Addressing the Alarming Systems of Surveillance Built By Library Vendors – SPARC

“On April 2nd, news broke that RELX subsidiary LexisNexis signed a multi-million dollar contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). According to reporting on the ICE contract by the Intercept, LexisNexis’ databases “offer an oceanic computerized view of a person’s existence” and will provide the agency with “the data it needs to locate people with little if any oversight.” 

While this contract may be new, it is just the latest development in an alarming trend that SPARC is following. Two major library vendors—RELX and Thomson Reuters—have been building sophisticated, global systems of surveillance that include online tracking technologies, massive aggregation of user data, and the sale of services based on this tracking, including to governments and law enforcement. 

Dollars from library subscriptions, directly or indirectly, now support these systems of surveillance. This should be deeply concerning to the library community and to the millions of faculty and students who use their products each day and further underscores the urgency of privacy protections as library services—and research and education more generally—are now delivered primarily online. …

As alarming as these surveillance technologies are in their own right, they may already be crossing into academic products. Surveillance researcher Wolfie Christl has reported ThreatMetrix tracking code is now embedded in the ScienceDirect website, raising serious questions about what patron information is being collected and toward what purposes….

The Library Freedom Project’s Vendor Privacy Scorecard highlights the many privacy concerns across a wide selection of library vendors….”

Why I Won’t Review or Write for Elsevier and Other Commercial Scientific Journals – The Wire Science

“To the argument that shunning such journals will compromise science, I can only point out to many journals of repute published by scientific societies and academies worldwide (such as the Indian Academy of Sciences) that make all their published papers free (diamond/platinum open access) and are able to run their journals with modest subscriptions and advertisements. There have also been initiatives like Amelica and Coalition-S. The alternatives are there for us to adopt as scientists and scholars if we wish.

I realise that, for early-career scientists, publishing in some of these journals is still important because of the undue importance still given to them by academic institutions in their scientific recruitment and recognition policies. I, too, have published in these journals and realise I am implicated in the perpetuation of this system. I will respect the views and needs of students and others I collaborate with on where they seek to publish in or review for. But as a token of protest, I declare that where it concerns my own work I will not submit a paper to these journals or review a paper for them, until such corporate predatory practices end. I do realise that my action is a mere token and not enough. There is more I myself need to do to make science universal, free, and accessible….”

Friday Big Deal (Not Very) Longread: Boycotting Elsevier Is Not Enough, by Shaun Khoo

“Khoo argues that boycotting Elsevier is also not really a useful tactic, other than perhaps for consciousness raising. What’s needed is investment in alternatives, and more importantly, culture change that makes it attractive for authors to choose those alternatives….”

The costly prestige ranking of scholarly journals | Ravnetrykk

Abstract:  The prestige ranking of scholarly journals is costly to science and to society. Researchers’ payoff in terms of career progress is determined largely from where they publish their findings, and less from the content of their scholarly work. This fact creates perverted incentives for the researchers. Valuable research time is spent in trying to satisfy reviewers and editors, rather than spending their time in the most productive direction. This in turn leads to unnecessary long time from research findings are made until they become public. This costly system is upheld by the scholarly community itself. Scholars supply the journals with time, serving as reviewers and editors without any paycheck asked, even though the bulk of scientific journals are published by big commercial enterprises enjoying super profit margins. The super profit results from expensive licensing deals with the scholarly institutions. The free labour offered, on top of the payment for the licensing deals, should be viewed as part of the payment to these publishers – a payment in kind. Why not use this as a negotiating chip towards the publishers? If a publisher asks more than acceptable for a licensing deal, rather than walk away with no deal, the scholarly institutions could pull out all the free labour offered by reviewers and editors.

 

No free view? No review!

“Many scientific articles are currently published in subscription journals and locked behind paywalls. This model impedes research and diverts public funding to parasitic publishers, while relying almost entirely on the unpaid work of researchers. We believe that science should evolve towards a different publishing model in which all scientific publications are freely available to readers as open access, without charging authors unfair prices.

For this reason, we will avoid serving as peer reviewers for venues that do not make publicly available the research that we review. Instead, we will give priority to open-access venues in how we allocate our reviewing time and organizational efforts….”

State Library Extends Boycott Indefinitely | KX NEWS

“As KX News reported in August, the North Dakota State Library joined the American Library Association in denouncing one publisher’s new lending policy.

Macmillan Publishers’ policy says libraries can only buy one copy of their e-books for the first eight weeks after it’s published, a rule that’s never been in place for actual books.

