Mendeley to gain access to SSRN. “Nothing changes in the foreseeable future,” he said.

Another question is whether Elsevier will use its ownership of SSRN to remove already published papers which it has copyright over. In his announcement, Mr Gordon said that the “majority” of papers on SSRN were unpublished working papers “the versions of which Elsevier has always been open to sharing” and said that “both existing and future SSRN content will be largely unaffected”.

Paul Gowder, a law professor at the University of Iowa, attacked these as “weasel words” in a post on the website Medium and warned that they gave the company “a lot of room” to “adopt aggressive interpretations of its own contract and copyright rights and then implement those interpretations by fiat on the massive platform that it now owns”.

Read the Complete Article

Some Initial Comments From infoDOCKET Founder/Editor Gary Price

Note: These thoughts are as much about the type of material as they are about the Elsevier acquisition of SSRN.

1. An academic can choose to post material (preprints, etc.) in more than one place and that one place doesn’t necessarily have to be SSRN. While I’m a frequent visitor and user of SSRN (it’s a “must” resource) it’s hardly the only resource out there for social science preprints and other material.

What about the major efforts to have academic deposit/share via their institutional repository or via services like MLA Commons or other professional or discipline oriented services. They can even upload and post on their own personal web site.

Btw, all of this is potentially confusing for the academic and the researcher.

One final note, a personal one, SSRN needs to work to improve subject access and provide alerts based on subject, keywords, and titles.

Remember (or try to) search and access is not a zero-sum game.

2. While arXiv is focused on physics don’t let this confuse you. This database is growing with a lot of computer science info science, social media usage data, and other research, some that is of interest to social scientists.

3. There are many other tools that are already online and being developed to help users find/discover OPEN versions of academic materials, well beyond Google Scholar.

For example:

A. BASE Search
Over 90 million citations from over 4300 sources.

B. Scholar Search that launched in last November
Impressive and noteworthy leadership and funding.

C. The SHARE initiative being led by ARL.

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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