Elsevier acquisition highlights the need for community-based scholarly communication infrastructure – SPARC

“Like many others in the scholarly community, we were very disappointed to learn about the recent acquisition by Elsevier of bepress, the provider of the popular Digital Commons repository platform.1The acquisition is especially troubling for the hundreds of institutions that use Digital Commons to support their open access repositories. These institutions now find their repository services owned and managed by Elsevier, a company well known for its obstruction of open access and repositories.2

While we were disappointed, we were not surprised. Elsevier’s interest in bepress and Digital Commons is reflective of the company’s long term strategy to stake an ownership claim in all the functions vital to the research cycle—from data gathering and annotation, to sharing and publication, to analytics and evaluation. Prior high-profile acquisitions (including SSRN and Mendeley) have made this strategy crystal clear. While this might be a smart business move on the part of a commercial company, it presents significant challenges and risks to the academic and research community.

The dangers inherent in the increasing control of crucial research communication functions in the hands of a small number of commercial players are well-known and well-documented.3 The dysfunction in the academic journal market serves as a case in point. This consolidated control has led to unaffordable costs, limited utility of research articles, the proliferation of western publishing biases, and a system in which publisher lock-in through big deal licenses is the norm. This situation is damaging for the research enterprise, individual researchers, and for society. Further consolidation of the market across functions and platforms—including key elements like research information systems and open access repositories—will exacerbate this already unhealthy situation.”

COAR (Confederation of Open Access Repositories) Annual Report 2016-17 (Public Version)

“COAR has been working to strengthen our role in terms of capacity building. We launched the COAR Webinar and Discussion Series to help raise awareness of our activities as well as important trends for repositories. We have also been actively seeking opportunities to develop more concrete training activities for repository managers, through leveraging relationships with partners and looking for external funding opportunities. It is expected that we will be able to launch some training events in 2017, with a special focus on developing regions. While sustainability and staffing continues to be a challenge for COAR, since the reduction of membership fees several years ago, we did gain several new members in 2016 and expect membership to continue to rise in 2017. We continue to benefit greatly from the voluntary participation of members and external experts in many of our activities, and these contributions are fundamental to COAR’s progress. On behalf of the Executive Board, and the COAR staff, I want to thank you for your participation in COAR and I look forward to continued engagement and collaboration in 2017-2018 year….”

COAR Next Generation Repositories | Draft for Public Comment

“In April 2016, the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) launched a working group to help identify new functionalities and technologies for repositories and develop a road map for their adoption. For the past several months, the group has been working to define a vision for repositories and sketch out the priority user stories and scenarios that will help guide the development of new functionalities.

The vision is to position repositories as the foundation for a distributed, globally networked infrastructure for scholarly communication, on top of which layers of value added services will be deployed, thereby transforming the system, making it more research-centric, open to and supportive of innovation, while also collectively managed by the scholarly community.

Underlying this vision is the idea that a distributed network of repositories can and should be a powerful tool to promote the transformation of the scholarly communication ecosystem. In this context, repositories will provide access to published articles as well as a broad range of artifacts beyond traditional publications such as datasets, pre-prints, working papers, images, software, and so on….”