That went into effect, November 1st, making it so over 250,000 readers in North Dakota will have to share one copy.

Our state library responded by boycotting Macmillan e-books, originally through January.

As of February 1st, State Librarian Mary Soucie says the library has decided to continue the boycott, indefinitely….”

Do Publishers Suddenly Hate Libraries?

” In a memo to authors and agents last month, Macmillan CEO John Sargent all but blamed libraries for depressing book sales and author earnings. “Historically, we have been able to balance the great importance of libraries with the value of your work,” Sargent claimed. “The current e-lending system does not do that.”

I’m far from the first to observe this, but the claims in Sargent’s memo are questionable at best….

Do publishers and authors see the library’s relationship to them as more symbiotic, or parasitic?…”

There are dark hints that the hand of Amazon is at work in the current tensions over library e-book lending, including reports that Amazon reps have been showing publishers data to portray library e-book lending in a negative light….”

Macmillan To Restrict New E-Book Sales To Libraries : NPR

“Libraries across the U.S. are furious with one of the country’s big five publishing houses. As of Friday, Macmillan Publishers Ltd. is drastically restricting the sales of its e-books to libraries.

For the first eight weeks after an e-book goes on the market, a library system can buy only one copy. So if you are used to getting your books from a library and you are an e-book fan who has been eagerly awaiting Hillary Mantel’s next book, The Mirror and the Light, for example, you may have a long wait when it comes out in March 2020.

Under the old rules, a large library system like New York’s or Chicago’s might have ordered hundreds of e-book copies. Now each system — large or small — can buy only one when it goes on sale….”

Libraries to boycott publisher’s e-book policy | WSYX

“Several large library systems across the U.S. plan to suspend purchases beginning Friday of all electronic versions of Macmillan Publishers’ new releases, in a protest against the publishing house’s planned restrictions on library sales….

Macmillan’s library embargo, which also begins Friday, will restrict public libraries and consortium of all sizes to buying a single copy of each newly released e-book for the first eight weeks of publication….

“By limiting the number of copies our library can purchase, Macmillan is allowing only a certain segment of our society to access digital content in a timely manner — those who can pay for it themselves,” he said in a statement. “And that’s unacceptable in a democratic society.”

Last year, nearly 67,000 Columbus library patrons checked out nearly 2 million items from our digital collection. Digital content downloads continue to trend upward….”

Don’t Let Science Publisher Elsevier Hold Knowledge for Ransom

It’s Open Access Week and we’re joining SPARC and dozens of other organizations this week to discuss the importance of open access to scientific research publications. 

An academic publisher should widely disseminate the knowledge produced by scholars, not hold it for ransom. But ransoming scientific research back to the academic community is essentially the business model of the world’s largest publisher of scientific journals: Elsevier.

In February of this year, after drawn-out negotiations broke down, the University of California terminated its subscription with Elsevier. A central sticking point in these negotiations was around open access: specifically Elsevier’s refusal to provide universal open access to UC research, a problem exacerbated by skyrocketing subscription fees.

This has been an ongoing fight, not just in California. Many academics (and EFF) believe that scholarly research most effectively advances scientific progress when it is widely available to the public, and not subject to the paywalls erected by publishers. Scientific research is a driving force behind technological innovations, medical breakthroughs, and policy decisions, and the bulk of it in the U.S. is publicly funded. When libraries, universities, individuals, and even researchers themselves have to pay to access academic work, we all suffer.

Elsevier boasts profit margins in excess of 30%, much of it derived from taxpayer dollars. Academics effectively volunteer their time to publishers to write articles, conduct peer review, and sit on editorial boards, and then publishers demand ownership of the copyright and control over dissemination. Universities and other institutions fund these researchers, and a mega-publisher like Elsevier reaps the benefits while trapping all of that work behind a paywall.

In response to this outdated and deleterious system, two UCSF researchers have started a petition to boycott Elsevier, calling on all academics to refuse to publish in Elsevier journals, peer-review their articles, or sit on their editorial boards (as many already have). They’ve also written a piece calling for a wider re-imagining of the academic publishing system, that’s more in line with an open access model. A large and growing number of scholars have signed the petition already.

This is far from the first time someone has called for a boycott of Elsevier. Efforts go back to 2012 with a call to action from mathematician Timothy Gowers which led to the “The Cost of Knowledge” campaign. Since then, boycotts have extended across entire countries, across Asia, Europe, and