Elsevier Appears To Be Slurping Up Open Access Research, And Charging People To Access It

Oh, Elsevier. The publishing giant has quite the reputation for its desire to stop people from sharing knowledge unless Elsevier can put up a toll booth. A huge number of academics have signed pledges to boycott Elsevier and not allow their works to be published by the company. Also, in the last few years, there’s been a rapid growth in open access and requirements that research be distributed for free (often under a Creative Commons license).

Almost exactly a year ago, we had a story about Elsevier charging for open access content, and apparently the company hasn’t gotten any better. Ross Mounce recently noticed that Elsevier appeared to be selling a paper on HIV infection for $31.50 + tax (after which you have just 24 hours to download it, or just kiss that money goodbye): The problem, however, is that the paper was actually published by competing publisher Wiley under an open access Creative Commons license (and is available free of charge on its website). The key author on the paper, Didier Raolt told Mounce that he had no idea why Elsevier was selling his paper, and that he had not given permission. The paper is under a Creative Commons license, but it’s a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. And while I’m not a fan of NC/ND licenses, it’s pretty clear that this license does not allow someone to step in and start selling the paper.

When confronted about this, someone from Elsevier, Alicia Wise, tweeted a nonsensical response: If you can’t read that, it says:

the journal is in transition from Wiley to Elsevier; will check on transition status

But that’s meaningless. If the paper is being published under an open access license, even if somehow that journal is being transferred, then Elsevier should still be publishing it under open access terms. And, considering that the document was just published recently, you’d think that the author on the paper would know something about this. Once again, it looks like Elsevier is just giving open access a giant middle finger.

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