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Towards a global knowledge commons

New Policy from Elsevier impedes Open Access and Sharing

May 20, 2015

Global coalition of organizations denounce the policy and urge Elsevier to revise it

Washington, DC and Göttingen, Germany – Elsevier’s new sharing and hosting policy represents a significant obstacle to the dissemination and use of research knowledge, and creates unnecessary barriers for Elsevier published authors in complying with funders’ open access policies, according to an analysis by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) and the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR).

“Elsevier’s policy is in direct conflict with the global trend towards open access and serves only to dilute the benefits of openly sharing research results,” said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC and Kathleen Shearer, Executive Director of COAR, in a joint statement. “Elsevier claims that the policy advances sharing but in fact, it does the opposite. We strongly urge Elsevier to revise it.”

The new stance marks a significant departure from Elsevier’s initial policy, established in 2004, which allowed authors to self-archive their final accepted manuscripts of peer-reviewed articles in institutional repositories without delay. While the stated purpose of the new revision is, in part, to roll back an ill-conceived 2012 amendment prohibiting authors at institutions that have adopted campus-wide Open Access policies from immediate self archiving, the net result of the new policy is that Elsevier has placed greater restrictions on sharing articles.

Twenty-three groups today released the following statement in opposition to the policy:

“On April 30, 2015, Elsevier announced a new sharing and hosting policy for Elsevier journal articles. This policy represents a significant obstacle to the dissemination and use of research knowledge, and creates unnecessary barriers for Elsevier published authors in complying with funders’ open access policies. In addition, the policy has been adopted without any evidence that immediate sharing of articles has a negative impact on publishers’ subscriptions.

“Despite the claim by Elsevier that the policy advances sharing, it actually does the opposite. The policy imposes unacceptably long embargo periods of up to 48 months for some journals. It also requires authors to apply a “non-commercial and no derivative works” license for each article deposited into a repository, greatly inhibiting the re-use value of these articles. Any delay in the open availability of research articles curtails scientific progress and places unnecessary constraints on delivering the benefits of research back to the public.

“Furthermore, the policy applies to “all articles previously published and those published in the future” making it even more punitive for both authors and institutions. This may also lead to articles that are currently available being suddenly embargoed and inaccessible to readers.

“As organizations committed to the principle that access to information advances discovery, accelerates innovation and improves education, we support the adoption of policies and practices that enable the immediate, barrier free access to and reuse of scholarly articles. This policy is in direct conflict with the global trend towards open access and serves only to dilute the benefits of openly sharing research results.

“We strongly urge Elsevier to reconsider this policy and we encourage other organizations and individuals to express their opinions.”

The statement is available here and we welcome others to show their support by also endorsing it.

The statement has been signed by the following groups:

  • COAR: Confederation of Open Access Repositories
  • SPARC: Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition
  • ACRL: Association of College and Research Libraries
  • ALA: American Library Association
  • ARL: Association of Research Libraries
  • Association of Southeastern Research Libraries
  • Australian Open Access Support Group
  • IBICT: Brazilian Institute of Information in Science and Technology
  • CARL: Canadian Association of Research Libraries
  • CLACSO: Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales
  • COAPI: Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions
  • Creative Commons
  • Creative Commons (USA)
  • EIFL
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Greater Western Library Alliance
  • LIBER: European Research Library Association
  • National Science Library, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • OpenAIRE
  • Open Data Hong Kong
  • Research Libraries UK
  • SANLiC: South African National Licensing Consortium
  • University of St Andrews Library


SPARC®, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, is an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to correct imbalances in the scholarly publishing system. Developed by the Association of Research Libraries, SPARC has become a catalyst for change. Its pragmatic focus is to stimulate the emergence of new scholarly communication models that expand the dissemination of scholarly research and reduce financial pressures on libraries. More information can be found at

COAR, the Confederation of Open Access Repositories, is an international association with over 100 members and partners from five continents representing universities, research institutions, government research funders, and others. COAR’s mission is to enhance the visibility and application of research outputs through a global network of Open Access digital repositories. COAR brings together the major repository initiatives in order to align policies and practices and acts as a global voice for the repository community.


Ranit Schmelzer (SPARC)
Tel.: 202-538-1065

Katharina Müller (COAR)
49 551 39-22215

2 thoughts on “New Policy from Elsevier impedes Open Access and Sharing

  1. COAR-recting the record

    We have received neutral-to-positive responses from research institutions and the wider research community. We are therefore a little surprised that COAR has formed such a negative view, and chosen not to feedback their concerns directly to us.
    We would like to correct the misperceptions.

    Our sharing policy is more liberal in supporting the dissemination and use of research:
    • At each stage of the publication process authors can share their research: before submission, from acceptance, upon publication, and post publication.
    • In institutional repositories, which no longer require a formal agreement to host full text content
    • Authors can also share on commercial platforms such as social collaboration networks
    • We provide new services to authors such as the share link which enables authors to post and share a customized link for 50 days free access to the final published article
    • For authors who want free immediate access to their articles, we continue to give all authors a choice to publish gold open access with a wide number of open access journals and over 1600 hybrid titles

    Unlike the claims in this COAR statement, the policy changes are based on feedback from our authors and institutional partners, they are evidence-based, and they are in alignment with the STM article sharing principles. They introduce absolutely no changes in our embargo periods. And they are not intended to suddenly embargo and make inaccessible content currently available to readers – as we have already communicated in Elsevier Connect (

    In fact, we have been developing services, in partnership with libraries, to help institutional repositories track research output and display content to their users. This includes:
    • Sharing metadata: In order to showcase an institutions’ work, an institutional repository must identify their institution’s research output. By integrating the ScienceDirect metadata API into the repository, this task becomes simple. Even in cases where the repository doesn’t hold the full text manuscript, the article information and abstract can be displayed..
    • Sharing user access information and embedding final articles: We are testing a workflow in which a user’s access level to the full text is checked on the fly, and if full text access is available, the user will be served the final published version, instead of the preprint or manuscript hosted by the repository. Users who are not entitled to view the full text of the final article will be led to the version available in the repository, or- if this is not available- to a page where they can view the first page of the article and options for accessing it (including via interlibrary loan). This ensures that users will always be served the best available version. This also enables the repository to display the best available version to their users even if no self-archived manuscript is available.

    We have not only updated our policies, we are active in developing and delivering technology that enables research to be shared more widely.

    COAR states that the addition of a CC-BY-NC-ND license is unhelpful. Feedback suggests that clarity about how manuscripts can be used is welcome, when asked in surveys authors often choose NC ND of their own volition (see the T&F study from 2014 at ), and this license works across a broad range of use cases.

    Our refreshed policies are about green OA, and some elements of this – for example the use of embargo periods – are specifically for green OA when it is operating in tandem with the subscription business model. Here time is needed for the subscription model to operate as libraries will understandably not subscribe if this material is available immediately and for free.

    In closing, we appreciate an open dialogue and are always happy to have a dialogue to discuss these, or any other, issues further.

    Dr. Alicia Wise
    Director of Access & Policy

  2. Dear Alicia,
    the T&F-survey might be biased because only T&F-authors participated. Other stakeholders might have different views. See for example libraries and research organisations in the list above or the publishers: They choose CC-BY three times more often for their journals than CC-BY-NC-ND: (and these are facts, not opinions).
    Alicia, you say that you “received neutral-to-positive responses from research institutions and the wider research community.” Did you consult your library advisory boards?
    Best regards

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