Monday, February 27, 2012

Elsevier steps away from Research Works Act

Elsevier has today posted a statement on its web site indicating that it no longer supports the Research Works Act (RWA). 
Michael Eisen design

The news follows an outcry against the publisher for supporting the bill, and the launch of a site encouraging researchers to commit to boycott Elsevier. Currently the number of researchers who have signed on to the boycott is approaching 7,500.

I attach some excerpts from Elsevier's statement below:

At Elsevier, we have always focused on serving the global research community and ensuring the best possible access to research publications and data. In recent weeks, our support for the Research Works Act has caused some in the community to question that commitment.

We have heard expressions of support from publishers and scholarly societies for the principle behind the legislation. However, we have also heard from some Elsevier journal authors, editors and reviewers who were concerned that the Act seemed inconsistent with Elsevier’s long-standing support for expanding options for free and low-cost public access to scholarly literature. That was certainly not our intention in supporting it. This perception runs counter to our commitment to making published research widely accessible, coming at a time when we continue to expand our access options for authors and develop advanced technologies to enable the sharing and distribution of research results.

While we continue to oppose government mandates in this area, Elsevier is withdrawing support for the Research Work Act itself. We hope this will address some of the concerns expressed and help create a less heated and more productive climate for our ongoing discussions with research funders.

"We are ready and willing to work constructively and cooperatively to continue to promote free and low-cost public access through a variety of means, as we have with research funders and other partners around the world.

The full statement can be read here.

UPDATE: Elsevier has today also published a Letter to the Mathematics Community. Amongst other things, this addresses the issues of pricing, open access and the RWA.

FURTHER UPDATE: Elsevier's vice president marketing communications Chrysanne Lowe has posted a message to the library community on the Liblicense mailing list.

The message confirms that Elsevier has withdrawn its support for the RWA, and ends, "We recognize that the recent legislative debate is far from the only issue at hand. We acknowledge that, as the largest of the commercial publishers, we take a sizable share of your serials budget. However, relative to our competitors, we are also confident that we deliver a significant share of value in terms of articles, usage, citations, and improved research productivity."

FURTHER UPDATE:  Alexander Howard reports that he has received a joint statement from the sponsors of the RWA -- Reps. Darrell Issa and Carolyn B. Maloney -- saying that they "will not be taking legislative action" on the RWA. The statement adds:

As the costs of publishing continue to be driven down by new technology, we will continue to see a growth in open access publishers. This new and innovative model appears to be the wave of the future. The transition must be collaborative, and must respect copyright law and the principles of open access. The American people deserve to have access to research for which they have paid. This conversation needs to continue and we have come to the conclusion that the Research Works Act has exhausted the useful role it can play in the debate.

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