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Elsevier’s Presence on Campuses Spans More Than Journals. That Has Some Scholars Worried.

13 April 2019

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

On a recent panel on challenges to the future of teaching and research, Colleen Lyon outlined what was, to her, a “dangerous” dynamic in the world of academic publishing.

Lyon, a librarian of scholarly communications at the University of Texas at Austin, listed scholarly-publishing tools that had been acquired by the journal publishing giant Elsevier. In 2013, the company bought Mendeley, a free reference manager. It acquired the Social Science Research Network, an e-library with more than 850,000 papers, in 2016. And it acquired the online tools Pure and Bepress — which visualize research — in 2012 and 2017, respectively.

Lyon said she started considering institutions’ dependence on Elsevier when the company acquired Bepress two years ago. She was shocked, she recalled in a recent interview.

“It just got me thinking,” she said. Elsevier had it all: Institutional repositories, preprints of journal articles, and analytics. “Elsevier, Elsevier, Elsevier, Elsevier, Elsevier.”

Scholars are beginning to discuss the idea of Elsevier-as-monolith at conferences and in their research. Not only are librarians and researchers speaking openly about the hefty costs of bulk subscriptions to the company’s premier journals, but they’re also paying attention to the products that Elsevier has acquired, several of which allow its customers to store data and share their work.

. . . .

First, institutions fear having less leverage in negotiations, believing that it would be more challenging to move to a different provider if Elsevier’s products were adopted en masse. But, she said, they are also worried about one company’s controlling so many tools that analyze not only the reach and performance of research but also the professors and institutions that produce it.

The skepticism could complicate the relationship between universities and Elsevier just as, on some campuses, it’s showing new strain. Academic libraries have begun to muse publicly about the future of their relationship with the company as their budgets are strained by bulk journal contracts. The University of California system’s high-profile decision to cease negotiations with Elsevier this year has raised the stakes.

. . . .

In a recent paper, Alejandro Posada and George Chen, of the University of Toronto, found that “increased control of scholarly infrastructure … could further entrench publishers’ power and exacerbate the vulnerability of already marginalized researchers and institutions.”

. . . .

Also among Posada and Chen’s findings was that Elsevier’s broad acquisition of tools and services along the research pipeline makes it harder for professors and institutions to cut ties with the company.

“The integration of the data that they control, not only in terms of content but in terms of all the other data they use, makes it a lot harder to function outside the system,” Posada, a research associate at Toronto, said in an interview.

Link to the rest at The Chronicle of Higher Education

As PG has mentioned before, in a former life, he worked in a large subsidiary of Reed Elsevier and had contact with top European executives of the parent company from time to time.

The RE executives all seemed to have the same go-to strategy to increase revenues – raise prices. PG suspects the fears about Elsevier’s motives and future plans reflected in the OP are based upon a rational examination of the company’s past pricing strategies.

Big Publishing, Non-Fiction